Category Archive: Latest from the MethoBlogoSphere

Feb 01 2015

Allan R. Bevere: The Methodist Blogs Weekly Links of Note

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This week's noteworthy posts from the Methoblogosphere:

Steve Heyduck, "Messy Forgiveness"

Keith McIlwain: "Evangelicalism or Fundamentalism: Getting Our Terms Right"

Christy Thomas: "Wild Dogs and Unwatched Babies: Why We Can’t Heal the UMC"

Andrew C. Thompson, "Evangelism and Discipleship: A Wesleyan Connection"

John Ed Mathison: "Running Scared or Walking Confidently"

Craig L. Adams: "Why I Love the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas"

Henry Neufeld: "Would I Publish a Creationist Book?"

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Feb 01 2015

Nikos: Sunday Worship Preview – February 8

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Sunday, February 8 - (9:00 am & 10:30 Services) & Wednesday, February 11  (6:30 pm Casual Service @ Crossroads, 2095 Fair Avenue)

Features - 5th Sunday After Epiphany & Boy Scouts Sunday

Scripture - Isaiah 40:21-31 & Mark 1:29-39

Sermon "Look Up!"

Theme - When life hits us hard, it's easy to lose perspective and question if God is by our side. Our scripture reading from Isaiah calls for us to look up and God will renew our strength.

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Feb 01 2015

Nikos: Sermon (February 1) by Rev Robert McDowell – “A Church for All People”

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     Have you ever stopped to think about how unique the church is supposed to be? The church is meant to be a place where everyone is welcomed and where we can live out what it means to be the people of God in the world.
     I love this heart shaped picture of our congregation that we took this past September out at our Crossroads facility! Just look at how beautiful you are! Look at how you’re smiling. We’re all bunched really close together like we like each other!
     Isn’t it interesting that we didn’t divide up into political parties or favorite sports teams? We just found a spot in that heart and stood next to whoever happened to be standing next to us for that picture. We are quite the eclectic group aren’t we?

     You know, I think the same can be said for this group photo of our church taken way back in April of 1915. This year marks the 100th anniversary of this historic picture. Our church won the World’s Largest Men’s Bible Class that year. 1,316 men showed up for this picture! 1,316!
     Truth be told, our church padded the numbers quite a bit to win this contest because we had put an ad in the Lancaster paper for all of the men to come to be in this picture. Some might say that we cheated. I just think it was creative evangelism!
     As you look at this old, old photo, just think of all the different people who had gathered for this picture. Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Catholics, and maybe people with no church affiliation at all. All of these people gathered together to be in this once in a lifetime photo.
     Actually, this is one of my favorite things about the church. It is a place where people from a variety of backgrounds can set aside their differences and be the people of God.
     Evidently this idea of unity over personal differences was lost on the Corinthian Church. Their battles didn’t stem from disagreements over politics or what color the new carpet in the nursery should be. Their biggest battle was over what meat should be served at their covered dish meals.
     This was a real problem for the people of that church. The Corinthian Church was made up of people who had recently been worshipping the gods of the Roman Empire. They would have sacrificed meat to these idols on a regular basis as a symbol of their devotion to these gods.
     Now that they were Christians, they didn’t want any part of any meat that had been sacrificed to these gods. Even though they knew in their minds that their new faith in Christ had freed them to eat any type of meat, the memory of their former religion was difficult to leave behind.
     There were other people in the Corinthian Church who looked down upon these other Christians who were still struggling with eating meat that had been sacrificed to these Roman gods. They were not very patient and empathetic with their brothers and sisters in Christ.
     Paul is cautioning the Church in Corinth to not become judgmental toward each other over these types of issues. Instead, Paul encourages them to focus on loving each other just as God has loved them.
     This is why five chapters from this passage of scripture we arrive at I Corinthians which is known as the love chapter. Paul really drives his point home there when writes, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I have nothing.”
     Sometimes, it’s not about being right in an argument. It’s about seeing things from the other person’s experiences and perspective that might be very different from our own. It’s during those times, that we are to offer greater grace and understanding.
     Several years ago, I served in a church that hosted several retreats for youth called Chrysalis weekends. You might be familiar with these weekends.  They are designed to help youth experience God’s love in a very real way.
     Some of the youth who attended were from the church I was serving but many of them were from other churches.  There were also youth who had no church connection.
    The board that was overseeing this ministry at the time had a disagreement about a delicate issue. Some of the youth who attended the retreats liked to smoke. There were some people on the leadership board at the time who didn’t want to allow smoking at all, even outside of the church in a designated smoking area.
     There were others on the board who agreed that smoking was bad, but didn’t want this issue to prevent youth who wanted to smoke from coming to these weekend retreats. They were in favor of the outside designated smoking areas.
     This debate kept coming up at several of the board meetings. After a lot of discussion and prayer, it was finally decided to allow for the designated smoking areas. They erred on the side of grace because the board members kept hearing how these weekend retreats were having a life changing impact on these teenagers, many of whom had very little connection with the church.
     It’s not easy to be a church for all people. It means that we will sometimes need to rethink our rules and expectations. It means that we will need to constantly ask ourselves if we truly are a church of open hearts, open minds, and open doors.

     Maybe you have heard of Nadia Bolz-Weber who is a Lutheran Pastor in Denver, Colorado. The name of her church is “House for All Sinners and Saints.”
     Nadia has an interesting background. She is a former drug user and alcoholic.  She gets a lot of attention for her colorful tattoos, cropped hair, hipster glasses, and edgy preaching. She also has a best selling book entitled, Pastrix: The Cranky Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint.
    Before becoming a Lutheran pastor, Nadia was a stand-up comic. She gave the eulogy for a fellow comedian which is where she felt a calling to enter the pastoral ministry. From there, she went to seminary and founded a church.
     The church consists of married couples, young families, baby boomers, and a few folks in their 70’s. It’s mostly folks who are between the ages of 22 and 42 and single. A quarter of the congregation identifies as being Lutherans while the rest are Methodists, agnostics, Reformed, Episcopalian, and which she terms the ever popular “nothing.”
     Nadia’s church is reaching people that many of the more established churches have not even attempted to reach. Her unorthodox ways provide a bridge between her church and people who have never attended any church worship service at any point in their lives.
     In addition to reaching people who have never been to church, her congregation is also strangely attracting conservative soccer moms from the Denver suburbs. Nadia writes that it’s pretty easy to look around on any given Sunday and think, “I’m unclear what all these people have in common.”
     Now, before you get any ideas, Pastor Cheryl and I have no plans on getting any tattoos. We feel like we are already hipster type pastors.
     Tattoos or not tattoos, we want to be a church for all people. We want to be a church of opens minds, open hearts, and open doors. We want people to feel welcomed in this place and to not feel judged or looked down upon. Like Paul writes, we want to be a church that builds people up with love.
     Every time we receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we are reminded that we are family.  Rich and Poor. Young and Old. Married and Single. Gay and Straight. Liberal and Conservative. Long time member and First Time Guest.

     All are welcome in this place. All are welcome in this place. Thanks to Jesus Christ, we can be a church for all people.

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Feb 01 2015

The Painted Prayerbook: Epiphany 5: That All Be Made Well

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For Joy
Image: For Joy © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany 5, Year B: Mark 1.29-39

He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.
–Mark 1.31

People I love are hurting. So in light of this week’s passage from Mark’s Gospel, I wanted to write a blessing especially with them in mind—a blessing for healing, a big blessing, a blessing wide enough and deep enough to match their need.

What came was this: a blessing small enough to carry in the hand or in the heart. If you are in need, may this be for you a word in the wound, in the illness, in the ache. May you be made well.

And All Be Made Well
A Healing Blessing

That each ill
be released from you
and each sorrow
be shed from you
and each pain
be made comfort for you
and each wound
be made whole in you

that joy will
arise in you
and strength will
take hold of you
and hope will
take wing for you
and all be made well.

–Jan Richardson

For a previous reflection on this passage, visit The Domestic God.

Registration now open!

Beloved Lenten Retreat

Beloved Retreat: Are you hungry for an experience that draws you into Lent without feeling like it’s just one more thing to add to your schedule? Join us for this online retreat that easily fits into the rhythm (or chaos!) of your days, offering you an elegantly simple space to reflect on your journey and receive sustenance for your path. Intertwining reflection, art, music, and community, this retreat is a great way to travel toward Easter, from anywhere you are. Visit Online Lenten Retreat for details and registration. Individual, group, & congregational rates available.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “For Joy,” please visit this page at (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

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Feb 01 2015

The Pondering Prophet: Boat Talk

Original post at

This sermon mixes historical data with narrative.  Sources for that data:

Mark 1:14-20  The waves slapped against the boat, as they always do.  The perfect percussion and the warm sun could lull the unexperienced fisherman to sleep as they patiently waited for their nets to sink.  But who could sleep now?  Emotions had been churned till they were raw.  No one in Galilee was interested in a nap today.

John the Baptist had been arrested.  The news spread quickly, but no one objected…at least not openly. Everyone in Galilee went about their work, portraying a normal day. Galileans were very skilled at business as usual. It was a façade covering the burning desire for freedom that was always skin deep. 

Galilee had become the center for the Zealot movement.  Their mode of operation was violent guerilla warfare tactics.  Secret conversations were around every corner.  At any time violence could erupt.

Because of the political upheaval Zebedee had introduced “boat talk” to his boys.  Our equivalent here in the Appalachian Mountains would be “barn talk”.  The language isn’t always clean and the subject matter revolves around things we can’t control, like politics and taxes.  Sides are taken, debates ensue and arguments are projected.  Zebedee wanted to keep that talk in his boat, far from the eavesdropping of any political operatives and far from the dinner table.  Boat talk allowed a father to talk openly with his sons about the lessons he has learned living in this tumultuous time.

Zebedee’s boat talk was a platform for old man to impart his wisdom to James and John by illustrating this history of the Roman rule through his own stories.  All of these stories supported his philosophy, which he quoted regularly, “Just keep your heads down and fish.  Romans and Jews will always need fish.”

Zebedee told the story about the slaughter of 2000 Jews that came to the aid of students that studied the law at the temple.  The young men had gone to class to discover a Roman eagle on the entrance.  Feeling that the eagle violated God’s law to have no graven images, they removed it.  The Romans reacted violently by slaughtering these young students.  When the Jews rushed in to help them, the Romans killed indiscriminately.

With a government like this, what choice did young men have?  Hit and run missions, suicide attacks, terrorist-like invasions in palaces were the work of the zealots. Some days it seemed the only way to counteract such cruelty.

This action in addition to the census (the backdrop of the Christian Christmas story) had further fueled hatred for the Romans.  For the Jews land ownership was a religious matter as much as it was a political matter.  Families owned land because it had been given to them by God.  This land gave them the ability to participate in the economy.  God’s plan promoted financial stability for the family and the expectation that this stability would be shared with the less fortunate. Romans government did not honor Jewish culture. The census gave the Romans the data they needed to levy just enough taxes to push the Jew to the breaking point, but not break them.  When the Jews turned to violence, 2000 men were crucified and 20,000 were sold into slavery.  Zebedee, a young man then, resisted the urge.  He survived and insisted his boys do the same.  “Put your head down and fish.” He would say.  “Romans and Jews always need fish.”

But almost thirty years into policies and taxation based on those census numbers had left Galilee and all of Israel in poverty. Political leaders, religious leaders and their minions lived in luxury.  Everyone else barely got by.  The glory days of the Davidic kingdom seemed even more golden when recalled from the shadow of Roman rule.  This was not God’s plan.

What choice did young men have?  Join the Zealots?  Zealots kept small daggers in their cloaks in case violence should give them the opportunity to slit a Roman throat.  Zebedee checked his sons’ cloaks when he could.

These were the stories that James, John, Simeon and Andrew cut their teeth on.

But for the first time, “boat talk” did not seem so draining.  Another option now stood beside Zebedee’s fishing philosophy and zealot violence.

Before his arrest, John the Baptist’s had appeared along the Jordan River side for 6 months.  His pronouncement was clear, “Repent and believe.  The Kingdom of God is at hand.” Kingdom talk implied a king.  This message was just the sand paper needed to irritate the Romans.  But the John’s kingdom message was not focused on politics.  It focused on the heart.  And no other symbol portrayed that change of heart message more than the rubric of baptism.  Jews were familiar with baptism through the rite of purification.

The priests of the temple had been bought. Rome placed whoever would work with them and for them.  Jewish festivals were honored, but only to keep riots at bay.  Farce described worship.  Ceremonial bathing for women and men, in preparation for many occasions, were always available through the rite of purification.  However, what did the rite offer now?  Was it up to the participant to make the most of it?  When John offered his followers baptism, his crowds were more than happy to partake because he offered an authentic response to what God was doing and was about to do.

Even Zebedee, the old man who encouraged a quiet life of survival, had gone to hear John the Baptist.  Cautiously optimistic, he agreed that John offered an alternative to violence.

Now John the Baptist was gone, sitting in jail, awaiting a trial that may never happen.  Young Jewish men now gravitated again toward the Zealot movement and method.

Zebedee, again, worried for his boys.  Even Simeon and Andrew had been considering what to do.  Young men want to do something besides mend nets and watch fish prices and taxes inflate.  God given disgust as the poor are taken advantage of must have an outlet.  Somebody has to do something.

Read Mark 1:14-20

John the Baptist has a different take on the situation.  This is why the crowds came to him.  John does not lay his criticism solely on the hierarchy with an expectation that change will result.  John included those who had no power.  He challenged them to change their thinking, attitude and behavior.  And he started by speaking of matters of the kingdom.  To the powerless and downtrodden his message is clear:  Live as if the kingdom is here and it begins in your life, heart and mind….right now.

John the Baptist believed that it was God’s job to bring about the vengeance and the Jew’s job to get ready for reckoning.  Fishermen, carpenters and housewives could no longer play the victim.  They were to be held accountable.  The poor have a part in bringing the kingdom and it begins within…repent for the kingdom is near.

When Jesus shows up with a similar message, the hearts and minds of those who would be his closest followers were ripe. “Immediately, they followed him”.

“Boat talk” had prepared the boys for a kingdom on earth – power and might through military strategies, strength and power.  John the Baptist challenges this idea by including those with no power.  But Jesus builds on John’s message by revealing a kingdom of God’s true intent.

Infringed widows and orphans are valued

Children sit on his knee

Sick are healed

Death itself is challenged

For those called to be the original disciples these are unintended consequences.  And they were so challenging, these glimpses of heaven, that the original expectations of national pride and militarism fade into the background.

Our original motives and expectations are challenged when we sign up to do God’s work.  Things never work out like they are supposed to.  But instead of imposing our kingdom (with all your power and influence), I’d like to invite you to look for God’s kingdom…and not only in what you are doing but also who you are becoming.

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Feb 01 2015

Jason C. Stanley: Sunday Reads: 2/1/15

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The latest from

Here are five blog posts I stumbled upon this week that I thought were worth sharing and pondering. Let me know what you think. Andrea Crouch: The Man Who Raised the Goal: Gospel singer Kirk Franklin shares about the gospel … Continue reading

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