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Discipleship Blog

4 Weeks of Parables - Week 3 - with Bo Segrest!

Auburn Wesley

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Just as it is so easy for us to read a scripture at the surface level and say “that’s that,” it is extremely easy for us to hear this parable (all parables) and do the same, or go out and share the Word and say “that’s that” whether it is received or not. It’s easy to say that our work is done no matter the outcome because we did all we needed to do. I’m here to say that is not the work Christ seems to be calling us to. We would get a very different Gospel narrative if that is what Christ was doing. Christ does not simply preach and call it a day. He continues to walk with and heal and accept those who don’t seem to “get it.”

“I got a glimpse of what the Kingdom of God was doing and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. Even if I didn’t realize it at the time, I wanted to be a part of what God was doing.”

Many of you here have heard my story. I was not brought in to the church through a promise of Heaven or the threat of Hell or guilt or fear or because someone came and preached to me. I came into this because I got a glimpse of what it was about and what the Kingdom of God was doing and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. Even if I didn’t realize it at the time, I wanted to be a part of what God was doing.

Just as Christ calls us to wrestle with these texts and to continue to wrestle with them past the surface level, he in the same way calls us to reach out to places in need of the hope and redemption that the Kingdom of God offers. We must bring physical nourishment, just as Christ came and healed and cleansed, and social nourishment, just as Christ broke down social barriers and invited all to the table, and through this will come spiritual nourishment, just like in the story of Bartimeus, who follows Jesus after being healed (Mark 10:46-52).

In the same way, Christ does not cease from preaching and healing when his words seem to fall on flat ears. The work of Christ and therefore our duty to the Kingdom of God is to bring good soil to those places that find themselves devoid of it. If someone’s environment puts them in a space where they are not yet ready for spiritual nourishment, then our duty is not to move on to another place, but to participate in the action of the Kingdom of God by turning that environment into one that does promote spiritual growth.

 

  1. Where have you seen the absence of hope?

  2. How are you being called to participate in the action of the Kingdom of God that brings hope to all?

4 Weeks of Parables - Week 2 - Student Reflection by Caroline Massey

Tripp Gulledge

During our worship service last Sunday, we read the parable of the Persistent Widow and the Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8, check it out it’s a good read), and the synopsis of the story is this: a widow comes to a judge’s house and bangs on his door demanding justice for her cause, and the judge initially refuses, but upon seeing her persistence he gave her justice, because he didn’t really want to deal with her anymore. 

This may not seem like the most motivating parable, but the purpose of parables was to point out the things people were missing in simple ways that they could understand, and Luke 18:1 tells us the purpose of this parable: "That they'd know their need to pray always and not to lose heart..."

I think that's a really powerful sentence for us.  In saying this, he seems to be acknowledging the fact that there are and will be very real reasons for us to lose heart or walk away, or say it’s too much to handle, and he connects this with the need to pray always, because “…will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?” (Luke 18:7) 

Now, in Luke's gospel if we can say one thing about Jesus - it's that he prays! When Jesus is praying what we see is that prayer is about opening hearts and minds to see and notice what God is doing right in front of us. We’re almost halfway through the semester, and life is getting busy. We have assignments and responsibilities and tests, and we find ourselves juggling all of these different things, and our eyes get so focused on these things that we forget to look beyond them, to take notice of the things we don’t normally see, because if we look around, and look past what we have become so focused on, we can see how God is moving, and we can see the promise that God has given us change our lives right now. This is not some distant promise. He is here. Now. 

20 Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

Jesus has died and risen for you, for your sins. He has washed you clean and called you his child, his heir with Christ. His promise is for you. So, take a moment to look around, to see past whatever it is that you are juggling, and see how God is moving in your life, because He is. He is right there with you.


Some questions for thought:

  1. Have you lost heart? Cry out to God.

  2. How is Jesus challenging you to a different way of being in ministry?

  3. When the Kingdom of God feels far off, what does it look like for you to pray and see God's action in that moment?

Examen – This is a prayer practice that takes you through your day, from beginning to end, and seeks to open your eyes to the ways God is moving in your life today. Take a breath, open your heart, and take notice of God’s presence in your life. 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1noAXlHjTD9lnsSyHWclxbAxTx-BMEOxP20ka50UF-Wo/edit?usp=sharing


-Tony Jeck and Caroline Massey


  







 

4 Weeks of Parables - Week 1 - Featuring the Rev. Kelli Hitchman-Craig

Auburn Wesley

Last night we started a new 4 week series looking at some of the Parables of Jesus. The Rev. Kelli Hitchman Craig, Associate Pastor at Auburn United Methodist Church started things off right. Here’s what she shared…

What is fair? What is equal? What is justice?

Read Matthew 20:1-16

I want to tell you a story. So sit back, get comfortable, close your eyes, do whatever you have to do to relax.

Early in the day, when the sun was bright, but not yet hot, a contractor leaves his house. He packs his lunch, refills his obviously eco-friendly coffee cup and water bottle, and because I’m telling the story, puts on sunscreen, kisses his wife, and walks out the front door of his perfectly modest craftsman style home. He climbs in, what I imagine to be, a large, unfortunately gas guzzling truck, and sets off for the day. Off he goes to a local job site.

Because this is where I am in my life, I picture this contractor heading to an old house in the heart of the local community that needs just a little sprucing up. But this old house is truly a gem. She has a stunning, though rotting, wrap around front porch. A classic, but rusting tin roof. And ornate, but in disrepair, woodwork up around the roofline. Of course, you can expect that the crawl-space is filled with plumbing that needs to be repaired; the yard is at least thigh high in overgrown grasses and pricker vines; the exterior paint is cracked and chipping; the shutters hang onto their hinges with barely even a nail. But the inside, the inside is where the real charm is. Though the cabinets are falling off the walls and lined with dust and dead bugs, there is one of those long, timeless, porcelain farmhouse sinks in the kitchen. And because this house is old but sturdy, each main room has a fireplace that long outdates the central air system that also desperately needs attention. The floors, though they are scratched and scuffed, are original wood-- and something about that well worn wood feels like home ever before the repairs begin. The bedrooms, unfortunately, have brown carpet, which must be ripped out immediately no thanks to the previous owners’ pet. The backyard, though unruly and wild, shines. It’s lush with every kind of weed, tree, and grass species you could think of. And although it looks like a mess now, something tells that old contractor that underneath the overgrown ruffage is rich soil. The type of soil that brings forth every type of fruit, vegetable, and flower when given just a little bit of love and attention.

To any other average Joe or Josephine, this house is a lost cause… But to our contractor, it’s heaven.

So off to the job site he goes! But first, he remembers the two workers that he hired from a job posting board the previous week-- so he heads over to his office to pick up the workers in order to carpool over to the house. He pulls up to the office, unlocks his passenger doors, and a man and a woman hop inside. After politely declining the contractor’s offer to share his coffee, the three craftsmen are on their way. So they get to their job site, that gorgeous old house, and the three set off to do their work-- one specializing on those old pipes, one diagnosing whatever weed had taken over the side yard, and the contractor beginning to scrape the cracked paint off the old wooden siding. But nine o’clock in the morning rolls around and it’s becoming increasingly apparent that this is more than a 3 person job. The woman working on the pipes is covered in sludge from a pipe that burst under the house; the yard man is up to his kneecaps in fire ant bites; and the contractor has a cramp in his left arm from scraping paint for 2 hours with not even so much as a water break.

So, at 9:15 the contractor says to his workers, stay here, hydrate-- I’ll be right back!

The contractor heads to Home Depot for some paint stripper, ant killer, and PVC pipe joints, and as luck would have it, he found something ever better. On his way out the door, with his home improvement goodies in a reusable bag (but of course), the contractor notices a few people hanging around the entirely-over-my-pay-grade-and-also-super-scary part of the the home improvement store: the lumber section. He approaches them and asks, “is there any chance, any chance, that you fellows might be able to work with me for a day? I pay well for a day’s work!”

The men answer, “oh yes! We just immigrated here with our wives and have children to support! No one else is willing to let us in their homes. Thank you for hiring us! Truly, we appreciate the work!”

So off the contractor plus the three men go to return to the old house. Once they arrive at the house, the men disperse; one going to the backyard, one going inside, one climbing up on the roof, and the contractor to hand out his goodies to the remaining two. And after what feels like no time at at all, alas, it’s lunch time! But after several hours on the worksite, all of the workers are hot, hungry, and thirsty. So, sensing their fatigue, the contractor drags the cooler out of the bed of his truck, opens it, and shares enough sandwiches, fruit, carrot sticks, popsicles, and gatorade for everyone to eat, enjoy, and have seconds!

But, as the workers ate, the contractor got the sneaking feeling that his five helpers might need a little assistance to tackle the day’s to-do list, so off he goes again, only this time, he’s headed to the sporting goods store for some of those nifty little cooling towels and some Nalgene water bottles for his workers. So again, the contractor collects his goodies, bags them in a reusable bag, and heads back to his truck. He hops in, adjusts the radio, checks in on his wife, and pulls out of the parking lots to return to the job site. But while waiting at a red light, he notices a cluster of men in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant. So, naturally, he pulls in, hops out, and asks if they are looking for work or have any home improvement skills, and in return for their help, he promises a fair wage. To his luck-- the contractor learns that they’re recent college grads with not much to do but hang around. The job market isn’t all that their professors once cracked it up to be, so here are these college educated folk, just waiting for work. As it turns out, this group of young people had been bouncing between friends’ couches and cars since the day they graduated. Apparently, once you graduate, your scholarship money and guaranteed university housing disappears in a snap. So they agree and all climb in the truck and head back to the job site. The 4 men head inside to begin the fun work-- they start to rip up the carpet, tear out the cabinets, and assess the electric situation in the house. The nine workers are getting along famously.

The job site is a place of joy, and even just in a day’s work, there are signs of progress in and around that old house.

But it’s 3PM now, and the sun is hot. The workers continue on without complaint or frustration, and this pleases the contractor so. So as a reward, the contractor sneaks off the job site when nobody was looking to go Happy Hour at Sonic… Because nothing is more rewarding on a hot day than a cold half-off Limeade, am I right? After ordering and collecting all TEN of his various limeades, the contractor turned around to head back to the house to surprise his wonderful workers. Well, the contractor is heading back to the house, when, what do you know, his gas light turns on. So our favorite dedicated contractor whips into the nearest gas station and begins to fill up, when can you believe it-- he notices a small group of people standing around the gas station. Five of them! Of course, he approaches them, asking how their day is going, while trying to figure out why such seemingly normal looking people are loitering around a gas station this late in the day! After all, it’s too late to be out of school, and too early to be out of work-- who are these people?

The 5 men explain, “oh thank you, kind sir. You are a blessing! We were just laid off from our previous jobs with a construction company last month. To be honest, we were laid off for complicated reasons. One had recently divorced; one had a sick child; one’s partner was killed last year; one was battling chronic depression; and the last was evicted from his home. The men explain that after some hardships in their recent past, all five of them found themselves with a substance abuse problem, and were promptly fire from the jobs.

But you know how this story goes by now… the contractor offers work plus a fair wage, the five men accept, hop in the truck, and off they go back to the house!

Once back at the house, the five men split up, taking different areas of the house. Two head out back to start carving out an organic garden; one gets to work repairing, shoring up, and re-attaching the shutters to the front; one works inside with the floor and sheet rocking crew; and the last one works alongside the contractor looking into some computer investing and online banking questions. All is well on the job site; all are hydrated; all are happy to be working alongside such an amazing, and yes, rather strange, group of people. But it’s 5PM now-- it’s the end of the work day, and his people expect to be paid... only, one problem… he didn’t originally anticipate needing to pay 14 people-- just the original two. So the contractor found himself to be a little short on cash.

Not to fret, the bank is just down the street, so the contractor hops in his car, heads downtown, and pulls into his community bank. He pulls up to the drive thru teller and requests the enough cash to pay the remaining workers-- when he stops mid sentence, and drives around the building. Out of the corner of his eye, what does the contractor see but six people standing near the bank. Judging by their disheveled appearances, the contractor made the probably correct assumption that they were homeless, preparing to set up camp for the night under the safe awning of the bank drive thru.

You know how this goes…

He approaches, offers work and a fair wage, they happily agree, so the contractor scoops them up, swings back through the drive through teller lane, and heads back to the house to introduce the last six workers to the rest of the gang.

They arrive at the house, and just as soon as the six newest workers find a job to begin, the contractor catches the attention of the group, calls them in, and thanks them for a day well done! With the help of the 20 workers the house looked amazingly good for just one day’s labor… the shutters were straightened; lawn mowed; flower beds spruced and weeded; plumbing tightened; electrical work tested; rotten floorboards ripped up; a vegetable garden started; wooden siding stripped, cleaned, and primed for new paint; the kitchen gutted and cleaned out; and many other improvements!

But now the group was gathered together and it was time to be paid. So, reaching into the driver side door of the truck, the contractor pulled out a stack of large bills, dividing them evenly among the 20 day laborers. He paid first the workers who arrived last-- giving them each 3 bills. Next, he turned to the group he found at the gas station-- giving each of them 3 bills. Again, he turn to the next group-- 3 bills each. Then to the next group-- 3 bills each And finally, the two he hired first, giving them both 3 bills each.

Upon seeing this unfold before their eyes, the earlier day workers were enraged! How could they earn the same wage as a group of dingy bums their boss had picked up outside of a bank? Was this contractor for real? Surely, he had lost his mind. In no way was this fair.

Expressing their disapproval not only with their faces, the original 2 workers turned to the contractor, accusing him, “are you serious? How can this be? We’ve been working all day, and yet, you’ve paid us the same! You have made a mockery of all the work we have done and fine skill that you hired us for!”

With compassion in his eyes, the contractor responded, “I’m sorry you feel that way. My heart is grieved that you are upset, but I promised to each of you a fair wage, and a fair wage is what you have each received.” And again the contractor looked into the eyes of his workers and said, “be careful, my friends, who you deem worthy of a day’s wage. My generosity is not like yours. What you have called unworthy, I have claimed as good.”

And each went on their way.

The End.

So-- answer me this: What do you hear? What do you see? What could it mean?

Maybe you hear a story about a people who work their whole lives, working and sweating all day every day, only to get rewarded the same amount as the person who happened to be at the right place at the right time.

Perhaps you hear a story about the people of God-- about the generations of Israel-- Adam, Moses, and Abraham-- and then the story of the church, who, in the grand scheme of time, is pretty late to the game for this whole God of Israel thing. Or is it a simple story about a group of people not pulling their weight but privilege alone gets them paid?

Maybe you hear a story about grace-- about one who lives right their whole lives, only to be faced with the hard truth that even those who have loved Jesus far less for far shorter are also children of the most high God. Or maybe to you it’s a story that unmasks something much scarier-- a truth about not just our culture and society, but about the very way we use language to speak of God.

Maybe this story reveals to you something about the way we approach the Divine with suppositions and structures of winner vs loser; superior vs inferior; insider and outsider; high and low; honored vs shamed; us vs them.

But maybe in all of this you simply came back to the words of Jesus-- to the prayer of Jesus: to give us this day our daily bread and forgive us of our trespasses… because it’s much easier to pray our own prayer of: give me this day my daily bread and forgive those around me who do wrong.

Or perhaps you’re not even sure where to begin to know what to think because you’re still unsure which character you are in the story.

Wherever you are, God is there too, so never stop asking: What is fair? What is equal? What is justice? … and be prepared to be surprised at how God answers.

Let us pray:

God of us all-- These parables are puzzling, but so is your grace. So forgive us when we try to back your stories into a corner-- when we refuse to let your holy stories speak for themselves, teaching us who you are and how you love. So when faith gets confusing and scripture feels like a puzzle instead of a map, grant within us a desire, not for answers, but for insatiable curiosity, because we trust that wherever you lead us, you lead us into deeper relationship with You and your world. This is our prayer, oh God, in the name of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, Amen.

Invitation to Beloved Community: A Reflection on Worship at Wesley from January 20, 2019

Tripp Gulledge

From Bo:


I hope you guys enjoyed worship last night! If you weren’t able to make it, I wanted to show you what we talked about because this message is very important for us as we remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today. 


I’m going to summarize the message from last night’s worship (most of this is me paraphrasing what Tony and Joe shared.) I also will share a quote by Dr. King, some questions that our community reflected over, and then the text from Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” 


Tony and our guest speaker, ARM’s Joe Davis, applied King’s vision of a “Beloved Community” to the parable of the Lost Son from Luke 15, which you can read by using this link: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+15%3A11-32&version=NRSV


The parables that Jesus shares in Luke 15 all end in a celebration where all are invited to join together at the table. 


What kind of imagery does this vision put in our head? What kind of people do we envision at the table with us? Do we find ourselves thinking like the older son, that others are unworthy to join us at the table?

Dr. King in his essay, “Nonviolence: the Only Road to Freedom” (1966), presented his idea of a Beloved Community. This Beloved Community would be global, and would be rid of the “triplets of evil:” materialism (and thus poverty), racism, and militarism. 

This Beloved Community, to King, would be about reconciliation, restoration, and redemption. In the Beloved Community, agape—the highest form of love—would be a core value, and would lead us to not discriminate between “worthy” and “unworthy.” This is the love, as Joe said, that the older brother refused to receive. 

Joe asked some questions that I think is very important for us to ask ourselves: What stories and values shaped the life of the older brother, and of Dr. King’s assassin, and of those who resisted King’s message of love, peace, and nonviolence? And in answering these questions, we must then ask: What stories and values do we live by? How are these stories working out for us? How are these values affecting the people around us? How are we impacting our communities? 

Take some time to reflect on this, and then read this:


“The Cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go in order to restore broken community. The Resurrection is a symbol of God’s triumph over all the forces that seek to block community. The Holy Spirit is the continuing community creating reality that moves through History.” 

--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Once we read this is the service, we were presented a few questions to reflect on before we joined together at God’s table for communion. Here they are:


1) The Cross - How do you feel estranged from God… lost… in this moment? Like the young son in the far away land, maybe tonight is a night of coming back to your senses and feeling the embrace of the father running to meet you. God is longing to restore us.


2) The Resurrection - How might we feel called to let go of the stories of the “older brother”? Maybe tonight is a time to name those stories of exclusion, of fear, of “othering”, of rejecting hospitality and scorning generosity that have blocked us and others from experiencing authentic community. God is longing to set us free. 


3) The Spirit - How are we feeling called to action, to radical acts of grace, of restoration, of redemption, of forgiveness, of hospitality, of generosity, of speaking out, of serving? Like the father running to embrace his son, maybe tonight is a night to say “yes” to that risky act of faith that will demonstrate the I love of Beloved Community. God is longing to empower us.


I attached Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” below. I hope you give it a read. 


May we all leave behind the stories and values that continue to justify our beliefs that others are “unworthy.” May we break down barriers of hate and prejudice that keep us from working towards a Beloved Community. And may we all join in together with God in the wonderful work that has already begun.


Read Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” here: https://www.uncg.edu/hhs/docs/MLKLetter1963.pdf



WSBC: Mere Christianity Book IV

Tripp Gulledge

Hey Everybody,

 

Here are Bo's thoughts on Mere Christianity's final book. Stay tuned for the ways Discipleship might continue to do Book Club-like things this fall and spring. We hope this has been a good experience for you.

 

BOOK FOUR: BEYOND PERSONALITY: or FIRST STEPS IN THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY

 

            Since we are covering so much this week, I’m going to do my best to condense what I have to say, but feel free to go crazy with whatever came to mind in the comments.

 

            In this first section, the way Lewis talks about theology is a very Wesleyan school of thought (If you were wondering why Lewis—not a Methodist—and John Wesley—Methodist—think of certain things in similar ways, it is may be because of both of their experiences with the Anglican Church of England. Lewis, I would say, most probably read some John Wesley theology at some point, though.) Anyway, the way that Lewis cites how important it is to build one’s theology not only around personal experiences but also based on those that have come before you—all of the experiences of Christians from the past 2000 years and the Jews even before that. You may remember the Wesleyan quadrilateral from confirmation class. Lewis’ point is that you can’t have a surface level understanding of Christianity because that would not truly be Christianity. I like what Lewis goes on to say about how Jesus is begotten of God and not merely created, and I think he lays this idea out well.

            He goes on to attempt to show what it means for God to be “Three-in-One” and says that this is a higher state of being than we can comprehend, we only know what it is like to be one person, just like we would only know a straight line if we lived in one dimension. Do you think this example works for you? The trinity is a hard concept to understand for sure. Lewis touches on prayer here and expands on the subject in the next section. Specifically, he addresses the issue of God being able to hear and answer all those prayers at once. Lewis says, “Almost certainly God is not in Time… If you picture Time as a straight line along which we have to travel, then you must picture God as the whole page on which the line is drawn.” He then talks about this as it relates to free will and adds his disclaimer that this theology is not mentioned specifically in Scripture, and that being a Christian does not mean you have to believe this.

            Lewis spends the next section discussing this point: “The Son exists because the Father exists: but there never was a time before the Father produced the Son.” He then takes about how we are not begotten by God, we are made, and therefore the purpose of Christianity is to become more like Christ (since we are not Him already, we are merely something made by God, not God.) He continues on this track of thinking in the next chapter, saying, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.” He then presents us with the toy soldier analogy that I’m sure could get a C in a seminary class if you took that and presented Toy Story as a metaphor of God’s grace.

            I’m interested to hear what everybody thinks of the (for lack of a better phrase) “fake-it-till-you-make-it” act that he talks about in Chapter 7. He also here touches on the idea of Prevenient Grace—that God is working through us and giving us grace before we actually even know him. Lewis goes even farther to say that this “Is the whole of Christianity.” He finds it essential that we “pretend” to be like Christ in order to actually become more like Him. Any thoughts on this? I think it is a very interesting claim that deserves some thought. 

            Does anyone have any thoughts on a connection to what Lewis says in chapter 10 to the idea of cheap grace inLife Together?

            This last chapter, “the New Men,” is trying to illustrate the point of how we do actually change when Christ comes into our lives. Lewis says that this is the next stage in our evolution—to become like Christ. I like the way Lewis closes his final Book, and I am excited to hear everyone else’s thoughts on the book as a whole. I hope everyone enjoyed the book and more importantly, I hope it made everyone think critically about his or her faith and in turn made it stronger.

WSBC: Mere Christianity Week 4- Feathers WILL be Ruffled!

Tripp Gulledge

Big thanks to Bo for tackling this book, cause the stuff on marriage is tough to read. Interested to hear what you guys think!

 

WEEK FOUR

 

BOOK THREE: Sections 6-12

 

            This first section on Christian Marriage is bound to ruffle some feathers. I think his idea on comparing “being in love” (what a lot of us what call “the honeymoon phase”) to “love” (what we would call “being in love,” probably) is an interesting one. I think we should understand that the honeymoon phase will end at some point in relationships at some point and be prepared for it, so that we can settle into the next stage that is typically much harder and takes more work. (If I’m not mistaken, I think the honeymoon phase typically lasts 2-6 months in relationships and then most couples hit a rough spot around 2 years that often takes a good bit of evaluation and work to get through it.)

            He then talks about the issue of wives submitting to their husbands. I’ll be honest; I don’t feel able to speak on this with authority because I have a hard time with this verse and understanding it completely. I will say, that his second point where he seems to suggest that women are naturally people who submit doesn’t really hold up for me. I see this as a very 1940’s-1950’s way of seeing marriage and I don’t honestly see it as an adequate way of understanding Christian marriage.

            In this section on Forgiveness, Lewis says that loving your neighbor as yourself is the most unpopular virtue to follow for Christians. Do you think forgiveness is the main or one of the main aspects of loving your neighbors? What do you think about his thoughts on how it relates to loving yourself? 

Lewis then presents Pride as the worst of all shortcomings and its counterpart—humility—as the center of the Christian morality. Do you agree with Lewis on this? I think that he makes a good point in saying that the man who actually is humble “will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” I agree with Lewis that it is important to recognize whether we are seeing ourselves as humble or if we actually are acting it out.

Lewis talks about Charity as not just simply giving to the poor, but as “Love, in the Christian sense.” He talks about this charity not as an emotion that lasts for a moment but rather is attempting/willing to love a neighbor. He says, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as you did.” Lewis seems to believe in a “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality to achieve the virtue of Charity. Do you think this is a good way of doing it?

The section on Hope is another brief one but he makes a good point that has its foundation in Scripture. Lewis talks about how we, as Christians, should set our eyes on Heaven rather than the earth. He further makes the claim that we cannot hope to improve the earth without first having our hope in Heaven. I think this is important to hear, because I think the whole point in trying to improve the world (at least a very important aspect of it) is trying to bring a bit of Heaven down to earth. He closes by speaking on the idea of Living Water (though he doesn’t mention it by name) by saying that Christ is the only thing that can satisfy our thirst—Heaven is the only thing that can fill that whole in our hearts.

Lewis closes Book Four with two sections on Faith. The first covers faith when it is used to mean “Belief.” With this, we come to the problem of whether or not you can control your belief. If faith is the way to salvation, then what do we do if we don’t believe enough. Lewis seems to suggest that God can play a role in this, and I agree with that. There is a point in the Gospels when a man brings his demon-possessed son to Jesus and asks him to heal the boy. Jesus tells him “Everything is possible through belief.” And the father says, “I do believe; [and I think here, he shows that he has doubts in his saying that, so he continues,] help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9). I think that this passage shows that there is some action on the part of God our attaining faith. Lewis continues that once we have accepted Christ, we need to understand that our emotions won’t always be high, so we need to continue to read Scripture and doctrine and be in prayer each day to constantly remind ourselves of what we believe in and why. I think that this can be hard for people who have been in the Church a long time: why do we believe what we believe? Has anyone had moments where they found themselves asking this and did or did not have an answer? Lewis continues on talking about faith in a new way, by arguing that it is something that has to be practiced. He says that you have to “Leave it to God” by which he means putting all your trust in God.

            There was a lot going on in this Book, so if you have any thoughts, leave a comment!

WSBC: Mere Christianity Week 3

Tripp Gulledge

Hey everyone,

 

I'm very sorry about the hangups with SquareSpace lately, we never did get last week's post online. But here are the reflections for the first portion of Book 3. Bo left us a couple questions, so be sure to leave your comments here.

 

WEEK THREE

 

BOOK THREE: CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOUR (parts 1-5)

Book Three is very long, so we’ll do parts 1-5 this week and the rest next week

 

            This book is tackling the issue of morality, and Lewis begins by giving us his “Three Parts of Morality.” They are:

  1. ‘Fair play and harmony between individuals’
  2. ‘With what might be called tidying up or harmonizing things inside each individual.’
  3. ‘With the general purpose of human life as a whole: what man was made for: what course the whole fleet ought to be on: what tune the conductor of the band wants to play.’

Lewis really drives home the point that you cannot have just one of these to be moral. He makes the distinction that morality is not an ideal because it is not based off individual taste. Morality is universal, as described in Book One. Because of this, we cannot simply focus on this first part of morality that deals with treating other people nicely. While this is important, Lewis argues that it is equally important to keep your own individual morals in check as well as to choose to follow morality with the ultimate goal in mind. I like his analogy of a band; if you play guitar, you can’t simply worry about keeping time with the other musicians. You have to also play the right chords yourself and remember why you’re playing the music in the first place (to win a competition, maybe.)

            Then, we talk about Virtues. Lewis lists seven: Four Cardinal Virtues and Three Theological. In this section, though he only discusses the four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude. I think that his discussions of each of these are interesting, but his sentences on fortitude especially caught my eye. He says, “…you cannot practice any of the other virtues very long without bringing this one [fortitude] into play.” This is a very interesting claim. I really like the close of this section. He talks about how it is not good enough to see these as actions we should carry out but rather virtues that should become part of who we are, not merely what we do sometimes. He describes three reasons why if we see them as actions we should sometimes do (like a bad tennis player hitting one good shot) and the second one really stood out to me and I think is very valid: “We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules whereas He really wanted people of a particular sort.” What does this say about how we are supposed to live our lives? I think there are several pieces of Scripture that would be interesting to look to with this mindset, so comment if you think of one!

            Lewis goes on to talk about Social Morality and the Church’s role in politics, economy, and society. He cites the Golden Rule as a morality “meant for all men at all times.” Lewis will say at the end of the section that the Golden Rule can only be achieved when one loves their neighbor as themselves, which can only be achieved when one loves God by obeying Him. With this mindset, Lewis discusses an ideal Christian society. He lists a few important things, including that it is up to laymen to be the major economists and politicians and etc., every man must work or not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10), obedience between people and their authorities, it would be a cheerful society, and Charity would be given to the poor. Lewis makes some major statements on giving to the poor, and I’d like to hear people’s thoughts on them. He closes by saying, “A Christian society is not going to arrive until we become fully Christian.”

            Lewis then connects Christian morality to Psychoanalysis. He tries to answer the question of ‘what makes a good man?’ (From a Christian viewpoint.) He uses the psychoanalysis example to argue that the idea good and bad actions can be relative: when a bad person performs a good action, it might be a better action than when a good person performs a good action. He then says that the importance of making good choices and pursuing morals is that it is not only choosing good actions one after another but rather forming yourself into a better person and leading yourself towards a “harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with [yourself.]”

            Now for what you’ve all been waiting for: the sex chapter. 

            Lewis here is mainly talking about Chastity, and how we’re not supposed to have the sex before marriage (see Hebrews 13:4 for an example.) But, Lewis is getting further than the surface level here and arguing for chastity outside of marriage and moderation in general when it comes to sex and sexual desires. He talks some on whether or not a society that “hushes up” on sex like the Victorians compared to a more modern society creates more sexual desire. He seems to think it is better to be hushed up. I’m curious, though; if people think Christian communities should try to stay away from the subject being as taboo as it is. Do you think it is better or worse for us to be hushed up about the topic? 

Lewis has some good one-liners in this section, including, “Before we can be cured we must want to be cured.” This to me is a good way of looking at the issue. As Lewis establishes, if we want to become chaste or to even act more obediently in areas we struggle in, we can not attempt this alone; we need God’s help in this. This is a very Wesleyan idea, and our buddy from last summer, William H. Willimon, writes in United Methodist Beliefs, “[John] Wesley understood ‘perfected’ not in the state of a senseless moral completion but rather in the sense of being mature, with sure signs of a visible progression in our fulfillment of God’s intentions for our lives.” Perfection isn’t merely about not messing up, but is about desiring to be obedient to God and asking for his help in the process.

Lewis closes the section by saying; “I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the center of Christian morality is not here [with merely the commandment to not have sex before marriage.]” This is a good point that we need to remember, because I think many times Christian communities see sexual sin as far worse than others. Lewis makes a good point that this isn’t our only moral and this belief isn’t the center of our faith, Christ is. 

           

            This felt like a stopping point, so next week we will pick back up with “Christian Marriage.”

WSBC: Mere Christianity - Intro + Part 1

Auburn Wesley

This week's post comes from Bo Segrest! Check it out and let us know what you think!!  

WEEK ONE

I won’t lie: This stuff is pretty dense. I think it is important while reading, though, to think critically about Lewis’ arguments. It is common, from what I’ve seen, for many people who either grew up in the church or have been a part of the Church for a long time to have accepted many theological concepts at face value early on and then move on and never question beliefs in a healthy way. This doesn’t mean that our beliefs are wrong if this is what happened with us; that’s not the point I’m getting at here. 

  Proverbs tells us to not be simple minded and to be wiling to increase your understanding of God by asking hard questions and evaluating what you believe. (This isn’t a paraphrasing of a specific verse, but this is one of my takeaways from looking at the book as a whole. Thanks to everyone who came to mine and Stevan’s Wisdom Bible Study.) Also, take a look at the opening verses of Hebrews 6: move beyond elementary understanding (Go deeper! Don’t take the easy, surface level way out!)

This is all to say that I found while reading this book, that while this stuff seems like elementary concepts at times; things that some of us learned in Sunday School at an early age,  (like for example, that we have a sense in right and wrong,) that Lewis is taking us very deep conceptually and philosophically. So, I hope that you all have a lot of thoughts on all of this. What about these concepts have you never thought about before? Do you agree with Lewis? What about his arguments make sense? What doesn’t? and etc. etc. I also encourage you all to comment what passages of the Bible these arguments made you think of, if any.

I added questions that I’d be curious to hear thoughts on, but don’t feel like you have to answer them. I’m just curious about everyone’s thoughts on the book in general.

Now that this preamble is over, let’s get started.

BOOK ONE: RIGHT AND WRONG AS A CLUE TO THE MEANING OF THE UNIVERSE

The first section of this book focuses on what Lewis calls the “the Law of Human Nature.” He describes this as humanity’s inherent moral code. He gives some examples of morals that all cultures have shared throughout History like deserting battle being bad or betrayal being frowned upon. He goes on to describe this “law of nature” as the only law we are bound to—like gravity, physics, etc.—that we are “free to disobey.” This is an interesting claim to me. Lewis finishes by stating that humans 1) believe in the law of nature and 2) break it. 

            Lewis then introduces “Some Objections” to his argument from the first section. The first objection introduced is that the moral law is simply a “herd instinct” to help someone. But, Lewis says, “Feeling a desire to help is much different from feeling that you ought to help whether you want to or not.” He says that this sense of right and wrong is what would, for example, drive a person to save a drowning man even though it will risk his or her life as well. The other objection introduced is that morality is simply a social convention (and more specifically, a product of parenting and education.) Lewis basically claims that this is a fallacy, saying that because something is taught to people, like a moral code or a multiplication table, does not mean that it is untrue. Lewis then attempts to answer the questions: Do people have superior moralities to others?  And What makes the morality of one person better or worse? He basically wants you to think about it along these lines: we all agree now, for the most part, that slavery in America was an immoral institution. Many claimed though in the time period that it was an institution that it was, in fact, moral. We all agree, though, that the former opinion is the better morality. Lewis says, and this rings true for this example, “How can you have progress if one [opinion] is not better or truer?”

            We still haven’t seen his entire argument for this book, so hang in there. (Remember, I said this was dense.)

            In the third section of this first book, he discusses “the reality of the Law.” He starts by saying how odd it is that the human race is “haunted by the idea of a sort of behavior they ought to practice” and do not practice it. He also says that decent behavior is not simply behavior that is convenient to us. He uses the following example to prove this: If a man trips you on accident, that is not a bad act, even though you were hurt by it. If a man tries and fails to trip you, that is a bad act, even though the act did not harm you.

Lewis here in the next section goes through different viewpoints on how the Universe came to be. Lewis gives a summary of his argument up to this point, saying, “All I have got to is a Something which is directing the universe, and which appears in me as a law urging me to do right and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when I do wrong. I think we have to assume it is more like a mind than it is like anything else we know…” 

Lewis cites, in the final section, the fact that the Universe is here and has been made and the evidence of the moral law he has put in our minds as evidence for the “Something”—a Creator. Lewis then questions what it means for God to be ‘good,’ and what that means for us and our salvation. I’m curious about everyone’s thoughts on this section.

I was thinking about this book today before I typed this up, and I was trying to think about anything in Scripture that I would think about in a new or different way with this argument in mind. Being created in the image of God is a concept that I have been thinking about a lot lately. So if we are, in fact, created in the image of God, then it would be safe to assume that since we have this inherent morality given to us by God, God must also have that. This is, for me, where the argument comes together. (I’m not saying Lewis’ argument is incomplete, just that this is where it really gets me.) To me, that is why there is a better or truer morality, because God must have a morality. I’m sure it’s complicated and beyond our comprehension, but it is very humbling for me to think about how I cannot really have a perfect morality because I am not God. 

This all tells me that I should have humility in knowing that my morality is not perfect, but also comfort in knowing that His is. Any thoughts on this concept?

How does this inherent morality connect to salvation and the character of God and goodness?

So, how does this idea of superior or inferior moralities play into how we understand what is moral or immoral?

Can we ever all agree on one morality on at least some issues?

How do we discern just things and institutions from unjust things and institutions?

WSBC: "Life Together," Chapter 5

Tripp Gulledge

    Well, here we are in the last week of, Life Together, my how time flies. Uh-Oh, we have to talk about sin this week… so let’s jump in! Bonhoeffer has led us through several practical guides and philosophical explanations for the joy that is experienced in genuine Christian community, and he says that the confession of sins to one another is the final breakthrough. Bonhoeffer is of the opinion that sin bears such a weight on us that, no matter how authentic our time together is, how much we love one another, how devoted we are to scripture study, etc. we may still feel utterly alone under its weight. I think he’s on to something at the beginning of the chapter when he talks about this Pius fellowship mentality that we are prone to in churches; he says we often get taken aback when a, “real sinner,” is brought into our midst… as if what sin we already lived in was no big deal. If we were more honest with ourselves and one another, it’s likely that we as the Holy catholic church would be more welcoming to the average Jill who feels like her sin has pushed her too far away from God. And it’s likely that we would find ourselves more at home within Christian community when we realized others were struggling with the same things we were. But it doesn’t just stop with pointing out flaws, mistakes, and offenses toward God, there’s an absolutely essential forgiveness piece, as well, and it’s crucial to involve a brother or sister in this. Christ came so that all sin committed for all of time might be forgiven, and Bonhoeffer explains that your brothers or sisters in Christian community can stand in Christ’s stead in reminding you that your sins are forgiven in Jesus’ name. Methodism was built on the foundation of the small group; there were groups called classes and bands that shared each other’s struggles by confessing sin, praying for one another’s sins, and holding one another accountable at least weekly. Here is some more information on those things. If you uphold the seriousness of these sample questions, but update the language a little bit, you and your friends may find this very helpful. http://housechurch.org/miscellaneous/wesley_band-societies.html 

    Let’s talk about the two dangers of confession that Bonhoeffer names. He writes, “It is not good for one person in a Christian community to become the hearer for all others, for he will be overburdened. Thus, confession will be for him a mindless and empty routine” (P. 120). I think this danger speaks to everyone, even though not all faith traditions believe in one person hearing the sins of all. I think there is a danger in allowing the confession of sin to become a mindless routine. It is not helpful, by my understanding, to simply add general confessions of sin without giving thought to specific instances. Sin, as I understand it, refers to those offenses we make against God in which we allow selfishness, lust, idolatry, anger, or other passions besides Christ-like love to take over our hearts. If you disagree, feel free to drop something in the comments, but I think Bonhoeffer’s warning still stands to all. The second warning is given to the one who confesses. “For the salvation of his soul let him guard against ever making a pious work of his confession. if he does so, it will become the final, most abominable, vicious, impure prostitution of the heart” (P. 120). Yikes! All I really have to say about this is to echo the next thing Bonhoeffer writes, that the whole reason we are confessing our sin in the first place is because we are humbled by the grace of God, despite the fact that we are not worthy by our own merits.

    The topic of confession leads directly into Communion, based on the historic understanding of Holy Communion. In the United Methodist Church, we invite one another to Christ’s table with the following invitation. “Christ our Lord invites to his table all those who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with one another. Therefore, let us confess our sin before God and one another.” I think Bonhoeffer would echo this sentiment, based on his quote that says Christ commands us not to come to the altar without a clean and right heart. When I was younger, my dad used to explain it to children as a more serious version of washing your hands before dinner. Why do you wash your hands before dinner? So you don’t put something dirty into your body. Why do you confess your sin to God and before your brothers and sisters before Holy Communion? Because we must come to Christ’s table with a pure and humble heart. Communion continues with a congregation praying a prayer of confession together, and often times, the pastor presiding over Communion will offer a few moments for congregants to silently confess their sin. When this is finished, the presiding pastor declares, “Hear the good news, Christ died for us, while we were yet sinners. This proves God’s love toward us. In the name of Jesus Christ, your sins are forgiven!” And the congregation responds, so as to remind the pastor that he or she is also made blameless before God. “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.” And all say together, “Glory to God! Amen!” I could go on with a word by word explanation of Communion because I love it so much… but I will spare you. I will leave you with a hot take from Tony Jeck and the lovely closing quote from our man, D.B. Tony offered to us in the gathering and scattering series that Holy Communion is the perfect representation of the rhythm of gathering for worship and scattering for mission. After gathering to receive Christ’s body and blood, we pray the following, “By your Spirit make us one with each other, one with Christ, and one in ministry to all the world until Christ comes again in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.” It’s almost as if we pray, “until next time…” and then we have a sort of sending forth dimension to the whole thing. And so here’s the closing thought from Dietrich. “The fellowship of the Lord’s Supper is the superlative fulfillment of Christian fellowship. As the members of the congregation are united in Body and Blood at the table of the Lord, so will they be together in eternity. Here the community has reached its goal. Her. the joy of Christ in his community is complete. The life of Christians under the word has reached its perfection in the sacrament” (P. 122). Well if I said anymore after this, I think Paul would call me a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal… ;) See you guys next week with the first of Bo’s reflections on, Mere Christianity.

 

Stay woke out there,

Tripp

WSBC: "Life Together," Chapters 3 & 4

Tripp Gulledge

    Hello again, my friends, we will tackle both chapters 3 and 4 this week, so here we go. Chapter 3 is used to contrast the rhythms of the day with others by presenting Bonhoeffer’s suggested model for individual discipleship practices that he believes will best compliment what experience the Christian has with the rest of the Christian community. Sometimes I find it hard to reflect on Bonhoeffer because I find myself just wanting to regurgitate the whole text… I think the opening paragraphs of the chapter do a great job of establishing the importance of both the day with others and the day alone. Its best summarized by this quote, “We recognize, then, that only as we are in the fellowship can be we alone, and only he that is alone can live in the fellowship. Only in the fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone, and only in aloneness do we learn to live rightly in the fellowship. (P. 78). In other words, what is the point of personal discipleship if you don’t let it be shaped by the practices and wisdom of those around you? What is the point of having those conversations if nobody has anything personal to share? How can your experience in a Christian community be healthy if you are too afraid to be alone with God?

    If you thought last chapter was fruitful in terms of discipleship practice tips, this one will knock you off your feet! Bonhoeffer outlines three times during the day when aloneness is critical: scripture meditation, prayer, and intercession. Here’s Bonhoeffer’s challenge concerning scripture meditation,: to read God’s word for YOU. Here’s a helpful quote, “In our meditation we ponder the text under the promise that it has something utterly personal to say to us this day and for our Christian life, that it is not only God’s word for the church, but also God’s word for us. Individually, we expose ourselves to the specific word until it addresses us personally, and when we do this, we are doing no more than the simplest untutored Christian does everyday. We read God’s word as God’s word for us, we do not ask what this text has to say to other people (P. 82).” Most of the readers of this blog are members of council or leadership, so you find yourself responsible for communicating the word in some way or another. Sometimes that means you fall into the trap of reading a passage of scripture and thinking, ‘how am I going to preach/teach on this? How would I explain this to a friend? How do I read x, y, z news story into this scripture…’ We have to remember that God’s word is always in some way personal to us. If we outback our coverage and start trying to find sermons in everything we read, we will suddenly find that we no longer have that personal relationship with and love for God’s word.

    We read that scripture meditation should lead directly to prayer, here is my favorite quote from that section. “Prayer means nothing else but the readiness and willingness to receive and appropriate the word, and, what is more, to accept it in one’s personal situation (P. 84).” I think this explanation calls us to adopt verses of scripture as our prayers during all circumstances. In times of great joy and abundance, we praise the Lord for his goodness. In times of trial and pain, we praise the Lord because we know he is faithful. Tony and I were chatting about the practice of lecctio divina, which is a multistep method for meditating on the word. One of those steps is called, “oratio,” and it refers to the step during which you write a prayer based on the verse of scripture that you have read. Personally, this is an element I would very much like to improve in my devotional time. I feel like it’s important for us to find methods of response that are expressive, and I think prayers can do that well.

    The last of these three times of meditation is the intercession, that is, the lifting up of our brothers and sisters in prayer. I had never thought about it this way, but Bonhoeffer suggests that intercession helps us to see our brother or sister as a fellow sinner, to picture them at the cross, and to then feel their pain and suffering as our own. Bonhoeffer’s humble approach led him to say on page 86 that we can no longer hate and condemn one another when we fully understand that we each have crosses to bear just like our neighbors do. I encourage you to intentionally add some time for intercession in your daily time with God and ask that he help you to be sincere in that time so that when you pray, “Lord, have mercy on my brother or sister,” you really mean it out of compassion for them.

 

 

    The rest of chapter 3 is really great, but let’s move on to chapter 4 for now. I said a few lines ago that most of you are very involved in the leadership here at Wesley, well chapter 4 is for you! There are four types of ministries outlined here, and they all fall under one theme. There is this general idea that the world tells us that everyone has a place, a place of authority or submission, a place of weakness or strength, a place of poverty or wealth. Bonhoeffer’s argument is that these positions, good or bad, aren’t supposed to impact the way that life happens together. When we minister to one another and to a community at large, we must move past the dynamics of power, because the ministries of listening, active helpfulness, bearing, and proclaiming, are for all people. I will pose one question per ministry and leave it to you guys in the comments to achieve world peace with your answers. :)

 

  1. “He who can no longer put up with listening to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God as well (P. 98).” In what ways is conversation helpful for discerning God’s will for a person or a community? How does God speak through people?
  2. Where do you believe is the balance between serving your brothers and sisters and idolizing the ministry of helpfulness?
  3. “It is only when he becomes a burden that he becomes a brother, and not merely an object too be manipulated (P. 100).” How do you see your brothers and sisters as burdens, without acting like you see them as burdens?
  4. “We are concerned with that unique situation in which one person bears witness to another person by speaking the whole consolation of God, the admonition, the kindness, and the severity of God (P. 104).” When we do our duty to proclaim the word of God to our brother or sister, we have a responsibility to include the admonition, kindness, and severity. Which one do we have the hardest time with?

I hope you enjoy the reading, and I hope you let the Spirit work this in you mind a little bit. Let me know what you think in the comments. Shoutout to Mr. Bo Sigrest for dropping a comment last week!

Choosing Christ, Choosing suffering

Auburn Wesley

Tonight's post comes from Dr. Jason Borders, our pilgrimage guide, ordained elder in the UMC, professor at Huntingdon College in Montgomery... and all around amazing guy! We're really grateful for his leadership in these days AND that he took the time to write this to help us begin to sum up some of what this experience is doing in us, collectively and personally.  Check it out... 

Who do we say Christ is? Who are we in Christ? These important questions have come up more than once by members of our group as we’ve journeyed this land together. And as we near the end of our pilgrimage, I wonder if our bodies are helping us answer these questions, particularly as they relate to suffering - the kind of suffering Christ is talking about when we’re called to pick up our cross and follow. Our hands and feet have been supporting us, moving us, sensing pain, and enduring fatigue - masked by the occasional shot of Turkish coffee! We chose to put our bodies through this pilgrimage. We chose to walk in the rocky river-bed trail of Zaki, below Bethsaida. We chose to hike the treacherous path along the arid, wilderness cliffs of Ein Gedi. We chose to traverse the steep terrain to touch the ancient stones of Montfort Fortress near Haifa. We chose the difficulties and possibilities this pilgrimage afforded us. And we did so, perhaps, not realizing how pilgrimage may be a first step in learning to choose suffering. 

In most circumstances, suffering is something we choose to avoid. We pray, often, that suffering not be in our future. Often, we claim that our ailments, frailties, and shortcomings are our “cross to bear.” But I’m not convinced that’s true. To suffer for Christ is not to optimistically endure the pains of life that we all experience - to keep a stiff upper lip and positively push forward, so to speak. Rather, to suffer for Christ is to choose to be part of the hardships of others. The kind of suffering Christ calls us to enter is much like the choice of pilgrimage. It is a choice to enter suffering that we do not deserve, and might not be ours otherwise, but choose to bear anyway. Discipleship is first and foremost the path of those who choose to enter the suffering of others (all others) and, in Christ’s name, take up the cross by bearing one another’s burdens.

Today, on the Mount of Olives, over looking the City of Jerusalem 

Today, on the Mount of Olives, over looking the City of Jerusalem 

Our group may not have all the answers, but we are coming back with a resolve to be the church wherever that may take us - walking this land has taught us that. Rather than seek out places to find God, we are re-oriented around a God who finds us as we walk with others in the broken places. And in many ways, now, we have come alive to the fact that the would-be pilgrim should be careful. If you walk just far enough, you may just let your guard down long enough to be found by a God who was there all along, hand outstretched, saying “Follow me!”

Wonder + the Work

Auburn Wesley

Hey Y'all, Greetings from Jerusalem!  Today was our free day.  A chance to explore the city a bit.  Some of us got these AUmazing shirts with some Hebrew on them... as one does when in Jerusalem... 

IMG-5179.jpg

I posted a bit of my (Tony's) experience over on my blog.  You can read HERE! 

Grace + Peace, 

Book Club Wk 2: The Day with Others

Tripp Gulledge

Boy oh Boy... Stephanie gave me access to edit the blog and I finally set it up... look out, inter webs! So here we are, week two of our study of, "Life Together." Chapter 2 is called, The Day with Others, and it gives a beautiful outline for rhythms of life that we can experience as a community. I think what I will do is share a couple of reflections I have about community life first, and then pose some questions for you.

 

First, we keep going to these Jewish historical sites, and I am reminded of something wise Tony once told me. When preparing for a study on Habakkuk, I asked him about the numerous laments of the prophets, and he had this to say. For the Jews, it's about the successes, failures, hurt, and healing of the people as a whole. When you speak to the Jew of the Old Testament, he or she hears you addressing all generations from Abraham to the current generation. When you speak to the 2018 Christian, he or she thinks only of themselves. I think of this because, at Masada, we learned that the Jews preferred to slaughter one another, rather than have themselves humiliated in slavery... Again! Today, many of the group went to Yad Vashem, which means memorial and name. This is the state of Israel's memorial to the victims of the holocaust and other anti-semitic events. I thought about the vast Hall of Names, where they emphasized the act of naming each victim who is known so far. I can't help but admire the way that the Jews value their community, and long for a community bond that looks out for each other in that way. Finally, we have talked a lot on this pilgrimage about group interpretation. In the 1st century synagogue, the rabbi would read the text and then sit down as everyone else talked about what it meant to them. Wow Christians.... what would that look like?

 

On to some questions and discipline/practice tips for your study.

 

1. Bonhoeffer believes that the only necessary things to tie a community together are Christ and the Word of God. What is the danger of adding MORE requirements for participating in a community? On the other hand, the United Methodist Church has a list of requirements for official church membership. They must have done this for some reason, right? Why?

2. If the Word is what unites the Christian community, then corporate study is critical. How do you engage God's word in a group setting regularly?

3. Bonhoeffer suggests the importance of rhythm over the next two chapters; I think commonality in practice is a critical way to help one another work through scripture/the world/stress. How would you like to adopt more common rhythms?

Note: I would direct you to Katie Kirk and the Book of Common Prayer for a daily liturgy startup.

4. Find a buddy to read psalms together. Bonhoeffer talks about how these present the heart of Jesus, who would be the only one who could understand the push and pull of God and man throughout the psalms. Consider taking turns reading the contrasting half verses, so that you can see how they interplay with one another. (Tip: Don't let the same person read the God parts all the time.)

5. Why do we worship together?

 

So I have confirmed that we have comment capability here... I would greatly appreciate if we had some conversation out of this. Let me know what you guys think down below. Feel free to drop your own questions, answer mine with tips for one another, or wreck my commentary. Until next week, stay woke!

 

Shalom,

Tripp 

David - The OG Hillsong

Auburn Wesley

Today's post comes to us from Tripp Gulledge.... 

Hello friends!
At about 6:40 this morning, Tony was talking about our blog post for tonight and I leapt at the opportunity to write it! On the schedule for today was a hike to Ein Gedi (Hebrew for spring of the young goat.) This was the place where King David hid from Saul and likely wrote many of the psalms. I couldn’t wait to be in the place where the OG Hillsong album dropped!! This was also the place where Jesus was led to be tempted by Satan (see Matt. 4).

Our view of the Dead Sea from on Ein Gedi 

Our view of the Dead Sea from on Ein Gedi 

A bus ride fill of dadjokes later, and we were there. We began a treacherous hike up a narrow cliff face and stopped to look at the gorgeous Dead Sea and the ruins of an old temple along the way. About halfway up to what is known as, “The Lovers’ Cave,” a park ranger informed us that we could go no further because of the threat of rain in Jerusalem, which would flood the trails.

Tripp on Ein Gedi! 

Tripp on Ein Gedi! 

[Update: if it rains at all on our trip, Dr. Borders is buying us all lunch!]

We were a bit disappointed to turn around, but once again reminded of the theme of our adventures, “It’s About Orientation, not Destination.” We stopped on our way back down to read the story of Jesus’ temptation and discuss what it held for us.

We met some nice people from Minnesota and they took our picture! 

We met some nice people from Minnesota and they took our picture! 

After finishing our trek at Ein Gedi, we drove to Masada, an important site in Jewish history. It was here that hundreds of Jews were trapped by the Romans on a mountain, and chose to kill their families and themselves, rather than submit to slavery. As far as historical sites go, I found this to be the most gripping. It was powerful to see how the Jews fought for their honor in that way.
     

After exploring Masada, we took a very quick trip to Qumran, the home of a small Jewish sect, and best known as the place where the Dead sea scrolls were found. We didn’t spend a ton of time here because we were determined to gloat in salt!

[Fun Fact: the Dead Sea is 33% salt! (Your friendly neighborhood Atlantic Ocean is only about 3% salt.]
[Not Fun Fact: that water will wreck your eyes!]


After our float, we came back to the hotel and had dinner together. We concluded the day with a worship jam with our new friends from Western Carolina Wesley Foundation... we taught them our benediction!!! Look out for a big post tomorrow, as we find out how various team members spent their free days!

Auburn + Western Caroline Wesley Foundations UNITE for worship! 

Auburn + Western Caroline Wesley Foundations UNITE for worship! 


Shalom for now friends.

Destination vs. Orientation

Auburn Wesley

Today's post comes from Anna Grace Glaize!  Shalom!! 

We're in Jerusalem!!! My little introvert head is overwhelmed by all the people and things, but my heart is so full. Our group's the best, and I love it. The pun game is strong. 

Here's an update on what we've done so far--Today we did the Herodion, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and the Israel Museum. Yesterday we did a hike to Montford Fortress and stopped by Caesarea Maritima on the way from Galilee to Jerusalem.

Messy Thinky Things--There have been a couple of themes that keep coming up during this trip. One of the things we keep coming back to is the problem with viewing the end goal of discipleship as destination instead of orientation. Lots of times we think of discipleship as a trek to somewhere as opposed to looking at it as a reorienting toward God no matter where we are. That distinction has been especially important for us as we go to all these sites, some of which are physically demanding. Though we've talked about it a lot, I'm just now beginning to realize how much the whole destination mindset has impacted me.

I think I finally started to see the difference just after the Montford hike. During the hike, there was a moment when it became clear that not everyone who wanted to would make it to the fortress at the top. It wasn't anyone's fault. We were short on time, the drive was longer than we thought, etc. Some of the folks behind me on the hike just wouldn't have enough time to go all the way to the fortress.

Still, it felt wrong.

We're in this thing together, and going some place where a few of our fellow pilgrims couldn't go upset me. Like I said, it was nobody's fault, but I was angry at the situation. It wasn't until a few hours later on the bus that it fully sunk in that the point of what we were doing wasn't to get to the top. The point was the doing. We all had a chance to walk with each other in a pretty place. We all had the chance to experience the journey. Those of us who got to the fortress had fun, but so did the folks who got an extra 30 minutes to sit at a picnic table and talk. There was no destination, per se.

It was about doing the thing together, even if the doing part looked different for each of us. The goal wasn't the destination, but the reorienting of ourselves to one another and the experience.

Later on the bus we talked about how the same was true with God. There's no special place we have to get to as disciples. God is with us, and all we have to do is position ourselves toward him. 

Part of why this is on my mind so much is because it seemed so trivial initially. I mean, we all got told in middle school that it's all about the journey and not the destination. Still, though, sometimes the world sends a different message. It kind of seems like to be worthwhile you have to be the best at something.

I think a small part of me believes that if I'm not the best I suck, and--just to be clear--I'm really not the best at anything. I'm starting to realize that's the destination part of my mind at work. What a graceless way to view the world. Thankfully we don't have to depend on our messed-up selves to get us to God.

Instead, we have a God who finds us.

Hallelujah for that.

From Galilee to Jerusalem

Auburn Wesley

Today we moved from Galilee to Jerusalem.  But along the way we made a few stops.  First at Montfort Fortress - an old crusader castle.  It was a pretty amazing hike up and down... and then down and back up again.  But the view from the top and the breeze that was blowing through the ruins... AMAZING!  

Montfort Fortress - our view from where we BEGAN our journey... 

Montfort Fortress - our view from where we BEGAN our journey... 

From the top!! 

From the top!! 

Then we headed down the coast toward Caesarea, stopping to put our feet in the Mediterranean and look at an aqueduct that was used to move fresh water some 60 miles down the cost from the mountains to the amazingly posh first century city of Caesarea.  

Miles of aqueduct remains on the coast

Miles of aqueduct remains on the coast

Tony, Tripp, Frank - and the rest of the group enjoying a 15 min. play time on the Mediterranean Sea!! 

Tony, Tripp, Frank - and the rest of the group enjoying a 15 min. play time on the Mediterranean Sea!! 

Then our last stop before moving onto Israel was the city of Caesarea, itself.  Herod the Great built his castle here, Pontius Pilate lived here, Peter came to Cornelius (in Acts 10) here, it's also where Paul stands trial before another Roman Governor, Felix (Acts 23-24).  You can tell it was majestic and full of every 1st century amenity life could offer.  

Here's what's left of Herod's palace on the sea in Caesarea... beautiful view!

Here's what's left of Herod's palace on the sea in Caesarea... beautiful view!

The palace extended down onto the sea.  Pretty sweet set up!  

The palace extended down onto the sea.  Pretty sweet set up!  

Before you reach the palace, off to the left is this theater... it's been renovated and is still used as a concert venue! 

Before you reach the palace, off to the left is this theater... it's been renovated and is still used as a concert venue! 

Just before the palace, to the right, is this arena where chariots could race and other sport could be had.  

Just before the palace, to the right, is this arena where chariots could race and other sport could be had.  

Finally, we made it into Jerusalem just as final preparations for keeping the Sabbath were being made.  We had a great dinner and group conversation.  Now it's time for rest.  Tomorrow is a new day!  

Shabbot Shalom! 

"Who Do You Say I Am?"

Auburn Wesley

Today's post comes from Anna Grace Glaize! 

On the Sea of Galilee! 

On the Sea of Galilee! 

Whew, have we done a lot! Today is day four in the country, but it feels like we just got here. The days have flown by. Tomorrow's our last full day in the Galilee area, and I'm trying not to get sad. I'm hype for Jerusalem, but who knows when I'll get to wake up to a gorgeous view of the Sea of Galilee again. Here's a quick recap of what we've done so far (feel free to skip this part): Bet She'an, Beit Alpha, the Church of the Annunication in Nazareth, the Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaeum, boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, the Ginosar Boat, and Bethsaida. Today we did Tel Hazor, Tel Dan, Caesarea Philippi, Nimrod's Fortress, and the Golan Heights. 

    If you got overwhelmed reading all that, you have some sense of why time is passing so quickly! I'm having an amazing time and am constantly impressed by the level of depth in our conversations. Today we spent a lot of time on what Jesus says to Peter at Caesarea Philippi. He asks him, "Who do you say that I am?" We've been asking ourselves the same sorts of questions.

    Being in Israel has really helped us wrestle with all this. We're learning about how Jesus' world shaped him, and, in doing so, questioning how our world has shaped us. Of course, being influenced by our cultural contexts is inevitable. Yet, as Dr. Borders pointed out, being a good disciple means being willing to let God change and shape our worldview. That process can be kind of scary. Letting it happen requires trust. But each time it happens we get a little bit closer to becoming who we were intended to be. We get a little more human. We get a little more Christlike. 

Good things are happening in the hearts of our pilgrims! We may end each day tired, and a few of us are growing weary of shawarma, but we're all having fun and learning a lot. There's a whole lot of joy in this group. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. You'll hear more from us soon!

Shalom, ya'll!

At "Abraham's Gate" at Tel Dan 

At "Abraham's Gate" at Tel Dan 

Israel Pilgrimage

Auburn Wesley

Over the next couple weeks we'll be sharing stories, questions, ideas, experiences we're having while on our pilgrimage to Israel.  We begin with this post that our Associate Director Tony Jeck wrote on his own blog.  CLICK HERE! 

Tomorrow we'll have a student or two to share some of their experience.  Thank you for your prayers and support.  We are very aware of God's presence and provision for us in this place!  

Grace + Peace

Following Jesus Through Holy Week - Tuesday

Auburn Wesley

Today, as we continue with Jesus, we see him go toe-to-toe with the religious elite.  Tripp Gulledge and friends have put together a way for you to hear the Scripture of Holy Tuesday from Mark's gospel... along with a guided reflection/prayer time. 

We hope this can be a part of the way you journey with Jesus to the cross! 

Grace + Peace, 

Following Jesus Through Holy Week - Monday

Auburn Wesley

Yesterday was Palm Sunday.  We watched Jesus as he entered the city of Jerusalem and immediately stirs things up!  He's on a collision course w/ the powers that be... religious and Roman, alike!  

For the next 3 days we're going to keep following Jesus through Mark's gospel, watching and listening to him as he moves toward the cross.  Here's a bit of a reflection our discipleship team created to help us to do just that.  It is set up in the ARM office at Wesley, along with a prayer response, if you are able to come by and read and reflect and pray with it.  

If not, we hope you'll take a few moments to consider the following, where ever you are! 

Scripture: Mark 11: 12-21

“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.  On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’[a]? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’[b]” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. When evening came, Jesus and his disciples[c] went out of the city. In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

Reflection - 

The fig tree in leaf was a sign of the life and vitality of Jewish temple life… which isn’t just about a place where worship happens.  The temple then was like an interesting mash up of going to church and going to the chamber of commerce at city hall.  It was at once the religious AND economic center of the people’s life.  And this is fine.  Jesus isn’t judging that. 

He’s judging the kind of religious and economic life that’s happening here.

The chief priest and scribes and many of the other authorities at the temple are making very good livings by what they charge for the ordinary economic life of the temple - what it costs to purchase the necessary things to offer sacrifice.  In addition Rome’s presence is here in the temple (as the center of economic life) and they charge a sizeable tax on the people.  And if that weren’t enough, on top of that King Herod (who was a puppet of Rome) added extra tax to the one Rome demanded, by which Herod grew his own personal wealth.  All of this fell squarely on the backs of the people - many of whom lived in or on the edge of poverty their whole life. 

Can you see why Jesus would be so enraged by what he sees when he walks into the temple.  Why he would say, “This is supposed to be a house of prayer for ALL people (most especially those who are poor and in need) and you’ve made it into a den of robbers!” (a place where the rich are ripping off the poor and doing it in the name of faithfulness to God... and in collusion with Rome).

Questions to Ponder

If Jesus were to show up in the temple of your own life, what would he be driving out? What would he be declaring as lifeless injustice? What would he name as not producing good fruit?

What are ways that you LONG for new and good fruit to spring up in your life?  What is a prayer you would want to pray about that?  

Who are the people, where are the places where you feel drawn to special care and concern for those in need? How can you begin to join Jesus there?