Welcome to the church blog! This space is intended to be a place of reflection and sharing, generally somehow related to the sermon but perhaps about something else altogether. As Disciples, we invite all voices to be heard. We welcome diversity of experiences, theology, and writing styles on this page. If you would like to contribute, please let Kevin (revkeving@bellefontainefcc.org) or Christine (christine.lighttheway@gmail.com) know and we will help make it happen!
The Challenges of Evangelism
Pastor Kevin preached yesterday on Luke 5:1-11. Jesus tells his disciples to go out into deeper water, which Pastor Kevin shared often represents chaos, which we perceive as danger. In so doing, the fishing nets became so full of fish that they began to tear. The disciples had to ask for neighboring boats to come help them bring in the haul.
In the same way, Jesus calls us to go out into the chaos of the world, which will at times seem dangerous, to bring in the harvest of souls that He has already prepared. But none of us can do it by ourselves. No single church can do it by themselves. We need to work together to share the Gospel in this increasingly chaotic and dark world. We need to face our fears and go out... with the courage that only the Holy Spirit can provide. When we step out in this kind of faith, God will bless the harvest as abundantly as He did the Disciples.
Posted By: Brenda Sanford2/18/2019 7:26:53 AM

The Wisdom of the Wise Men
With today being Epiphany Sunday, Pastor Keven appropriately preached on Matthew 2:1-12 about the Magi from the East coming to pay homage to Jesus some time following his birth. Not a new scripture to me nor a new concept; however, I received a new insight about the wisdom of the wise men.

These men were not wise from birth...that would more appropriately be called intelligence. No, they were wise, they possessed wisdom: the Google dictionary defines wisdom as "the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment" Synonyms are "common sense, shrewdness, astuteness, judiciousness, and prudence". Something that comes from time and effort.

Pastor Kevin shared that these men were likely astronomers who had studied the stars probably for all of their adult lives. I began to think about what all of that meant. They were seekers of truth and light (literally and figuratively). They worked at it! They didn't expect the information to come easily or without effort. How often do we excuse away our lack of knowledge of the Bible because we choose not to put the effort into studying it?

But they didn't only study the stars for information...once they saw this special star that they could not explain, they believed. They believed in something bigger than themselves, something amazing and super natural! Scientists can believe in the super natural...they are not mutually exclusive!

Then, they allowed it to change their lives. They left families and their work to see where this amazing star would lead them! And they were not disappointed! They were some of the first people to meet Jesus and realize that he was the long-awaited Messiah.

But along the way, they were deceived! For a time, their wisdom was not sufficient. Herod, the Roman-appointed Governor of Judea presented himself as a good guy. He presented himself as someone who also wanted to find the Messiah so that he could go and worship him. This was a pure and total lie, according to Matthew. Herod was known as a tyrant and a liar, probably what we today would call a narcissist. We learn later in Matthew that his only concern was to eliminate this infant Messiah so he could not threaten Herod's power or his throne.

These wise men could not discern that treachery on their own. In a dream, God revealed to them that Herod was not to be trusted. They listened and obeyed and returned to their homes a different way.

It seems to me that narcissism is becoming more prominent in our society. Do you agree? I know people who have family members, co-workers and employers with narcissistic tendencies. I see world leaders who have narcissistic tendencies and, yes, even some pastors that exhibit these same characteristics. These individuals often portray themselves as caring, empathic and altruistic, but their only real concern is power, popularity and position. What is even more difficult for me to see is the number of otherwise bright individuals who seem to be blinded to the self-centered motives of these individuals. This message today helped me to see that it is not something we can always discern on our own. It took the power of God to reveal the truth to these wise men!

This gives me hope for our community, our country and our world! God will reveal the truth to those who seek truth and light; those who study, believe and follow. And God will always win! He is never deceived!

Posted By: Brenda Sanford1/6/2019 10:52:44 PM

Practicing the Presence of God - First Fruits
It’s officially almost December, and to me, it feels the weeks will go sliding haphazardly into one another like kids on a sledding hill until they reach the bottom in a jumbled pile at the end of this month. Perhaps it’s because my introverted nature perceives the rush and chaos of preparing for Christmas to be overstimulating and I would prefer to hide in retreat until it’s all over. Perhaps for you, there are so many events on your calendar you’re wondering when you’ll get some time to just breathe, even though there are so many exciting things happening on that calendar. Perhaps you’re a parent or grandparent who longs for this season because it’s one of the few times when you know you will get to see your precious kids. Perhaps for you, the weeks will tick by too slowly as you’re repeatedly reminded this season of a loved one who is no longer here to celebrate it with you.

There can be a lot of feelings in this season.

Pastor Kevin’s sermon this week helped to remind us to take a moment to have gratitude and slow down for a moment. To recall that no matter what messages we have thrown at us from society, God is calling us back to himself: remember where you came from. Remember to Whom everything belongs.

The Scripture passage was from Deuteronomy, where the Israelites remind themselves about their history as wanderers, trying to follow the path of the True God. God calls them to give the first fruits of their labor to God and also to the needy of their society: the Levite (traveling priests), the widow, the orphan, the foreigner living in their land.

The passage helps the Israelites (and we can imaginatively place ourselves in their position) recall that once, they had nothing. They were slaves, they had no homeland, they were the ones struggling in society. As Americans, almost all of us can resonate with at least part of that story: many came as immigrants in search of better life; many were brought forcibly as slaves; all of us are connected to our ancestors.

The Israelites remind themselves that they could just as easily be in that position were it not for God’s care and guidance. But does that mean that now they can feel proud and entitled to the goodness and fruits they are reaping from their labor? No!

In contrast, they continually tell themselves the story of where they came from. Modern-day Jews continue to do this in their traditions. The Israelites also offer to God the first portion of what they have earned from working the land. And what Kevin was keen to point out, was that they are commanded to care for the people in need residing among them. The people who are close enough to see the pain of. Why is this important? Because when we open our eyes and hearts enough to see the pain of those nearby, and recall that in our own history, there is pain, we see ourselves in our neighbor. We see God in our neighbor.

Then we can love that neighbor, and by loving that neighbor, we are also loving God.

How might we practice this giving of the first fruits of our labor during this holiday season? Perhaps we will donate to churches and charities close to our heart. That’s a great start. What else? Perhaps you, like me, will practice seeing God in everyone and loving them: even the loud, chaotic, consumer-driven culture we live in. Perhaps you will slow down and take moments of grace to see God in the joyful social calendar and the love you share with family and friends. Perhaps you will invite someone to the dinner table who longs for love and acceptance. Perhaps you will let someone else love you in your pain, and by doing so, create a genuine human connection that I call the presence of God in our midst.

God is all around, waiting to be witnessed. How might we encounter God and encounter our neighbor this Christmas season? I cannot wait to hear from you: the stories we tell become part of the presence of God.

image from https://pixabay.com/en/market-sell-stall-retail-3272368/
Posted By: Christine Greenwald11/26/2018 10:53:39 AM

Birth Pangs (from November 18, 2018)
Happy almost Thanksgiving! There’s much to be grateful for, but we’d also have to be willfully ignorant to remember there’s still a lot to pray and work for in our world. The sermon text for this Sunday is not exactly a cheerful one. It is that text in Mark where Jesus talks about what many presume to be a reference to end times. In Mark 13:1-8, we hear about wars and rumors of wars, nations fighting against nation, earthquakes, and famines. Today, we might add in wildfires consuming states, hurricanes that flood counties, and a growing undercurrent of the potential for nuclear warfare: and that’s a short list of frightening problems we witness in our world today. I wonder if every generation has read this passage and seen it as emblematic of their time. Was there ever a time in history when wars and rumors of wars were not happening or had not recently happened? Was there ever a time when there was peace and people were truly good to each other?

Pastor Kevin brought some scholarship into today’s sermon to help us recognize that what many take to be an apocalyptic text may be more of a wake-up call to see what is around us and stay steadfast, following the way of Jesus. It may not have been intended as a prediction about specific end times, but to make the community aware that they must watch and act by following Jesus’ commandments.

I felt the simple wake-up call when I realized the now-obvious detail that Mark speaks of “birth pangs.” The way I had heard this taught growing up, this always meant the end was nigh. But what are birth pangs but the beginning of new life?

What happens when we begin to think of the hardships in our world as birth pangs? If we didn’t just take an escapist theology mentality about going to heaven, but wondered what new possibilities might be birthed in our world?

Sometimes we need a wake-up call to get us motivated to change things. Sometimes things have to get really bad for us to recognize that if we keep sitting back, we are tacitly approving of someone else taking control, and we may not like the results of that. Sometimes calamity must strike for our hearts to be moved enough to take action. Sometimes it is the hardest things, either in our personal or collective life, that bring about the deep change we need. I don’t wish those things upon us (who actively wishes for trial and sorrow?), but I recognize it is often true. Jesus’s words take on new life as I see how they reflect the reality of life.

Perhaps the new kind of era Jesus references being ushered in is an era in which even the most destructive forces – war, famine, or even execution by crucifixion—were not the end of the story. Perhaps it is the beginning of something new. Peace. Abundance. Resurrection.

How are we to help usher in the life of a new world? How may we see calamities and destruction as a call to decisive action instead of cause for hopeless hand-wringing? What is our calling as we work together with God, the midwife, to birth something new?
Posted By: Christine Greenwald11/26/2018 10:29:58 AM

Brenda Sanford12/1/2018 8:52:53 PM
God's timing is so interesting! He fashioned advent to come immediately after Thanksgiving. Why not Thanksgiving to come after advent? Perhaps we need to humility of Thanksgiving (the awareness that all good things have come from God, our Father) in order to fully embrace the great and glorious gift of Jesus! Even more than that, perhaps we need the humility of Thanksgiving in order to realize we need Jesus!! We need Jesus' grace. We need Jesus' redemption and we need Jesus for our life...both in this world and the next. Thanks, Christine for your reflections that inspired new thinking in me!

Tami Guckert11/26/2018 2:16:32 PM
Beautifully written and many questions to ponder. I am so glad John Turner told me you had started a blog.

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