Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 NRSV by Lori Martell

16 ‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
17 “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; 19the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’*
25 At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank* you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.* 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

The scripture passage for today reminds us of Jesus’ humanness as he expresses his frustration at people’s lack of understanding, and then his grace as he invites people to rest in him.  We also sometimes fail to understand how to truly emulate Jesus in our lives, and, yet, he still welcomes us into his waiting embrace. 

We each need a regular reminder of Verses 28-30:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This isn’t simple platitude to give us a fleeting sweet warm fuzzy.  This is a heartfelt invitation to let Christ be our safe place in the midst of the storms of life, and to let Christ reorient us when we lose our way. This passage also provides wise counsel for us to take care of ourselves, to seek rest when we are depleted.

Spend a few minutes exploring Matthew 11:28-30.  We’ll do this in two stages, first a confession, then a celebration. 

Confession time:
Explore with your group this question, “When have you resisted resting physically, spiritually, or emotionally, and how did that go for you?”

Celebration time:
Explore with your group this question, “Being weary or burdened, when have you rested in the Spirit and how did that change your state of being?”

 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This scripture is particularly meaningful to me because there have been times in my life I was desperately in need of rest.  Probably the most extreme example came when I was trying to recover from Lyme disease.  Until that point in my life I didn’t really know I had limits.  But then my 30s happened and I found myself fighting for my life. 

I had a complicated case of Lyme that wasn’t diagnosed until I had it for a year or two.  I would improve and then relapse again.  I was exhausted, couldn’t think straight, and was unable to read for pleasure.  I had terrible joint pain and body aches.  At my worst I needed to sleep 16 hours per day.  Eventually, I found myself working at an integrative medical center in Washington DC.  There I ran the practice of one of the preeminent Lyme doctors in the country.  He figured out why I wasn’t healing and came up with a treatment plan that worked.  The treatment, while it worked, took its toll on me.  I didn’t use wisdom and failed to rest even through weeks of daily intravenous antibiotic infusions.  I never missed a day of work.  I never took a break.  I just kept pushing beyond my limits until the candle I was burning at both ends melted in the middle. 

I had to quit my job and we moved from DC to co-house with my parents in the lovely North Georgia Mountains where my family gave me a generous gift of a year off.  After six or seven years of illness, I gave myself the space to finish healing and God met me in that space.  I rested in the Spirit, sometimes laying in the woods right on the ground and just soaking up all that peace.  My hymns were birdsong and the gurgle of cascading streams.  The lush greenery of the mountains spoke to me of the life-giving power of God.  I truly let myself rest and my body, mind and soul responded by healing.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Let us pray,

Dear God, Here are your people.  Some of us are weary; and some are burdened with heavy hearts and concerns.  Help us turn to you and trust you and listen to the counsel your still, small voice whispers to our souls.  Gather us in to the safety of your embrace and give us rest.  Give us peace that we may walk with a lighter step and walk even closer with you throughout our week.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Our Heavenly Father’s Eyes Are Always Upon Us – Wherever We Are By Joachim (Joe) Stephan

I shared in previous blogs that as a young man – fervently seeking for God’s presence in our times – had an experience that confirmed for me that God speaks today. Not that he still speaks today – but that he has spoken in all ages. That was my first encounter with the presence of the Lord in my life. The year was 1954. The place was Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

I also shared how my Heavenly Father led me to a Godly family when I least expected it – the Stewart and Maxine Wight family.  When I was young airman stationed on the island of Taiwan I was uniquely led to them and was looked after and given council by them in a most unexpected time and place. That was my second encounter with the presence of the Lord. The year was 1956. The place was the capital city of Taipei.

After initially finding the church in Montgomery, Alabama I found myself in 1954 assigned by the US Air Force to Japan. I soon found the small group of church members in Tokyo and worshipped/fellowshipped with them every other Sunday. There I soon asked for baptism.  The leader of the mission was Carl Crum who worked in the American embassy. He guided me in the study of the church and how it began and what we believed. Then – on December 4, 1954 he baptized me in a Seventh Day Adventist Church whose pastor had kindly made their baptismal fount available. I had become the first member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that had been baptized in Japan. Imagine – a young man born in Germany and now baptized in Japan!

I visited with Carl Crum and his hospitable wife often in order to learn more about the church and what its member believed. But in May 1955 I was suddenly (and secretly) sent to the island of Taiwan to assist the National Chinese Army and Air Force in the installation and use of radio equipment all over Taiwan and the Pescadores Islands. It was during that time that I became “lost” to the church until our Heavenly Father directed another member of the church who was also stationed in Taiwan – to find me. You will find that account in my earlier blog.

I returned to the United States in May 1956 and since that time found myself and soon my wife to be in churches in Montgomery, Alabama, Evergreen, Alabama, Pensacola, Florida,  Oak Ridge Tennessee, Columbus, Ohio, Mansfield, Ohio and finally in Richland, Washington. We were privileged to attend several World Conferences. When in Ohio we had frequent visits to the Kirtland Temple and on one occasion I had the privilege of marrying a couple in the Temple – the last such event to be allowed to be performed there.

It was around 1979 when we were worshipping in the Richland Congregation that I shook hands on Sunday after church services with our Patriarch – Lloyd Whiting. I had given the sermon that day and spoke of the time when I joined the church in Japan.  Brother Whiting was in his seventies then and walked forward leaning because his back hurt. To reduce his discomfort he would usually prop himself against the door post at the back of the church to greet people. That day when I shook his hand, he asked me: “Did you ever hear the story of Carl Crum?” I confessed that I did not. Actually I did not even know that Brother Whiting knew Carl Crum.  He continued: during the mid-1920s Brother Carl Crum had been called to be an appointee in the RLDS Church. However he had barely entered that service when the Great Depression “hit”. Reluctantly, the church leadership had to dismiss Brother Crum.  Carl Crum was understandably unhappy about his dismissal – so soon after he accepted his appointment. In response to his dismissal he quit attending church in defiance – for several years.
It was not until the mid- thirties that Brother Carl and his wife again felt a hunger for the fellowship of the “Saints” as they were called then. They chose Silver Lake reunion in the hope that nobody would know them there.

So it was that they attended a morning prayer service at the reunion. As they had hoped nobody seemed to know them there.  But the Lord knew where his son and daughter were as they soon found out.  There was a young couple there who had come grief stricken to the reunion.  They had just lost their little boy who had been killed in a roadway by an automobile.  It was sometime during the prayer service when the little boy’s father – knowing nothing about the Crums stood up and pointed across the aisle at Brother Crum and spoke under the influence of the Spirit: “Thus sayeth the Spirit:  “Unless you - Son of Man - repent and rejoin the fellowship of the Saints you will lift your eyes in hell with regret. I command you to return to the flock. There are those souls who live now and there are those yet to come who await your ministry!” (I cannot vouch for each word but the part about “lifting his eyes in hell with regret” and “those souls who await your ministry” I will always remember.)

I stood there stunned looking at Brother Whiting. I knew then that I had been one of those souls whose life had been touched by Brother Crum’s ministry because he obeyed the Lord.  And I remember the Sunday when I stood in the baptismal font in Tokyo, Japan with him and heard the words, “Having been commissioned by Jesus Christ …….!” He remained faithful to his commission all his life after that fateful encounter with God’s presence.  My life among many were touched by his faithfulness. Not only his faithfulness but his companion wife’s as well.
On my business trips I usually travelled through Seattle. On those occasions I tried several times to phone Brother Crum in Seattle. My only regret was that I never reached him. But I will always remember Brother Whiting’s story of him and the times we were together in Japan.