Friday, September 26, 2008

The Radical Disciple

We are reading Lamentations, Ezra, Nehemiah and Haggai this week. As we read we are not so much looking for historical detail (we have each already seen discrepancies there) but are looking for the presence of God in the actions of the people and the events of the day that worked toward the restoration of the people, the land, the city and the temple and their worship practices. I have encountered in my readings many persons and situations where the writer share's the people's conviction that they were responding to God's direction even when it was the unusual action of a foreign ruler or the unusual action of the people of God themselves responding to what they believed to be God's direction.

Each week in our Disciple 4 study "Under the Tree of Life" we have a section called The Radical Disciple. So this week's question is "What might it mean for you to be at the direction of God in a way that is unusual?" What might it mean for our church?

Friday, September 19, 2008


“Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:16)

When I first read these words a number of years ago in Disciple 1 I was absolutely struck by what a rainbow means. I was familiar with the Noah story. When I was in Sunday School as a kid I dutifully cut out my ark using brown construction paper, added a figure with a beard made of cotton balls and drew the necessary flow of animals walking in pairs. Over the top of the scene was a Crayola created rainbow. The rainbow looked nice and had lots of colors. That was about the extent of what I considered its role in the story. My favorite part was drawing scary animals.

But God said that a rainbow in the sky means something.

What I love about this covenant that He made with us is not only that it is a reminder for God – “I will see it and remember” – but it’s also a reminder for us to keep God in our minds. This is something I’m not that good at doing on a regular basis. Oh my intentions are wonderful. Each time I walk into Myers Park United Methodist church I’m thinking God but throughout the week God seems to fade into the background. When I’m at a meeting arguing over a contract or making a sales pitch I don’t think about God. When I’m at home cooking a meal I rarely remember that this food has been provided for me thanks to his love found in the first few chapters of Genesis. I hope you don’t think of me as ungrateful or a poor Christian. I just get distracted or maybe stupid in my faith when God isn’t obvious. I need reminders.

Last year I was honored to be able to go to Arizona with two other amazing people from MPUMC to participate in a Red Feather project. This is an organization lead by a man who heard that many Native Americans were living in homes without plumbing, heating or air conditioning, electricity and often without four walls. They were one step away from, and in some cases were, homeless. This guy decided this was wrong. He gave up his career and started a group that put concern into action. Today Red Feather builds homes for the forgotten Native American thanks to this one man and the efforts of volunteers from all over the country.

The conditions at Red Feather aren’t all that comfortable by our standards. The homes are often in the middle of “nowhere” and until the home is complete the government won’t run electricity or, in many cases, water to the site. This means the volunteers sleep in tents, eat meals in temporary facilities, bathe by holding a water bag overhead as a makeshift shower and the bathroom is nothing but a couple of portable toilets that after a few days of use by 25 or so people aren’t that pleasant. The work is hard, the conditions are a bit rough but the reward is indescribable. People who come are dedicated and a book could be written about all of the ways God reached down into our little tent community. I know the Holy Spirit with us. I truly felt God. I felt him every day.

I was there for a week. One of the most powerful images that I took away with me was that almost daily God blessed our site with a rainbow in the sky. Sometimes in the morning dawn and sometimes as the sun was going down as we were finishing our dinner. The rainbow itself was a comfort and a blessing. But what made me understand that something special was happening was on three separate occasions during my trip He sent us a double rainbow. Now before that week I could count on one hand the number of double rainbows I’d seen in my life. I believe that God was showing us of his love and how his love is for everyone. Two rainbows, together in the sky, was a reminder to an eclectic group of people, building a home for the displaced, of his covenant that He will never wipe out mankind again. In fact, he was build our future.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been hit by what has felt like an endless barrage of storms and hurricanes. These storms have brought winds, rains, flooding, destruction, starvation and sadly even loss of life. The storms have brought darkness and fear.

Over the last few weeks I’ve seen rainbows.

God is still here and his work, through efforts like our Minister of Missions Kevin Wright, is still being done. The church, our church, other churches have been the ones to step up and show the world what love is. We haven’t asked questions. We’ve been the solutions.

In class this week we were asked when God looks down on us today does He see us and say “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31) or does He say “how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5)?

We often feel the need in Disciple to answer such questions with responses that lean toward our failings. The questions are difficult and force us into recognizing and naming our shortcomings. We are not perfect. We do sin. We have so far to come to live our lives as ideal Christians, followers of Jesus’ teachings, disciples of His word. It’s hard to answer the questions in class and not feel depressed or possibly like failures.

But I think there are rainbows in our sky. I think God knows of our goodness and our efforts as Christians. We study the Bible in part to understand these signs, these reminders of God. We wonder is he still speaking to us today? I see the rainbow and I know that it was through destruction that this gift was created and from love that it was given. He doesn't give up and so neither should we. I see goodness because I see the rainbow.

What do you see???

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Getting Started . . . Again

Hello All!!!

This is my first blog on the MPUMC Disciple Bible Study blog site. It's my first day back from summer vacation and my first time leading an Invitation to Genesis class. Phew. That's a lot of first times.

So I've been asked to become a blogger. Hmmmmm . . . what does that mean???

I used to write The Weekly Disciple. It was a newsletter for Disciple participants. We were going to continue with the newsletter until technology jumped up and suggested this format. It's more interactive and more people can participate. Since that was the originally idea of the newsletter this seems like the perfect fit.

Of course one serious drawback is I've lost my editor so the possibility of the English language being abused and creative spellings of words has never been higher. My apologies to Christine Mull, the previously mentioned editor, to what she might be forced to read.

So what to say???

The recommendation was made for me to write a regular piece about Disciple, my class and life as a member of both the Disciple program and as a member of MPUMC. You input is definitely welcomed and encouraged. Tell me what you think. I can take it. Dialogue is good.

Tonight is the first night of my Introduction to Genesis. I've lead and/or participated in six Disciple 1, two Disciple 2, a Disciple 3, a Disciple 4, Christian Believer and I'm currently participating in Jesus and the Gospels. Not that you care about my history but I thought it worth mentioning because I hope it shows that I've had some experience in Disciple courses.

I've not, however, participated in an Invitation class.

For some reason, and maybe because it's new to me, I can't wait to get started. I can't wait to meet my new class and to learn from their experiences. I'm even a little nervous.

And so for the next 11 weeks I hope to rediscover Genesis. Isn't that one of the real beauties of the Bible? When I first took Disciple 1 I knew only a little bit about the Bible. After Disciple 1 I learned that I really have a lot to learn about the Bible. Now that I've lead so many classes I'm discovering that I STILL have a lot to learn. Every book, every chapter, every word reads like an old friend offering something new.

I can't wait to get started!!!