Starting last week, and continuing through this week (February 16) and the next week (February 23), we are working through some of Jesus's most famous teachings in the Gospel of Matthew in what is called the Sermon on the Mount. While the Sermon on the Mount is perhaps most famous for the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), Jesus's sermon actually continues throughout all the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters.
Some of them are uncomfortable and are among the most controversial teachings in the Bible. They include Jesus saying our righteousness must exceed the Pharisees' to enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:20); his teaching on anger (Mt 5:22), lust (Mt 5:28), and divorce (Mt 5:32); saying we should pray for our enemies (Mt 5:44); and telling us to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (Mt 5:48).
Some of these sins Jesus names seem to really hit home, and sometimes the standard (perfection?) seems impossible to reach. Perhaps it's no coincidence that Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer named his book on this section of the Bible The Cost of Discipleship. And yet, whatever the cost, Jesus does call us to be his disciples: he calls us to try to meet these high standards.
I think that among all this harsh, law-giving Jesus, though, there is still a Jesus of grace and love to be found. After-all, what a joy it is that the God of the universe would call us to follow in his footsteps. What a privilege it is that the Savior of the nations gives us a part to play in bringing the news of his salvation to our communities and to the world not just by our words, but by our lives, as well.
If working through these passages together still seems hard, let us also remember Jesus's act of free grace toward us. Let's remember that this is the same Jesus whose love and mercy led him to die on a cross for us--that his call to discipleship and his self-sacrificing love go together. I hope that you'll stick with us at Bethany the next couple weeks as we continue to work our way through these sometimes difficult passages. Together we'll be able both to hear the call to discipleship and to find the grace in Jesus's Sermon on the Mount.
Links to the Readings
February 9, 2014 (5th Sunday after Epiphany)
February 16, 2014 (6th Sunday after Epiphany)
February 23, 2014 (7th Sunday after Epiphany)
May the Peace of Christ be with you always,
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Monday, January 20, 2014
I think sometimes it's easy to think of Martin Luther King Day as just another federal holiday. Those in the government get the day off and the kids are off from school, but for many of us, this is another workday. I'd like to take a moment, though, to think about Dr. King's place in the Biblical and Christian tradition and how that is important for us today.
One of the things I remember about Martin Luther King personally is that watching old clips of his speeches was one of the first memories I have of seeing truly great preaching. I say preaching because many of his speeches and writings relate to the Biblical call for justice. This is a link to his "I Have a Dream" speech along with commentary on some of the verses that he highlights. I'd certainly encourage you to watch the entire thing, but what really sticks out in my memory is the part around the 8:20 mark in the video in which he quotes the Old Testament prophet Amos: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."
What is the call to justice? I think we think of King as most clearly attached to the call for racial equality, but he also believed in lifting up people of all skin colors who were oppressed. This ties well into the message of Amos at a time in Israel when the rich were greatly oppressing the poor.
Throughout the Bible, God calls us to stand up for justice, to love the "least of these brothers and sisters of mine (Matthew 25:40)." We as a church are called to do that, too. Our belief in Jesus Christ, "in whom there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female (Galatians 3:28)," calls us to take a stand when we see injustice or inequality in society. It's not always easy. I've talked to many people here who have told me about some of the turmoil of the time of the Civil Rights Movement. Being born in the Detroit area, I'm sensitive to the effect of racial turmoil in the 1967 rioting there (link here), which tore apart the city and has had a lasting impact on it to this day. I know well that the scars experienced on both sides of our long national struggle with justice and equality take time to heal, but I also know that Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price, so that we may love one another as he first loved us (John 13:34).
So today, rather than focusing only on Martin Luther King, let's focus on our faith. What is God calling us to do at this time? How can we bring about justice and equality in our day?
May the peace of Christ be with you always,
May the peace of Christ be with you always,
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Happy New Year, Everyone!
The blog's finally back up, and it's just in time to announce a new ministry here at Bethany that I am very excited about! This year, we'll be joining congregations around the North Carolina Synod in a ministry called "Forward Together in Christ in Community." You can read more about the ministry on our synod's website here. Forward Together is a new program in which we will explore together with the other Lutheran churches in our synod here in North Carolina what it means to be the Christ's Church and what God is calling us to do in the future.
There are a number of ways that we'll see this unfold as 2014 goes along, but one of the main ways will be new Bible study here at Bethany. The neat thing about this Bible study is that the rest of the churches in the synod will be reading, thinking, and praying about the same verses as we are. Each month, either Pr. Laura or I will lead a discussion of a small selection from 1 Thessalonians 5 (link here). Each discussion is quite short (about 10-15 minutes) and will replace the adult Sunday school opening on the fourth Sunday of every month. The first week will be Sunday, January 26th at 10am, as I lead a Bible study on 1 Thessalonians 5:5a. With your support and participation, we can make this a time that strengthens us all individually in our faith lives as well as together in our church as a whole.
So come on out and join us, as we go forward together with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the North Carolina Synod!
May the peace of Christ be with you always,
Thursday, July 5, 2012
You are invited to attend a
5th Sunday Festival
in Green Valley Park
3896 Big Hill Road, Todd, NC
4:30 - 7:30pm
~Fellowship~ ~Food~ ~Worship~
Come join us for a day of Christian fellowship and games for all ages in the Park!
~Games and activities start at 4:30pm~
Come join us for a FREE picnic in the Park!
~Picnic will begin about 6:00pm with FREE FOOD for everyone!~
Come join us for a time of worship as we pray and sing praises to our Lord!
~Worship will begin around 7:00pm~
Bring a comfy chair and join us for a Day in the Park!
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
VBS will run June 24-28 from 6:00-8:30 p.m. and will be held at Grace Lutheran Church.
Sky VBS for kids!
At Sky VBS, kids discover that by trusting God, everything is possible! For more information, to register your children, and to volunteer please visit, https://www.groupvbspro.com/vbs/ez/graceboone or pick up a registration form from an Education committee member, and let them know about any food allergies.
A nursery will be available nightly.
Good Mourning Study for Adults
We will also offer a nightly VBS adult study on grief coinciding with our theme nothing is impossible with God. We will use the book Good Mourning which will be provided and available to purchase if desired. This book is good for anyone who has experienced losses of any kind - the death of a loved one, separation or divorce, job loss or change of jobs, or significant life change - which pretty much includes us all. If you yourself have not experienced one of these losses, but are close to someone who has, this is also a good class for you as well, to help you understand what they are going through and how you can be of support to them. All are welcome!
*Note: Supper is NOT included in VBS, though there will be a snack for the kids.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
“One in the Spirit”
Coalition Summer Gatherings
This summer the churches of the High Country Lutheran Coalition will be gathering once a month in an outdoor space for games, a potluck supper, and outdoor worship. “One in the Spirit” gatherings will be on Sunday evenings from 4:30-7:30pm, and are meant to promote fellowship and unity among the High Country Lutheran Coalition churches through fun and worship.
Games will begin at 4:30 (at the June gathering, there will be a tent set up for some knitting/crocheting in the shade!), a potluck meal will start around 6pm, and we'll worship together at 7pm.
Come on out and bring outdoor games, your knitting/crochet work, a comfy chair, and food to share!
|Bring your Bocce Ball set!|
|Bring your knitting/crocheting and a chair to sit in the shade!|
Mark your calendars now for these future One in the Spirit events - it's a great chance to get to know the members from the other Lutheran Coalition churches!
· July 8 @ Green Valley Park, hosted by Grace
· August 5 @ Holy Communion, hosted by Holy Communion, St. Mark's, and Church of the Savior