Friday, April 28, 2017

JESUS IS THE WAY By Seventy Gil Martell of Billings, MT

Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way, truth, and the life,” (John 14:6).  To be disciples of Jesus means to do that which Jesus did, and to imitate Jesus in all we do.  Jesus offered God’s generosity of Grace through compassion, love, validation, and forgiveness.   Jesus taught reconciliation and other positive ways of making the safety and welfare of others a life priority.

We are who we are today because we are shaped within the context of all our life experiences and influences, both good and bad.  If we do not question the way of things, it is all too easy to blindly react to life circumstances or allow unjust assumptions to manipulate our behavior.  Our culture tends toward obsessive individualism, but Jesus promoted community.  Our political system seems to value only the rich and powerful, but Jesus was concerned with the needs of everyone. 

I do not think of myself as an unkind person, but the more I try to emulate Jesus the more I realize that discipleship is a constant journey of growth, evaluation, and discovery.  Trying to see through Jesus’ eyes, I realize there are times when I have built walls of isolation from others or I have treated others in unkind ways or I have refused to give of myself when I should. 

Jesus gave his all for us.  We too must give our all for each other.  To be like Jesus is to be here for each other.  Serving others has a liberating effect on our hearts.  We are blessed with Christ’s peace, no longer a slave to fear, hate, and selfishness.   Serving others breaks down walls of  judgment, condemnation, and unfair expectations. 

The Word became flesh and dwelled among us.  Jesus took on this responsibility to show us the way to live according to divine principles.  He pushed back against society’s unjust ways and promoted peace, hope, joy and love.  Jesus’ life was not just about what he did for us, but what he called us to be.  He lived his mission as our example.  It is our responsibility to make Christ’s mission our mission.  

In other words, we fall short of fully understanding the life and sacrifice of Jesus if we assume that once we accept the grace of God then nothing else is required of us.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, The Cost of Discipleship, explores the concept of Costly Grace.  To follow Jesus means to love God with all we are and to turn that divine love outward into the world.  We accept Grace and then we share that Grace with others.  It takes faith and courage to walk in Jesus’ footsteps; it costs us something.  Thankfully, the rewards of discipleship far outweigh the costs.

Recently, I was driving past a church with a marquis that managed to sum up Jesus as the Way in only eight words, “Jesus loved us so we can love others.” 

Friday, March 17, 2017

God’s Spirit Whooshed Through the Pines by Brad Martell

It was a couple of days before the Community of Christ Cromberg, California Family Camp.  Lori and I flew into Sacramento earlier to spend time with our friends Ruth and Mike Seagraves and their family, before we all packed into the cars and headed off to camp together.  Ruth was the director and had asked Lori and I to be guest ministry for the week.  Lori and I were excited to experience a new campground and family camp, spend time with cousins who would be there, and share in ministry. 
As we were sitting around talking and laughing, Mike told us that their middle daughter was going to be baptized during camp by her grandma (Mike’s mom).  This just added to the anticipation and joy of the coming week.  For the baptize Mike was going to play guitar and sing, but was not finding the right song.  Lori asked if he knew the song “O Sun” by Peter Mayer (  Mike loved it and began writing out the music and learning to play it.  Now the house was filled with Mike strumming a few chords, the scratch of his pencil on the paper, more strumming, humming 
. . . by the end of the day he could play it by heart.
At Cromberg campground they have an outside baptism fount.  It is up the hill from the cabins and tucked underneath towering pine trees.  When the time came for the baptism service the camp made its way up the hill gathering around the fount.  Warm sunlight filtered down through the still pines.  Bird song and twitters gave welcome to the sacred moment.  Beginning with hymns we joined our voices with the avian choir in that church of pines. 
As granddaughter and grandma descended into the pool of water, Mike began to play “O Sun.”  The song is about being filled by the sun, wine, and wind.  The lyrics express sacramental language of asking to be filled by life, strength, and breathe.  And to help us shine, to be opened-wide, and to pour forth the same life and love we receive from God through blessings of community, unity in diverse, sacredness of creation, and worth of all persons.
During the second verse of the song that asks “O wind, come fill me” a gust of wind whoosh through the pines surprising us all.  At the end of the verse the wind was gone.  As Mike finished the song, I looked at him and his face was just radiating with the huge bewildered smile that seemed to ask the same question I was pondering: “Did that really happen?”
When the service was over some of us practically sprinted down the hill to download the video that was taken of the baptism onto a laptop.  We hit “play” in wonder and anticipation.  “Did that really happen?”  It did!  That gift of gusting wind filled the pines, filled Mike’s and Ruth’s daughter, filled all of us with God’s Spirit in that sacramental moment. 
This was a baptism experience I will not forget as God’s Spirit whooshed through the pines! 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Lost and Found by Dodie Gregory

Possibly my story may have a familiar ring to some reading this………………..or not.
Due to a devoted mother I was raised in the church through childhood.  I even have a perfect attendance Sunday school sticker book.  I was baptized at 8 years of age and proceeded to embarrass my mom with my giggle attack during confirmation.  After graduating from high school and going off to nursing school, where I had no RLDS classmates and worked weekends, I slowly slipped away.  I married a Lutheran and neither of us pursued a spiritual path.  We had 2 children and occasionally took them to church. The effort was small.
Not to say I didn’t continue to recognize God in my life—there were just other distractions.  Actually I carried guilt along the way.  I drove by our church everyday going to and from work, but couldn’t bring myself to even look at it.
Brothers and Sisters from church extended an invite for years, as did my Mom, but of course I had other things to do.
OH! And I kept promising God I would be back but right then wasn’t a good time for me. By then the guilt was so strong that I felt ashamed to face my congregation.
So if all this applies to you, then you too have been found or else you wouldn’t be reading this.
SOOOO….finally God had enough of my excuses.  This is how it went down.
I’m just minding my own business one Saturday morning and out of nowhere I hear a voice saying “YOU ARE GOING TO CHURCH TOMORROW”.  That was it, no angels singing, no brilliant white blinding lights, no euphoria.  I looked around, no one there, and again, “YOU ARE GOING TO CHURCH TOMORROW”.  Having been steeped in being obedient, I went to the phone called my mother and asked her if she was going to church tomorrow?  She said, “Are you?” Me, ”yes, I’ll pick you up”.  And my life changed.
The congregation was awesome, no judging, no condemnation.  Just loving. I tease them to this day when I tell them I didn’t feel worthy to be in their presence but found out they are sinners just like me.
It’s been a journey but since we are human and live on earth, there are still ups and downs, challenges and rewards.   I’m no different than any of you but am blessed that God loved me so much that he gave me that extra nudge one Saturday morning.
Forever blessed and loved