Apr 28

We Win

by Leave a comment

Always with you--hands grasping

“A few years ago several friends and I threw a surprise birthday party for a dear friend who had experienced several difficulties over the past several years. She had lost dear family members and gone through a painful divorce. Each time I saw her she

...
Always with you--hands grasping

“A few years ago several friends and I threw a surprise birthday party for a dear friend who had experienced several difficulties over the past several years. She had lost dear family members and gone through a painful divorce. Each time I saw her she had a pained look on her face, but she did her best to be positive and not complain. We planned the party for months, and when the big night came we all crammed ourselves into a room at a local restaurant where she thought she would be dining with a friend. We had a huge birthday cake aflame with candles. When she came through that door and we all yelled, “Surprise!” and then sang happy birthday, tears flowed down her cheeks. It was a beautiful sight. The pain of recent years faded in this moment of glory. She knew she was loved, and she glowed.

That is the image we need to see when reading Colossians 3:4. On the day when Jesus takes us in his arms, our life will be celebrated. It may be at our moment of death, or it may be in this life, should he return before our earthly life ends. But that day will come. We can be certain. Not because of what we have done or deserved, but because Christ, who is our very life, gets the last word.

Till then, we must remind ourselves each day that we win. It makes all the difference. There is nothing we will face today—illness, loss, divorce, death—that will not be overcome in the final victory of Jesus. And this is not wishful thinking.

Jesus’ resurrection secured this reality. If he rose from the dead, can he not also subdue all creation in final victory? The whole of the cosmos—the cosmos he himself made—will fall back into his hands and under his reign. It is a certainty. He won, and because we are in him, we win.”

Soul Training– Reflect on or memorize Revelation 7:16-17 today.

“Never again will they hunger;

never again will they thirst.

The sun will not beat down on them,

nor any scorching heat.

For the Lamb at the center of the throne

will be their shepherd;

‘he will lead them to springs of living water.

‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

 

Taken from Hidden in Christ by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2013 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com


Dr. James Bryan Smith (M.Div., Yale University Divinity School; DMin Fuller Seminary) is the Executive Director of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith is currently a theology professor at Friends University, in Wichita, Kansas, and an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. He is the author of eight books, most notably The Apprentice Series (InterVarsity Press), which continue to shape the work of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith’s other titles include Devotional Classics (with Richard J. Foster), Embracing the Love of God, Room of Marvels, and Hidden in Christ.

Posted in Books, Community, Uncategorized | Tags: / / / / /

More Less
Feb 25

Communion in a Corral

by Leave a comment

Near Bamburg, Germany, Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945 This story about my father was written many years ago by Bob King, a World War II veteran. The Rev. Rowland A. Koskamp volunteered to be a chaplain in 1943 so that when the men in his

...

Near Bamburg, Germany, Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945

This story about my father was written many years ago by Bob King, a World War II veteran. The Rev. Rowland A. Koskamp volunteered to be a chaplain in 1943 so that when the men in his congregation came home from war, he would understand what they had gone through. He was captured in France in December, 1943 when he stayed behind to assist some injured soldiers as his unit retreated. He was taken to a prisoner of war camp in Hammelburg, Germany. In April of 1945 the camp was liberated.  Because there were not enough trucks, most of the men began walking the 90 miles to Nurnberg accompanied by German troops. Here is Bob’s story.  

Rowland Koskamp was “every man’s preacher.” He was the sort of person who gave courage and confidence to his friends and all others who came into contact with him during our time as POW’s. He calmed the griper, supported the downer, let it be known that our present circumstance was only a temporary setback, and that there is a caring God who is concerned and offers eternity to those who call upon him.

Easter morning!  We were on our trek for about a week with early mornings on the road.  Usually we were placed in barns where we would spend the night.  Rowland had requested that Easter morning be spent at the same farm in which we had spent the night before so that those who wished to could attend an early morning worship service.

Those of us who wanted to attend a service were taken by the guards to a nearby corral. I was one of the last into the corral, and I was standing at the rear of the group. Just before Rowland’s first words, the German Colonel in charge of the group of 300 prisoners entered the corral, closed the gate and stood next to me.  He did not establish eye contact, and I thought that, perhaps, he had come for security purposes.

Rowland’s message was first about the meaning of Easter, the historical event and its meaning to Christians.  Then he delivered a powerful sermon on man’s inhumanity to man and the need for people to overcome petty human concerns and to serve God and one another.  The Colonel, standing beside me, was in nearly constant movement as he almost imperceptibly twitched and dug his toes into the mud of the corral.

Always a very innovative and thoughtful man, Rowland had saved his bread ration for a few days and had somehow obtained a bottle of wine in the war-torn countryside.  So after the sermon he led us in a communion service.  First after the words of institution, he passed part of a loaf of dark bread.  Each broke off a piece and passed the bread along. The Colonel accepted the bread from me, broke off a piece, and passed it along.  When all had been served, we took partook of the bread together.  Then the bottle of wine was passed and each of us, including the Colonel, took a sip and passed the bottle along.  To me it was an extremely meaningful time, especially as I shared the loaf and the wine with a man who was our enemy.

This deeply moving experience occurred on the last Sunday on earth for Rowland and the Colonel.  They were both killed the following Thursday by American B-17 fighter planes who, unaware of the movements of the liberated POW’s bombed a near-by railroad station.  The bodies of the chaplain and the colonel were found not far from each other.

Another soldier reported seeing the German colonel standing at attention during the bombing. An American chaplain was sent to secure the dog tags from the bodies of the dead and came to one that read Rowland A. Koskamp. He says he quickly dropped the tag, reached for the soldier’s shirt collar, saw his chaplain’s cross, and said a prayer for his wife and little daughter. My father was 29 when he died in service to his God and his country.  I was 3.

Although Rowland Koskamp is buried in France, his chaplain’s cross was sent to my mother.  She had it made into a ring which she wore it for dozens of years and then gave to me.  I also wore it for dozens of years. It now lives in the box that contains his bronze star and purple heart, a tarnished relic (in the religious sense of the word) of a life that was lived in the unshakable Kingdom of God here and coming, and the influence that sacrificed life had on hundreds of soldiers – and on the daughter he only knew as an infant.*

A Response to this story from James Bryan Smith

I really loved reading this moving story submitted by our dear fellow apprentice, Karen Bables.  I was deeply touched by the part about “enemies” taking communion together.  It reminded me anew how the Cross and Resurrection unites a community that cannot be divided.  As I wrote about in The Good and Beautiful Community, we are peculiar people because we are people in whom Christ dwells and delight, and that unity in Christ is the tie that binds us all in Christian love.  So often we struggle to stay together in our communities because of minor disagreements; we so easily divide over trivial differences of opinion.   This story reminded me that “in Christ there is no Jew nor Greek, barbarian or Scythian, German or American, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

 

Karen Bables is a wife, mother, and grandmother living in Holland, Michigan.  Recently retired, she now spends her time writing.  She blogs at www.livingasapprentices.com.

Posted in Blog, Community, Kingdom of God, Love, Love | Tags: / / /

More Less
Nov 18

Giving Thanks: On Food and Eating Together

by Leave a comment

Vintage Thanksgiving Day Postcard-

Food can be a powerful uniting reality. Norman Wirzba says, “Food is God’s love made delectable.” Thanksgiving, regardless of what the holiday commemorates, is closely associated with people gathering to share a meal together.  Around smoked turkeys, stuffing, and cranberry sauce families and friends gather

...
Vintage Thanksgiving Day Postcard-

Food can be a powerful uniting reality. Norman Wirzba says, “Food is God’s love made delectable.”

Thanksgiving, regardless of what the holiday commemorates, is closely associated with people gathering to share a meal together.  Around smoked turkeys, stuffing, and cranberry sauce families and friends gather to give thanks.

The church has its own reconciling and uniting meal, instituted by Christ at the last supper.

In the United Methodist Church the communion meal is called the Great Thanksgiving.  Regardless of your sacramental theology, high or low, in the common elements of bread and wine Christ invites us to the table, to be reconciled with God and neighbor.  This table and this meal should shape all our other meals.  Thanksgiving is a wonderful day of eating and giving thanks, but it is a feast, we can’t eat or gather that way everyday.  Communion is a feast that can be shared often, whether in sanctuaries or in homes.

The communion meal is a uniting meal in the fullest sense of the phrase.  As the UMC eucharistic prayer reads, “Make them (bread and wine) be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.”¹

This meal moves us from a place of personal satiation or filling to a transformation of the people gathered to be the body of Christ, taking the good news of the bread of life to the world.

Jesus referred to himself as the bread of life, who could satisfy any hunger (John 6:35).  While this phrase can be spiritualized and explained away, it also represents a high calling for the church.  If we are transformed into the body of Christ by partaking of the one loaf and the one cup, then all who come to us may hope to experience the fullness and abundance Christ proclaimed.

But, this radical making room for and sharing meals with others doesn’t always happen in our communion celebrations.  Communion in many churches is conceived of as a personal snack, rather than a communal re-membering.  The meal doesn’t upset the status quo in any meaningful way, nor is it met with any resistance.pixabay--cross cup bread

Jesus’ table fellowship led to accusations of being a “glutton and drunkard” who eats with the wrong people (Luke 7:34).  Jesus fed the multitudes (Luke 9:10-17), but he didn’t limit this to “social justice,” doing his duty and then returning to his home, instead he ate with people (Luke 7:36; 14:1; 19:5-7; 22:7-21).  The disciples only recognize the risen Jesus through the breaking of bread (Luke 24:30-32) and the sharing of some broiled fish (24:41-43).  Similarly, we might go out to be the body of Christ for the world, and recognize Jesus in those we share a meal with.

Shaped by the communion meal, our meals are less likely to be insider feasts for those who share a socio-economic class, for this is how the world eats. We are called to witness to a different reality, the kingdom of God, even through our eating.  The kingdom of God is a place where the poor are blessed and the rich given woes (Luke 6:20,24).  Around a table these divisions can be transformed and unlikely relationships developed, like Peter and Cornelius, whose Jew-Gentile barrier was broken down through visions of food (Acts 10).

Inviting people into our homes and sharing meals is an especially powerful witness to the dramatic welcoming Christ has offered to us.  We follow the teaching of Christ, welcoming in even those who cannot return the favor (Luke 14:13-14).

Sharing food together doesn’t have to be a grand banquet every time.  This is often an easy excuse not to do it.  Rather, the regular sharing of meals will shape the rhythms of life so that we share the abundance of the gifts of God even in our most meager meals, rather than hoarding for fear of that there won’t be enough.  When we gather around tables with others, we grow our fellowship and witness to a different way of being in the world, not through teaching or preaching, but through the simple act of eating.

By all means, feast next Thursday, but remember that feast will end. Next time you celebrate communion (at church or at a diner), see if you can’t share some of that food (and God’s love) wherever you find yourself.

¹ UM Book of Worship, 52

Featured Image Photo Credit: Vintage Thanksgiving Day Postcard–Dave–CC 2.0

Posted in Blog | Tags: / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

More Less
Oct 27

Bearing the Weight of Today’s News Feed

by Leave a comment

smashed cars--unsplash

I’m coming out of the closet. No, not like that. I mean about television. I think it’s overrated. Seriously. I know I fall in the minority on this one, but it’s time I just let people know how I really feel.  People ask me all

...
smashed cars--unsplash

I’m coming out of the closet.

No, not like that.

I mean about television.

I think it’s overrated.

Seriously.

I know I fall in the minority on this one, but it’s time I just let people know how I really feel.  People ask me all the time, “Do you watch insert hit TV show here?”  It seems like I always answer no.  Sometimes I haven’t even heard of the show.

I think the biggest reason why I don’t watch television is because there’s nothing good on.  Sitcoms are less and less funny with their toilet humor and canned laughter.  All of the crime dramas have the same plot.  Heck, one of the shows has a similar storyline with the only difference being the cast and the locations: Miami, New York, and Los Angeles.  Where’s the originality?  More importantly, where are the core values?  Nothing is safe or sacred on television anymore.  And then there’s the nightly news.

More than ever, it seems that the events of our world are spiraling out of control.  Through every form of media, there is a new story surfacing about the brokenness in our world.  Religious persecution in the Middle East, racial tension in Ferguson, MO, domestic violence in professional football, missing airliners in the South Pacific, the Ebola outbreak in Africa and hostility between Russia and the Ukraine.  I could go on and on.  And don’t get me started about the openly gay football player, Michael Sam.  Or about the recent string of sudden celebrity deaths, such as Robin Williams and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Closely following the events of our day causes me to experience anxiety and sadness.  I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way either.  While reflecting on this pain, I realized something insightful: Today’s news feed is more than our souls can bear.  This incredible weight is tossed on our collective laps and I think we are having a hard time reconciling the important issues.

Why is it so overwhelming?  Shouldn’t well-grounded apprentices of Jesus know how to deal with the array of emotions that come with tragic events?  In an article about the psychological effects of television, a psychology professor at the University of Sussex (UK), Dr. Graham Davey states, “News bulletins also have to compete with entertainment programs for their audience and for their prime-time TV slot, and seem to do this by emphasizing emotionally relevant material such as crime, war, famine, etc. at the expense of more positive material.”1

men reading newspaper--usplash

No wonder people experience such a wide array of emotions while watching the news.  The media is intentional about sensationalizing the day’s events in order to out-do their primetime competition.  Dr. Davey says something profound about how this personally affects humans, “If the TV program generates negative mood experiences (e.g. anxiety, sadness, anger, disgust), then these experiences will affect how you interpret events in your own life, what types of memories you recall, and how much you will worry about events in your own life.2

If we find ourselves in distress and are not in a position to influence the manner in which the media reports current events, how can we lean on our Christian formation to help us experience peace in our minds and hearts?  Gary Rollins, a Christian clinical psychologist, shares some terrific advice.

He says, “According to the Bible, there is nothing wrong with realistically acknowledging and trying to deal with the identifiable problems of life.  To ignore danger is foolish and wrong.  But it is also wrong, as well as unhealthy, to be immobilized by excessive worry.  Such worry must be committed to prayer to God, who can release us from paralyzing fear or anxiety, and free us to deal realistically with the needs and welfare both of others and of ourselves” (66).3

Collins is telling us to address our anxieties by surrendering them to God.  This is much harder than it sounds, but this practice is no less true.  I believe Collins’ advice is connected to the passage in Philippians in which Paul instructs us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)

When you are feeling the weight of today’s news feed on your soul, here are three practices to help reduce anxiety.

  • Prayer: A reminder that you cannot live from your own resources. Set aside to take your concerns to God who cares for you. Not sure what to pray for? Remember, the Spirit prays in you, and sometimes silent listening prayer is needed most.
  • Sleep: Studies have shown that a good night’s rest (8-9 hours) reduces anxiety and depression.  Intentionally guard your bedtime so you can wake up feeling more equipped to handle the pressures of the day.
  • Share: Talking about your anxieties with someone close to you (i.e., relative, friend, pastor, or counselor) can help you release the burdens that are weighing you down.

What are some other practices that have helped your souls cope with today’s news feed?

 

 

1 http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/why-we-worry/201206/the-psychological-effects-tv-news

2 Ibid.

3 Collins, Gary. Christian Counseling.  Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007.

 

Posted in Blog, Spiritural Growth | Tags: / / / / / / /

More Less
May 28

3 Beliefs that Will Free You Up For More

by Leave a comment

This post is adapted from the introduction to Mark Scandrette’s latest book, FREE: Spending Your Time and Money on What Matters Most (IVP 2013). Mark will be leading an intensive called Invitation to Simplicity at the Apprentice Conference this fall. Register today! We live in

...

This post is adapted from the introduction to Mark Scandrette’s latest book, FREE: Spending Your Time and Money on What Matters Most (IVP 2013). Mark will be leading an intensive called Invitation to Simplicity at the Apprentice Conference this fall. Register today!

We live in one of the wealthiest economies on earth. Yet many of us feel crunched for time, stressed in our finances or perplexed about what makes life meaningful. Our culture is driven by a sense of scarcity, fear and an unquenchable quest for more. If we don’t make conscious choices to resist these impulses, the force of a materialistic and consumeristic society will make most of our decisions for us. The scripts we’ve inherited about material prosperity are wearing us out, robbing our joy and destroying the planet.

If you are reading this, you are very likely in the top 5-10 percent of global wealth. As people living in postindustrialized countries we must wrestle with our contribution to the crisis of global inequity and ecological destruction. The 12 percent of us who live in Western Europe and North America are responsible for 60 percent of global private consumption. We should be haunted by estimates that it would take four to seven earths to sustain us if everyone on the planet had the same ecological footprint as the average American.

Our overconsumption is largely fueled by a debt-based public and private economy. The current US national debt is estimated at $16 trillion. As of September 2012 the average American household was $6,772 in debt, with the average indebted household owing $15,328 to creditors. If we feel strapped in one of the wealthiest and most stable economies in the world, what about the nearly three billion people on earth who are living on less than $2 a day?city view from plane

Our challenge is to pursue a standard of living that can be shared by all. To love our neighbor as ourselves we have to consider how our individual actions affect our sister across the street and our brother on another continent. We might not be able to fully grasp the scope of the problem or offer a complete solution, but we can wrestle with the weight of our relative privilege and disproportionate consumption. For the sake of our global neighbors, the planet and future generations we’ve got to find a way to be less wasteful and consumptive, discovering a more sustainable version of the American Dream.

We can be encouraged by the growing awareness among people of faith that the gospel of Jesus is holistic and touches every aspect of our lives. We see Christians of every variety desiring a life of faith that includes being a good neighbor, valuing relationships, cultivating an inner life, caring about people affected by poverty and consciously becoming better stewards of creation.

However, this good vision for the church will remain largely unrealized unless practical realities and competencies are addressed. Many of us are too busy or distracted to sustain a life of compassionate engagement. We live lives of hurry, worry and striving, finding little satisfaction in our manic work and recreational activities.

Instead of being free to create beauty, nurture relationships and seek the greater good, many of us feel stuck in lives dictated by the need to pay bills or maintain a certain (often consumptive) standard of living. We can’t have it all—the prevailing level of consumption, a life of deeper meaning and relationships and global equity and sustainability. To realize these good dreams we must adjust our values and practices and seek creative solutions.

Few things in life shape us more than our choices about how we earn, spend, save and invest. Most of us will spend a third of our lives at income-producing jobs. How we choose to manage those earnings largely determines whether we are free to serve the greater good. Yet, rarely have religious communities, in particular, done well at addressing money and work as areas for discipleship—other than the occasional sermon about giving.

Perhaps we unconsciously tend to separate money and work from the center of our spiritual lives, making an artificial and unhelpful distinction between what is spiritual and what is temporal, and thereby less important. In a holistic understanding of the gospel every part of life is sacred and integral to what it means to be a follower of Jesus. This means we must learn to talk more honestly and openly about the details of our financial lives as an essential aspect of Christian discipleship.

The gospel invites us into a life of radical contentment, generosity, gratitude, trust and simplicity. We can reimagine our assumptions about time, money and material possessions to pursue a life of greater freedom, leveraging our time and resources toward what matters most.

Three core beliefs can shape how we connect formation and mission with our time and money choices:

1. We were created with a purpose, to seek the greater good of God’s loving reign. Human beings long for a deeper sense of purpose. According to Jesus, we “are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), created to do and bring good to this world (Ephesians 2:10). The wisdom of this teaching encourages us to stretch beyond the mundane
concerns of our lives to be animated by a calling to be agents of healing and restoration.

2. We have enough. The ancient voices of Scripture affirm that we live in a world of abundance, where the Creator provides all that we need. “You [God] . . . satisfy the desires of every living thing”(Psalm 145:16). Rain falls and sun shines on the earth, producing the goods that sustain us. We are invited to celebrate this abundance with thanks, to trust God for what we need, to be content with what we have and to share with those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and lonely.

3. We can make intentional choices about how we spend our time and money. We’ve been given incredible power to imagine, learn, grow and choose how we want to live. Living well requires vision, self-awareness, discipline and the development of practical skills. As those created just “a little lower than angels and crowned . . . with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5), we can make choices to become more content and free to spend our time and resources on what matters most. We think that to make life-giving changes that last, we need a source of energy and love greater than our own. The promise of the gospel of life is that if we do what we can, God will help us do what we cannot under our own strength (Philippians 2:12-13).

We can choose to pursue meaning, value people, engage the world’s needs and move toward a rate of consumption that is more globally sustainable and equitable. We can be free to spend our time and money on what matters most.

Posted in Blog, Formation for Mission | Tags: / / / / / / / / / / /

More Less
12
Back to top

Sign Up

Nam ut dolor at erat dignissim pellentesque. Aliquam erat volutpat.