Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Interview w/ Rob Bell | 3 myths about young clergy | How to encourage people to sing in worship - Ministry Matters: Preach. Teach. Worship. Reach. Lead. for Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Interview w/ Rob Bell | 3 myths about young clergy | How to encourage people to sing in worship - Ministry Matters: Preach. Teach. Worship. Reach. Lead. for Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Q&A with Rob Bell: Everything is spiritual by Shane Raynor
Rob Bell is well-known in Christian circles as an author, pastor and the featured speaker from the popular short film seriesNOOMA. He created some controversy in 2011 when he questioned the existence of hell in his book "Love Wins." Later that year, Bell stepped down from his role as teaching pastor ofMars Hill Bible Church. Since then, he has focused on reaching a broader audience through various projects, including books, television specials and speaking tours. By mid-August, Rob's current tour, "Everything is Spiritual," will have stopped in over 30 U.S. cities.
In an interview with Ministry Matters, Rob talks about Jesus, science and faith, heaven and hell, marriage and sexuality, evangelical Christianity, his speaking tour and upcoming projects.
SHANE RAYNOR: You’ve done some speaking tours before, like “The Gods Aren’t Angry” and “Drops Like Stars.” How is “Everything is Spiritual” different? Who is the person you feel is the target audience for this tour?
ROB BELL: I get ideas about things I want to make and then I throw myself into it with everything I have. The joy is in the creation. So I've never had a target audience, it's always been about being true to the work as it emerges. This tour started with some sketches in a notebook several years ago and the ideas kept coming and building and connecting until there was this electric moment when I realized "This is Everything is Spiritual Part 2!"
SHANE: Why does so much tension seem to exist between science and faith? Is there a significant conflict or has this been largely exaggerated? What can Christians do to address it?
ROB: It's absurd and quite tragic the way people have managed to pit science against faith. They aren't in conflict at all — they're long lost dance partners. I don't divide the world up into Christians and other people — we are all human beings, brothers and sisters, and we embrace truth wherever we find it, whether that's in a lab, a field or a cathedral. Because sometimes you need a scientist and sometimes you need a poet. I love how it's written in the New Testament: "All things are yours!" We embrace truth wherever we find it from whoever says it however we come across it. It's a big beautiful exotic heartbreaking mysterious world we live in and it's our home and we get to explore and learn and affirm truth wherever we find it.
SHANE: You recorded a television special on OWN called “The Rob Bell Show.” What was that experience like? Do you have plans for additional TV specials? A regular series?
ROB: Yes I have lots of plans. Haha. I had a blast making that special; the folks at OWN are extraordinary human beings and a joy to work with. As for future shows, we have some compelling things in the works, so stay tuned. Literally.
SHANE: Were you expecting the fallout that happened after the release of your book “Love Wins”? Why do you believe it happened? Is there anything you wish you’d done differently regarding the book and the controversy surrounding it?
ROB: Apparently a number of religious folks aren't aware of the depth and breadth of their own tradition. Their problem isn't with me, it's with the diversity and inclusion and hope and possibilities that have always been at the heart of the Jesus story. And if one book by one dude can rattle you that much, what you're calling "faith" is really just fear. Does it hurt to be misunderstood and slandered and hated? Absolutely. But I love my work and I never stop meeting extraordinary people who are on the journey with me — how great is that?
SHANE: Many Christians and some members of the press, both Christian and secular, have labeled you a universalist. Is that an accurate description of what you believe about heaven and hell? Why or why not?
ROB: I have no idea what that means. Those sorts of labels and categories seem like easy and lazy ways for people to dismiss each other and avoid actually engaging with the big questions. What I do know is that wise people of faith for literally thousands of years have been leaving room for the mysterious transforming power of divine love and grace. It makes for such a better story.
SHANE: You’ve expressed frustration in the past with evangelical Christianity. Do you still consider yourself an evangelical? Where do you see the evangelical movement heading?
ROB: I would hope that wherever I go I bring good news — that's what that word means, right? It began with the first followers of Jesus taking a Roman military propaganda term and co-opting it for their own subversive purposes, insisting that the world isn't made better through coercive military violence but through sacrificial love. How great is that!? Unfortunately this word has been hijacked in recent years for other purposes but no worries, we're taking it back.
SHANE: You’ve said that you “affirm the truth anywhere in any religious system, in any worldview. If it’s true, it belongs to God.” But you’ve also spoken in the past of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ’s role as Savior and Messiah. The church you founded and pastored for years, Mars Hill Bible Church, affirms in its narrative theology statement, “Jesus is our only hope for bringing peace and reconciliation between God and humans. Through Jesus we have been forgiven and brought into right relationship with God.” Should Christians evangelize people of other faiths? How would you respond if a Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim friend asked you “Why should I believe in Jesus Christ?”
ROB: I've been telling the Jesus story for over 20 years and I continue to find him more compelling than ever. I believe. More than ever. And over the years I have met countless people who call themselves Christians who don't appear to have any living breathing vibrant connection with the resurrected Christ and I've met countless people from every religious background including atheists that tell me of their very personal and real experiences of the living Christ. I don't have people asking me why they should believe something — that's starting off on the wrong foot to say the least. What does happen constantly with all kinds of people I meet is they say "I had this encounter with Jesus, can you help me understand it..." The labels, more than ever, simply aren't big enough to contain what the cosmic Christ is up to in the world.
SHANE: How should the church approach the homosexuality issue? In your opinion, is it possible for a church to maintain a traditional view of sexuality and marriage yet still show love and welcome everyone?
ROB: This isn't an "issue" — these are people — they're our brothers and sisters and neighbors and co-workers and friends and aunts and uncles and it's time to affirm them for who they are as they are and their desire to share their lives with a partner. Can you be against them and welcome them? No, you can't. But you can affirm and embrace and celebrate people for who they are and discover all sorts of new family and friends along the way.
SHANE: Tell us a little about your weekly podcast. What topics do you discuss? What’s the format?
ROB: It's not a podcast it's a RobCast — haha. I talk about everything under the sun from suffering to physics to music. Sometimes I take a passage from the Bible and give people the setting and context and background so they can see what's going on just below the surface. Other times I interview friends and authors who have mind blowing things to say like Liz Gilbert or Alexander Shaiah or Pete Holmes. Sometimes my wife Kristen joins me and we talk zimzum. Sometimes I riff on a question listeners have sent in. I can't believe how much of a thrill it's been. What an extraordinary medium.
SHANE: Are there any other books or films in the works you’d like to tell us about?
ROB: Yep. Lots. I filmed an online class people can take and there's a new book coming early next year. Right now I'm on tour and we're talking about the next tour, and then I'll be doing some two-day events that we'll be announcing soon. I'm having more fun than ever.

How to encourage people to sing in worship by Dave Barnhart
The diagnoses for why people don’t sing in church are many and varied. I tend to break these diagnoses down into three categories: strong opinions that I agree with, strong opinions that I do not agree with and empirically-verifiable scientific studies. Unfortunately, the last category is rare, which is surprising considering how many “labs” (churches) we have available to test! There have been some great studies on thebenefits and effects of group singing — many with religious implications — but not many that tell us how to get people to sing.
That doesn’t mean that some of those strong opinions aren’t correct. Congregational music professionals can have some pretty good ideas on how to increase singing participation.
I’ve been a big fan of John Bell’s theories of how to get more people to sing. He writes about them in "The Singing Thing: A Case for Congregational Song." At a workshop I attended, he said that he had been blessed “with a mediocre voice,” because when congregations heard him lead singing, they automatically thought, “I can do better than that, and I’d better help him out.” John has some practical ways to get people to sing, including teaching the songs to the congregation before worship (what a concept!) and using hand gestures to indicate pitch and rhythm.
One of my favorite scientific studies runs counter to a lot of conventional church wisdom. “The Science of Singing Along: A Quantitative Field Study on Sing-along Behavior in the North of England,” by Alisun Pawley and Daniel M├╝llensiefen, analyzed the participation of various patrons in English pubs. They found that people are more likely to sing along if

  1. A song has longer and more complicated musical phrases. This goes against the conventional wisdom that songs should be easy to sing. Apparently, the effort of belting out a long line takes more breath and effort. 
  2. There are more pitches in the chorus hook. Again, a complicated melody with several pitch changes inspired more singing. 
  3. The singer is male. Some folks explain this in terms of primal battle cries, but I think this has more to do with selection bias. Who doesn’t sing along with Aretha Franklin? 
  4. The singer (a higher, male voice) has to expend noticeable effort.
  5. Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” The Village People’s “YMCA,” and Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On a Prayer” all made the top ten list for most-sung songs in pubs. They are not exactly standard hymn fare for the church. (A summary article with samples of the music can be found here.)
Reading the scientists’ research, I’m also struck by how pub singing lines up with important observations of church music:
  1. Congregations must be familiar with the song. 
  2. The song must be geared toward being a group song, not an individual performance piece. Think about the chorus for “YMCA,” for example — it is meant to have more than one voice. 
  3. The music must be loud enough, but not too loud to overpower the crowd. Opinions on this issue range from “louder is better” to “blare kills.” 
  4. It matters how close together people’s bodies are.
  5. This last observation may be the most important for churches. John Bell claims that if people stand more than three feet away from each other, they won’t sing because they hear themselves. But if they stand less than three feet from each other, they will sing because they hear others singing. The space between human bodies (which is never very much in a crowded bar, and is often too great in a church) may be the largest determining factor in getting people to sing.
At Saint Junia, our young church plant, we began with the idea that we wanted music to be participatory. It was important for us to learn all we could about how to get people to sing in worship. We did a lot of research and some non-scientific experimentation of our own. In addition to the lessons above, we’ve added some of our own insights:
  • How we arrange chairs matters. Sitting in the round or semi-round helps, because people in the back of a forward-facing congregation have a harder time hearing the people in front of them. In a circular arrangement, someone is always singing “toward” you. 
  • We meet in a bar, which helps — it doesn’t take many people to make the bar feel full, and it is designed in such a way that it rarely feels too crowded. People are usually not more than three feet away from another human voice. The acoustics are much better than our previous meeting place — a gym — which dwarfed our congregation. 
  • We write a lot of our own music. Writing our own music helps build congregational identity, and it gives us some control over the theology of the lyrics. A lot of what the worship music industry pumps out is either a) theologically bland, because it’s written for broad interdenominational appeal, or b) not theologically appropriate for our church. We also have stylistic control, since most “contemporary” music doesn’t fit our aesthetic. 
  • We’ve started using what Bell calls an “invisible choir.” This is a group of people who come early, learn the songs and harmonies, and sing from within the congregation. I know they are there, and even I am sometimes surprised by how excellent the congregation sounds when someone starts singing harmony behind me. 
  • I work closely with our music leader to choose or write songs that fit what we’ve learned about participatory singing. We frequently take time before or even during worship to teach new songs to the congregation. Often, if we’re doing a song for the first time, our vocalist will teach the chorus to the congregation and invite them to just listen during the verses until they know the song better.
  • What about your church? What are some best practices you’ve learned for encouraging congregational singing?
Dave Barnhart is the pastor of Saint Junia UMC in Birmingham, Ala. He blogs at

3 myths about young clergy by Drew McIntyre
As a pastor under 35, I often encounter misinformation about myself and my fellow young clergy. Congregations, older clergy, pulpit search committees and denominational leadership often fall victim to mythology about young pastors. There are many myths out there, but here are three I find most significant:
Myth #1: Young clergy = young families
One of the most persistent myths about young clergy is that if a church hires (or a bishop sends) a young pastor, young people and their families will instantly flock to the church. This is a serious fallacy. While a young pastor *could* be especially insightful in reaching young adults for Christ, discipling them and building relationships with them, it won’t matter a hill of beans if the church itself is not invested in doing the same. If you have never asked a Christian young adult what they think about the world or what they are looking for (if at all!) in a faith community, you need to rethink if you really want young adults in your church.
Reality: A young pastor can help, but it takes a congregation dedicated to knowing, investing in and serving with young adults to reach young adults. If you are praying for a young pastor to come so that she or he can do all the work of reaching young people, you are setting up that pastor to fail. You want a magic wand, not a pastor.
Myth #2: Young clergy don’t like older adults
We live in a society where different generations don’t interact with regularity. The breakdown of the family means that we might not know the generations before or after us. Where ancient cultures valued the wisdom of age, our marketing-driven economy only wants the self-indulgent wallets of the 20-40 crowd. Many churches are convinced that young clergy don’t care about or aren’t interested in ministry with older adults.
Reality: This is a deep lie. Most of my young clergy colleagues value not only older clergy, from whom we have much to learn, but also the older adults we are blessed and called to serve. Stubbornness and close-mindedness are not limited to any age, and neither are joy or spiritual maturity.
Myth #3: Young clergy all want to work with youth and children
Many of my young clergy friends who staff larger churches are often pigeonholed as the youth and/or children’s minister. While many young pastors serve very effectively in these roles, one’s age does not necessarily correspond to giftedness with various generational ministries. Just because a young pastor has three young children, it does not follow that she or he wants to work with children day in and day out. Just because a young clergyperson likes the same bands that the youth do, doesn’t mean that the new young pastor is a good fit for the youth program.
Reality: Young clergy all have different gifts, skills and interests. Some might be great at planning contemporary worship, and others might love traditional liturgy. Some may love doing the children’s moment and others might hate it. You will meet young pastors who love visitation and pastoral care and others who loathe it. There are young pastors passionate about administration, and others who are allergic to meetings.
The bottom line
Don’t assume a young pastor has a specific set of skills or interests. Ask where they are gifted, be upfront about expectations, and be realistic about desired results.
Your turn: What other myths have you heard about young clergy?
Drew McIntyre blogs at Uniting Grace and co-hosts the WesleyCast.

Rape in our churches 
 By David Person
If there’s one good thing about the Bill Cosby rape and drug allegations, it’s that more Americans may now realize how common it is for a woman to be raped or assaulted sexually.
The statistics tell a disturbing story. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 1 out of 6 women in our nation has been the target of a rapist. Between the ages of 16 and 19, females are four times more likely to be raped, have a rape attempted, or be assaulted sexually than anyone else. Of girls who are in grades 5-8, 7 percent said they had been sexually abused. That percentage jumps up to 12 percent for high school females.
Statistics alone won’t convince many people because they don’t have faces or voices. But the steady stream of Cosby accusers,with their eerily similar stories about being groomed and plied with pills by the comedian and then subjected to unwanted sexual advances or worse, resonated with many Americans. Others still weren’t convinced because Cosby has yet to be charged with a crime and has refused to address it — though he has surrogates who have denied the accusations on his behalf.
Last week, some of those minds were changed after the release of parts of a deposition in which Cosby admitted to acquiring and using drugs for sexual purposes. Drugs and sex equals an inability to consent – which equals rape. And that particular evil lurks in places that are more shocking and unexpected than the life of a beloved TV star. Rape can be found even in the church.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. If 1 in 6 women in our nation have been raped or had someone attempt to rape them, how could church-going women escape being targets? Especially when, according to one study, pastors are sometimes the rapists.
A Baylor University study of clergy sexual misconduct found that 3 percent of female church members who were surveyed said they had been subjected to inappropriate sexual advances or actions from clergy at some point in their lives. Additionally, 8 percent of these women said they knew about instances in which clergy sexual misconduct had happened at a church they were attending.
The Baylor study confined clergy sexual misconduct to sexual advances or propositions, so rape and sexual assault weren’t addressed specifically. However, that doesn’t mean clergy don’t rape.
Carolyn, whose story is documented in the Baylor study, was having a crisis of faith. Her husband suggested she get counseling from her pastor. After the sessions started, the pastor revealed that he was sexually attracted to Carolyn.
Because of her respect for his ecclesial authority, she continued the sessions and apparently found them helpful. Meanwhile, the pastor continued his advances. He called Carolyn his “spiritual lover,” eventually kissed her on the lips without warning, and tried to manipulate her into leaving her husband. Finally, Carolyn said, he raped her.
"I knew you wanted that,” she said he told her. “We need to keep this secret because it would ruin the church."
Carolyn, understandably, was confused.
"If this was any other man, I would have known it was not right," she told the study’s authors. "But church is supposed to be a sanctuary. I couldn't make sense of what was happening. He broke my connection to all that is holy."
She and her family left that church, but her children have rejected organized religion and doubt God. "What hurts me the most is that this wasn't just physical rape," Carolyn said. "It was spiritual rape."
I wonder how many women sit in church pews every weekend, wearing the same wounds Carolyn has, whether inflicted by pastors, fellow church members, family members or strangers on the street? How many women or girls in our circles, in or outside of church, carry the secret pain of surviving rape or sexual assault?
Unfortunately, we don’t have to guess. The numbers told us the story long before Cosby’s accusers opened our eyes.
David Person is currently working on a documentary focused on rape and civil rights. Watch the trailer here.

Idol worship and the Confederate flag  
 By Laura Patterson
Dear fellow White Southern Christians,
You, like me, have probably seen countless posts on social media from friends about the Confederate flag in the past few weeks. You may have even made some of them. Those who favor continuing to fly the flag are likely claiming that it represents their heritage and not racism or hate. Personally, I’ve noticed that these arguments tend to claim personal expression or freedom of speech as their basis. In some of them, there’s even the implication that being made to remove the flag is discriminatory against Whites in the South.
Now, because I was raised in the Deep South, I can understand where so many White Southerners are coming from with their arguments. The history we were taught implies that we weren’t really at fault for the Civil War, that slavery wasn’t all bad, and that White Southerners have been beat up on since Reconstruction. Other White Southern authors and pastors have echoed this sentiment of our regional mythology better than I can, but I want you to know that I get it. It feels like one more dismissal of Southern culture and history, one more chastisement, one more reminder of a dying heritage. Of course someone who was raised to feel this way about their home would want to display the symbol of their identity. Of course they would tell those trying to remove that symbol to back off and mind their own business.
There is a strain of personal freedom in these arguments that connects to the mythology of the Confederate battle flag representing resistance to Northern aggression. Saying, “it’s my choice, so you just get over it!” not only plays into this mythology of resistance but is like some sort of trump card to systemic terror, past and present (because try as we might to ignore it, there is a very particular history of this flag.) But this doesn’t fly for Christians. We are set free, as Paul says, but not so that we can be jerks about it and do whatever we want. So, fellow White Southern Christians, we need to talk.
When Paul writes to the church in Corinth, he gives them pieces of advice that paint a picture of communal belonging and care. We see how he asks them not to use the eucharistic meal to exclude others, how he teaches them with beautiful imagery of the parts of the body needing one another, how he corrects them that even he and Apollos were working together for the same purpose. And then there’s chapter 8, a strange section on the eating of meat sacrificed to idols. There are times when I want to ignore this chapter as advice that’s too contextual to be useful now, but I can’t. Because Paul understands power relationships and systems in a community, and he’s telling us Jesus followers how to negotiate them.
Scholars tell us that this chapter is in reference to more powerful, elite and educated members of the church buying meat from the market that had previously been sacrificed to the Roman gods in the temples and how that practice caused “lesser” members (less powerful, less elite, less learned and possibly more recently converted) to “stumble.” The argument appears to be over whether the more powerful should get to do what they want — after all, there are no other gods so the meat wasn’t really sacrificed to anything — and if the less powerful should just get over it.
But there is another layer to this conflict beyond merely the “knowledge” that some members have about this meat and idols. In this society, different classes would have been organized into collegia that had access to things like meat from the temples, social power and political position. In the new Jesus community, those divisions were supposed to be wiped away. Yet, by continuing to engage in the practice of purchasing this meat from the temples, those more powerful members were reinforcing the social hierarchy of Corinth. They were constantly reminding the less powerful of the past and the outside world, when they were part of the lower class, or even when they were slaves.
Paul’s answer to this situation is classic. He explains how the answer (or perhaps excuse?) that the more powerful have given — that there are no other gods so eating this meat is acceptable — is correct. He appeals to their privilege as “knowledgable” and “strong”. But then he turns their own privilege around on them, telling them that if their eating of this meat causes those who have less “knowledge,” the “weaker” members of the community, to stumble, they should not eat it. They have the responsibility for the maintenance of the community on this front because they’re the ones in the position of power. Their privilege does not excuse them from this responsibility, it in fact places more burden on them.
The Confederate flag is a symbol of power dynamics in the South. It was and is flown by those who exert their power to do so, particularly as that power relates to African Americans. To fly that flag is to exert white identity. To continue flying it now, after the murder of 9 people because of their race, after 7 black churches have burned in a week, and after a year of protests drawing attention to racial bias in all aspects of American society is to purposefully reinforce the collegia of whiteness vs. blackness, with all its past and present connotations and privileges. To claim that “it’s not about hate” is, like the Corinthians, to excuse yourself from mutual care of the whole community based on your privilege.
Within most churches, white folks would be unlikely to openly state that they prefer social divisions based on race, that they believe whites are a superior race, or that segregation was a better system. At least to some extent, many white church folks would like to believe there is a new, more egalitarian way of being together created by our devotion to Christ. They at least have a vague, eschatological hope. Outside the church, white nationalist groups openly proclaim that they do not support such a community. They fly the Confederate flag openly and in support of a racial hierarchy. They’re not interested in communion. For white Christians to also adopt this symbol is to participate in the reinforcing within the church of the divisions outside it. Just as the Corinthians used the Eucharistic meal and the purchase of meat sacrificed to idols to import social division into the church, white Christians use the Confederate flag to reinforce racial division in the Church.
There is idolatry at work in this dynamic as well. First is the idolatry of self — the belief that one can display a symbol with such cultural baggage without taking on any of that baggage, the belief that “personal expression” is a higher ideal than not doing violence to another, the belief that the self exists in the present with disregard to the past. In the South (and in America as a whole) we attempt to use personal freedom as a get-out-of-jail-free card for all manner of anti-social behavior. Even worse, we often drag religion and the language of oppression into our claims that we should be allowed to do whatever we want to whomever we want.
Second, there is the idolatry of a cultural ideal (here, generously, “Southern Pride”) without critical engagement about the meaning of that ideal or its larger place in a society. I will admit here that I am proud to be a Southerner, but with an asterix. To worship “Southern Pride” without noting the tremendous evil done through slavery, Jim Crow, and continuing white supremacy is not only willfully blind, it sets up a false idol that requires unquestioning loyalty lest its cracks and false veneer be seen. This particular idol worship often places the ideals of Southern whiteness above Christian ideals and reinforces harmful stereotypes based on race, gender and sexuality.
The third idolatry is, unsurprisingly, worship of money. This idolatry is on the hands of America as a whole and has been displayed prominently in the wall-to-wall coverage of a CVS in Baltimore and a QT burning in Ferguson, but little to no coverage of black churches burning in the South since the shooting in Charleston. It is on display when the bail for a teenager who breaks a window in a police car is higher than that for someone accused of killing another human being. It is on display when we profit off of mass incarceration, when we criminalize poverty, and even when we reduce matters of racial injustice to solely economic ones. It is not a stretch, but merely history, to see that black bodies were once currency in this country. We are already worshipping Mammon, and we merely hearken back to another of his grotesque graven images with this flag. Southern Whites may imagine that there once was a time when they felt less disenfranchised by global capitalism, more in the loving embrace of Mammon. Perhaps this flag is the remembrance of that imagined time and a kinder god.
Finally, there is the idolatry of white supremacy. Amidst claims by many that the Confederate flag does not represent hate for them, it very clearly does for groups like the KKK and Council of Concerned Citizens. Their idol is the god who would create one race superior to another and appoint them protectors of the divinely appointed order. They openly make these claims and at times act on them. While their idol seems farthest removed from the minds and hearts of nice White church folks, we have seen countless times how white supremacy pervades our culture.
It leads media to call Dylann Roof, a 21 year old confessed racist murder, a “kid” while referring to Mike Brown, unarmed and shot dead in the street at 18, a man. It makes us believe that Dylann Roof must have been sick or suffered some trauma while justifying why Mike Brown deserved to die. It is why black people have been killed at four times the rate as white people by police. It is why there are different sentencing mandates for drugs in communities of color than white communities; why an open carry protest can happen in a zoo, but Tamir Rice is shot dead for playing with a toy gun in a park. The examples are exhausting and overwhelming to even consider listing. It is white supremacy that makes this conversation even necessary.
These idols find recognizable, familiar symbol in the Confederate flag. Just like the meat offered to Roman gods indicated complicity in the worship of those idols, the display of the Confederate flag indicates complicity in the worship of these. When others see us associating with the symbols and acts of these idols, they are completely justified in believing we adhere to the tenants of that religion. While privilege may lead some to believe that they can display the banner of the idols of self/ Southern Pride/Mammon/white supremacy without themselves worshipping those idols, the rest of us are perhaps just not as “strong,” as Paul might say.
The problem is not what the White Christian flying the Confederate flag believes is truly in their heart, but what another brother or sister believes based on the symbol they are displaying. Especially for those who have suffered the most from the worship of these idols, any implication that a fellow brother or sister in Christ is engaged in idol worship is more than enough to damage relationships. The burden of repairing those relationships by openly declaring allegiance to Christ’s teachings and not to a false idol is on the shoulders of those who know that they’re not really a worshipper of these idols. It is not on the shoulders of those who see the flag and read its obvious, historical and cultural meanings.
So, to my white Southern Christian brothers and sisters I say: Do not sin against Christ by hurting your brother or sister (1 Corinthians 8:12). Take down the flag. Fight for it to be taken down. I am appealing to your privilege as the ones who decided that this symbol would be displayed. Distance yourself from this symbol of so much violence and hate and brokenness. Take up the responsibility for repairing broken relationships. Value the community that we know can be over the imaginary community that never was.

8 killers of motivation (and ultimately killers of momentum) 
 By Ron Edmondson
Leaders need to remain motivated so they can help motivate their team. Leaders also need to be keenly aware of how motivated their team is at any given time.
I have found over the years that regardless of how motivated I am, if the people around me are unmotivated, we aren’t going to be very successful as a team.
Which is why it may be even more important a leader learns recognize when a team is decreasing in motivation.
But here’s the greater reason.
Momentum is often a product of motivation.
When a team loses motivation, momentum is certain to suffer loss. It’s far easier to motivate a team — in my opinion — than it is to build momentum in an organization.
So, as leaders, we must learn what destroys motivation.
Here are eight killers of motivation — and ultimately — momentum:
Routine – When people have to repeat the same activity over and over again, in time they lose interest in it. This is especially true in a day where rapid change is all around them. Change needs to be a built-in part of the organization to keep people motivated and momentum moving forward.
Fear – When people are afraid, they often quit. They stop taking risks. They fail to give their best effort. They stop trying. Fear keeps a team from moving forward. Leaders can remove fear by welcoming mistakes, by lessening control and by celebrating each step.
Success – A huge win or a period of success can lead to complacency. When the team feels they’ve “arrived” they may no longer feel the pressure to keep learning. Leaders who recognize this killer may want to provide new opportunities, change people’s job responsibilities and introduce greater challenges or risks.
Lack of direction – People need to know where they are going and what a win looks like, especially according to the leader. When people are left to wonder, they lose motivation, do nothing or make up their own answers. Leaders should continually pause to make sure the team understands what they are being asked to do.
Failure– Some people can’t get past a failure and some leaders can’t accept failure as a part of building success. Failure should be used to build momentum. As one strives to recover, lessons are learned and people are made stronger and wiser, but if not viewed and addressed correctly, it leads to momentum stall.
Apathy – When a team loses its passion for the vision, be prepared to experience a decline in motivation — and eventually momentum. Leaders must consistently be casting vision. In a way, leaders become a cheerleader for the cause, encouraging others to continue a high level of enthusiasm for the vision.
Burnout – When a team or team member has no opportunity to rest, they soon lose their ability to maintain motivation. Momentum decline follows shortly behind. Good leaders learn when to push to excel and when to push to relax. This may be different for various team members, but everyone needs to pause occasionally to re-energize.
Feeling under-valued – When someone feels his or her contribution to the organization isn’t viewed as important, they lose the motivation to continually produce. Leaders must learn to be encouraging and appreciative of the people they lead.
If you see any of these at work in your organization, address them now!
The problem with all of these is that we often don’t recognize them when they are killing motivation. We fail to see them until momentum has begun to suffer. Many times this will be too late to fully recover — at least for all team members.
Ron Edmondson blogs at

Renewal is happening now! 
 By David F. Watson
When we recite the Apostles’ Creed, we say the words, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” It’s a fine idea to believe in the Holy Spirit, and, of course, it is essential to proper Christian doctrine. But what are the practical implications of this affirmation? What does the Holy Spirit do in the life of the believer? John Wesley once said that one could be as orthodox as the devil, and just as lacking in the true religion of the heart. An encounter with the Holy Spirit is, I believe, the key to the religion of the heart that was so crucial to Wesley’s theology.
As I walk alongside other United Methodists, as well as Christians of many other stripes, I don’t often see a great deal of emphasis on the power and work of the Holy Spirit. Too often, God seems to function as a construct that gives weight to our ethical principles, but we do not see God as an agent who actually works in our lives.
Perhaps this is why I am so drawn to the work of Aldersgate Renewal Ministries. This is a renewal movement within the United Methodist Church that is often identified as charismatic. Yes, I know the term “charismatic” carries a lot of baggage, but it simply refers to a way of being Christian that involves a strong sense of divine agency and the belief that God gives gifts to the church. Paul talks about these gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
I just returned from three days at the ARM annual conference on Spirit-filled living. It was three days where Christian brothers and sisters came together simply to worship God and learn from one another about the ways in which the Holy Spirit can work in our lives for the good.
One of the highlights of the conference was a sermon delivered by Cuban bishop Ricardo Pereira. He is a powerful, compelling and Spirit-filled preacher. I’ve written before about the Cuban Methodist revival, which I was privileged to see first-hand last January. It was great for folks at the conference to get a glimpse of what is happening there.
There were a number of very fine breakout sessions, including one by my friend and colleague Peter Bellini that related to his book "Truth Therapy." My wife Harriet and I presented together in a couple of sessions on the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit in raising a child with disabilities. Later, I presented by myself on reading the Bible for growth in the faith in anticipation of a book I’m writing on this topic. You can see a list of all the conference speakers by clicking here.
My older son, Luke, attended a concurrent meeting for teens called the Gate. He’s a pretty shy kid, so I wasn’t sure how he’d like it, but he LOVED it and can’t wait to go back next year. (THANK YOU, Gate folks!)
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Aldersgate Renewal Ministries is the most important thing going in the UMC today. The Holy Spirit is the driver of all true renewal in the church, and ARM is helping us to recover pneumatological aspects of our tradition that have been lost to modernity, including signs and wonders, a full-bodied concept of conversion, prophecy and words of knowledge and wisdom.
I know many people who are praying for renewal in the UMC and beyond, and we should continue to do this. But what we need also to understand is that renewal is happening now. You just have to know where to look for it. And in the UMC it’s happening through Aldersgate Renewal Ministries. Thanks be to God.
David F. Watson blogs at

Orthodox... evangelical... liberal? 
 By James A. Harnish
David Brooks has been sounding like a revival preacher lately. The New York Times columnist said he wrote “The Road to Character” out of a need “to save my own soul…I wrote this book not sure I could follow the road to character, but I wanted at least to know what the road looks like.”
Methodists have another word for “character.” We call it “holiness.” John Wesley called it “Christian perfection,” i.e. being made perfect (complete) in love. The road we follow is “sanctification.” We wrote “A Disciple’s Heart” to provide practical steps for people who are traveling that road. (How’s that for a shameless bit of book promotion?)
In his final chapter, Brooks wrote, “We don’t live for happiness, we live for holiness.” He gives some of the best definitions I know of sin, humility and spiritual discipline, coming to the conclusion that “we are all ultimately saved by grace.” Can I get an “Amen!”?
Last week, Brooks was at it again. In a column titled, “The Next Culture War,” he challenged conservative Christians to “put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex.” He recommended that Christians offer the world “more Albert Schweitzer and Dorothy Day than Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham; more Salvation Army than Moral Majority.” Amen to that!
But Brooks also fell into the trap laid by the popular media when he used the adjectives “orthodox” and “evangelical” to refer to “conservative” Christians for whom orthodoxy is largely defined by opposition to same-sex marriage and evangelical has become a segment of the Republican party base.
Redeeming abused words
I’m weary of the widespread abuse of those words.
In the Christian tradition,”orthodox” has referred to those who affirm the core elements of the faith expressed in the Nicene and Apostle’s creeds. “Evangelical” described people who are personally committed as disciples of Jesus Christ and share a burning passion to invite others to follow him. The terms were more theological than political although the convictions growing out of those commitments always result in political action.
I know faithful Christians who are orthodox in their faith and evangelical in their witness whose social convictions are “conservative.” I also know faithful Christians who are equally orthodox in their faith and passionately evangelical in their witness and whose social convictions would be labeled as “liberal.”
While I respect people on both ends of the conservative-liberal continuum, I resent the way the social conservatives have dominated the public discussion as if theirs is the only way of interpreting Scripture. Brooks is correct that it has alienated large segments of the population from serious consideration of the Christian faith.
The road to holiness
Brooks puts us on the right road. It’s time for more Schweitzer and Day (names that the vast majority of American churchgoers probably don’t recognize) and less of Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham.
It’s time to let the world know that Clemente Pinckney and the people of Mother Emanuel Church are more representative of the gospel than the speakers at the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
It’s time to say that conservative politicians do not have sole ownership of the bible. In fact, some of their supposedly “biblical” positions are light years removed from the Old Testament prophets or the Sermon on the Mount.
Perhaps it’s time to put aside the terms “conservative” and “liberal” — neither of which are biblical categories — and learn to walk the road to holiness which Jesus defined when he said:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they? So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
From Brooks to the bishop
In response to the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, Bishop Ken Carter offered a practical word to faithful disciples on both ends of the conservative-liberal continuum:
What if…
1. Those on the left side of the aisle allowed space for conscience (as Kennedy does) for people of faith who cannot interpret marriage in this way.
2. Those on the right side of the aisle began to focus on fidelity in marriage relationships.
3. Preachers began to teach counter-culturally about marriage, acknowledging the profound brokenness in our culture, in relation to grace and holiness.
4. We clarified the distinction between marriage as a right (in the state) and marriage as a gift (in the church).
5. We repented, on both sides of the aisle, from speech that reduced those different from us into one-dimensional people.
6. We repented, as well, from the historical reality that Christians have been an obstacle in each movement toward greater civil rights in our country.
7. We recovered a passion to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
What if followers of Christ followed the road to holiness, defined by the love and grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ?
Jim Harnish is the author of "A Disciple's Heart" and "Earn. Save. Give." He blogs at at

Struggling with the children's sermon 
 By Joseph Yoo
I often find myself struggling with the children’s moment and children’s sermon during Sunday morning worship celebrations. Perhaps you can share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section and we can get a conversation going.
I sometimes wonder, “Who does this really benefit?” Because, really, isn’t it the adults who enjoy the sight of children sitting in the front of the church next to the pastor more than the children who are forced to sit there? It’s cute to see the kids squirm. It’s endearing to hear children give an answer to a question about the Bible. It’s adorable when they do “kid” stuff. It reminds us of our future — that we may actually have a future.
Then there’s message. I’ve been told many times that it’s during the children’s sermon that people really get the message of the gospel — that their “ears perk up because they can understand the message.” I was always offended when I heard that as an adult and as a pastor. What? Am I so dumb that I can't understand the pastor’s “regular” sermon? Am I such a bad preacher that I can’t explain the good news of the Gospel?
And what do you preach on? I know pastors who believe that the children’s message should not be something that’s, well, childlike. I once heard a children’s message that went something like this:
A rabbit’s mom was sick and dying. The rabbit went on a long journey to a distant mountain to get a potion that was the only cure for his mom. After days of hard and long travel, he finally arrived on the mountain and was able to get the potion that would save his mom’s life. The rabbit was thrilled and couldn’t wait to get home to help his mom. But on the way down from the mountain, there was an avalanche and, while the rabbit survived, he was buried deep in the snow. The rabbit didn’t know which way was up or which way was down. So the rabbit poured the potion out of the bottle to see which way was up. He was able to make his way out, but the medicine that could save his mom was gone. And there was no way for him to get back to the top of the mountain. He went home to his mother and shared with her the horrible news. He took care of her until she died. Sometimes, kids, we don’t know the right thing to do. Let’s pray.
A few kids cried as they were led to their Sunday school.
Was I being too sensitive in thinking, “Maybe I wouldn’t tell that story to a 5-year-old?”
Then there’s the, “Hey! Jesus loves you! Yay! Let’s pray!” Which is great and energetic. It gets the kids to laugh. It’s short and sweet and to the point. But it feels so empty. It feels like, “Hey, the kids are coming up. Let’s entertain them before we get on with the real show. Yay!”
How do you find a middle ground between the two examples? Is it necessary to find the middle ground?
Is it even necessary to have a children’s sermon as part of the worship celebration? Do the children really benefit from it? What are some effective ways to really make the most of this time we have with the children in worship?

Get kids out of church 
 By Rebekah Simon-Peter
We spend lots of time trying to get children into church to develop their faith. But there’s an even better venue outdoors for that.
Spending time outside in unstructured play is critical to children’s growth and development. Including their faith development. Playing outdoors increases confidence, inner peace and a sense of wonder and awe. All the stuff we want them to get from church. Not only that, it reduces depression, obesity and ADHD.
Despite the spiritual benefits of being outdoors, many millennials and digitals now experience “Nature Deficit Disorder.” (Richard Louv’s "Last Child in the Woods" describes this modern day neurosis.) And with it comes Spiritual Deficit Disorder.
Here are some solutions for Christian educators that engage younger generations, inspire fun and bring out the kid in everyone.
It’s no longer a given that young people will play outside or spend much time outdoors. Returning children to nature, to cultivate a sense of awe and wonder, is a crucial part of Christian education. Connecting the creation to the Creator magnifies the learning experiences of children. Yes, there’s a time and a place for attending Sunday School, church and other building-based activities. But here are some nature-oriented activities you can do this summer:
The basics
  • Plant seeds and trees as part of Sunday School education and watch them grow. 
  • Send children to summer church camp where they can connect the Creator and the creation.
  • Use Bible studies and curricula that teach environmental stewardship as part of faithfulness. Check out "Green Church: Caretakers of God’s Creation" (for children) and "Burst: Green Church" (for youth), a pair of six-week studies that go with the adult six-week study "Green Church: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rejoice!
  • Get creative
  • Design a Vacation Bible School that takes children outside. Give them time for play, reflection, and outdoor exploration. 
  • Tell a Bible story or parable outside. Help young people make a connection between the words of Scripture and the world around them. 
  • Take children on nature walks. Focus on streams, birds, trees, flowers, clouds, bugs, animals, or other nearby natural features. 
Go all out
  • Create an outdoor play environment on church grounds for use by Sunday school classes and the surrounding neighborhood. Incorporate trees, sandboxes and birdhouses to observe wildlife, and paths and bridges to explore interesting natural features. 
  • Clean up and green up an unused or abandoned area in your neighborhood as a child-to-child outreach from your church. Engage the children in your church to create a green play area for other neighborhood children. 
  • Put together a church camping weekend. Design a worship service that incorporates readings from Genesis and the Psalms as well as silent meditation time. Focus on caring for the creation as a way of loving God. 
  • Design a summer retreat in which adults mentor young people in the vital connection between spirituality and nature. 
At home
  • Take a Sabbath from the computer and the television. Spend time outdoors. Garden, hike, fish, camp, hunt, go bird-watching, enjoy nature walks. Take children, grandchildren and other children with you. Introduce them to the wonders of nature. Breathe deeply. Relax. Enjoy!
  • Step away from the screen
It’s not only children who develop Nature Deficit Disorder. Adults get it too. We have traded green time for screen time. So here’s an idea. Put down your phone or turn off your computer and step outside right now for a much needed breath of fresh air. Yes, right now. Feel your spirit begin to fill up again. And your sense of awe and wonder begin to return. Now, isn’t that better?
Adapted from "7 Simple Steps to Green Your Church" by Rebekah Simon-Peter, Copyright © 2010. Rebekah Simon-Peter blogs at

 By Melissa Spoelstra
In general, would you consider yourself an easily offended person? Consider the statement below that is closest to how you think others would describe you.
  • Most things roll off my back, and I don’t take things personally very often. 
  • When someone says or does something hurtful to me, I initially get pretty upset. But I try not to make assumptions about motives and I give the person the benefit of the doubt. 
  • Often I read things into people’s facial expressions, body language and comments that I find offensive. I don’t say anything to them personally, but later I discuss it with someone who is close to me. 
  • People walk on eggshells around me because they know I can be offended pretty easily, and I will let them know about it, too! 
  • Christ modeled perfect forgiveness for us in life and in death. In Luke 23:34 we find his response to those who beat, mocked, unjustly accused, and tortured him: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Imagine taking that posture in the very moment someone is hurting you. As you process the hurt in your life right now, the key to freedom from bitterness comes as you embrace God’s complete forgiveness for you. This will help to color how you view even those who have done evil things that have impacted your life dramatically.
Although Joseph did not know the gospel of Christ, he knew of God’s desire to rescue his people through the stories of Noah, Abraham, his grandfather Isaac and his father Jacob. He trusted by faith in the amount of revelation that he had received. We have an even fuller understanding of God’s grace and salvation. Our God sent his own Son to die on our behalf. He held nothing back to atone for our sins and erase the debt that we could never repay. He washed our sins away completely.
How does realizing God’s grace toward you help you to move toward forgiving those who have hurt you? By focusing on truth and gaining perspective on the offenses of others in light of the offenses God has forgiven us, we can forgive as we’ve been forgiven.
How can you move toward being a less offendable person in your marriage, friendships, and work relationships?

Melissa Spoelstra is a popular Bible teacher, conference speaker and writer. She is the author of "Jeremiah: Daring to Hope in an Unstable World" and "Joseph: The Journey to Forgiveness." Melissa blogs at

This Sunday, July 19, 2015
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a; Psalm 89:20-37; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Lectionary Readings:
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
2 Samuel 7:1-14
Psalm 89:20-37
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Lectionary Texts:
2 Samuel 7:1 After the king had been living in his palace awhile and Adonai had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, 2 the king said to Natan the prophet, “Here, I’m living in a cedar-wood palace; but the ark of God is kept in a tent!” 3 Natan said to the king, “Go, do everything that is in your heart, for Adonai is with you.”
4 But that same night the word of Adonai came to Natan: 5 “Go and tell my servant David that this is what Adonai says: ‘You are going to build me a house to live in? 6 Since the day I brought the people of Isra’el out of Egypt until today, I never lived in a house; rather, I traveled in a tent and a tabernacle. 7 Everywhere I traveled with all the people of Isra’el, did I ever speak a word to any of the tribes of Isra’el, whom I ordered to shepherd my people Isra’el, asking, “Why haven’t you built me a cedar-wood house?”’
8 “Therefore say this to my servant David that this is what Adonai-Tzva’ot says: ‘I took you from the sheep-yards, from following the sheep, to make you chief over my people, over Isra’el. 9 I have been with you wherever you went; I have destroyed all your enemies ahead of you; and I am making your reputation great, like the reputations of the greatest people on earth. 10 I will assign a place to my people Isra’el; I will plant them there, so that they can live in their own place without being disturbed any more. The wicked will no longer oppress them, as they did at the beginning, 11 and as they did from the time I ordered judges to be over my people Isra’el; instead, I will give you rest from all your enemies.
“‘Moreover, Adonai tells you that Adonai will make you a house. 12 When your days come to an end and you sleep with your ancestors, I will establish one of your descendants to succeed you, one of your own flesh and blood; and I will set up his rulership. 13 He will build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever. 14 I will be a father for him, and he will be a son for me. If he does something wrong, I will punish him with a rod and blows, just as everyone gets punished;
Psalm 89:20 (19) There was a time when you spoke in a vision;
you declared to your loyal [prophets],
“I have given help to a warrior,
I have raised up someone chosen from the people.
21 (20) I have found David my servant
and anointed him with my holy oil.
22 (21) My hand will always be with him,
and my arm will give him strength.
23 (22) No enemy will outwit him,
no wicked man overcome him.
24 (23) I will crush his foes before him
and strike down those who hate him.
25 (24) My faithfulness and grace will be with him;
through my name his power will grow.
26 (25) I will put his hand on the sea
and his right hand on the rivers.
27 (26) He will call to me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock of my salvation.’
28 (27) I will give him the position of firstborn,
the highest of the kings of the earth.
29 (28) I will keep my grace for him forever,
and in my covenant be faithful with him.
30 (29) I will establish his dynasty forever,
and his throne as long as the heavens last.
31 (30) “If his descendants abandon my Torah
and fail to live by my rulings,
32 (31) if they profane my regulations
and don’t obey my mitzvot,
33 (32) I will punish their disobedience with the rod
and their guilt with lashes.
34 (33) But I won’t withdraw my grace from him
or be false to my faithfulness.
35 (34) I will not profane my covenant
or change what my lips have spoken.
36 (35) I have sworn by my holiness once and for all;
I will not lie to David —
37 (36) his dynasty will last forever,
his throne like the sun before me.
Ephesians 2:11 Therefore, remember your former state: you Gentiles by birth — called the Uncircumcised by those who, merely because of an operation on their flesh, are called the Circumcised — 12 at that time had no Messiah. You were estranged from the national life of Isra’el. You were foreigners to the covenants embodying God’s promise. You were in this world without hope and without God.
13 But now, you who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood. 14 For he himself is our shalom — he has made us both one and has broken down the m’chitzah which divided us 15 by destroying in his own body the enmity occasioned by the Torah, with its commands set forth in the form of ordinances. He did this in order to create in union with himself from the two groups a single new humanity and thus make shalom, 16 and in order to reconcile to God both in a single body by being executed on a stake as a criminal and thus in himself killing that enmity.
17 Also, when he came, he announced as Good News shalom to you far off and shalom to those nearby,[Ephesians 2:17 Isaiah 57:19] 18 news that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
19 So then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers. On the contrary, you are fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s family. 20 You have been built on the foundation of the emissaries and the prophets, with the cornerstone being Yeshua the Messiah himself. 21 In union with him the whole building is held together, and it is growing into a holy temple in union with the Lord. 22 Yes, in union with him, you yourselves are being built together into a spiritual dwelling-place for God!
Mark 6:30 Those who had been sent out rejoined Yeshua and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 There were so many people coming and going that they couldn’t even take time to eat, so he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a place where we can be alone, and you can get some rest.” 32 They went off by themselves to an isolated spot; 33 but many people, seeing them leave and recognizing them, ran ahead on foot from all the towns and got there first. 34 When Yeshua came ashore, he saw a huge crowd. Filled with compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, he began teaching them many things.
53 After they had made the crossing, they landed at Ginosar and anchored. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, the people recognized him 55 and began running around throughout that whole region and bringing sick people on their stretchers to any place where they heard he was. 56 Wherever he went, in towns, cities or country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the tzitzit on his robe, and all who touched it were healed.
John Wesley's Notes-commentary for 2 Samuel 7:1-14a
Verse 1
[1] And it came to pass, when the king sat in his house, and the LORD had given him rest round about from all his enemies;
Sat — That is, was settled in the house which Hiram's men had built for him, then he reflected upon the unsettled state of the ark.
Verse 2
[2] That the king said unto Nathan the prophet, See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains.
Curtains — That is, in a tent or tabernacle, verse 6, composed of several curtains.
Verse 3
[3] And Nathan said to the king, Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the LORD is with thee.
Nathan said — Pursue thy intentions, and build an house for the ark. The design being pious and the thing not forbidden by God, Nathan hastily approves it, before he had consulted God about it, as both he and David ought to have done in a matter of so great moment. And therefore Nathan meets with this rebuke, that he is forced to acknowledge his error, and recant it. For the holy prophets did not speak all things by prophetic inspiration, but some things by a human spirit.
Verse 4
[4] And it came to pass that night, that the word of the LORD came unto Nathan, saying,
The word of the Lord came — Because David's mistake was pious, and from an honest mind, God would not suffer him to lie long in it.
Verse 5
[5] Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the LORD, Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in?
Shalt thou — That is, thou shalt not.
Verse 6
[6] Whereas I have not dwelt in any house since the time that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle.
Tent and tabernacle — These two seem thus to be distinguished, the one may note the curtains and hangings within, the other the frame of boards, and coverings upon it.
Verse 8
[8] Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel:
My servant — Lest David should be too much discouraged, or judge himself neglected of God, as one thought unworthy of so great an honour, God here gives him the honourable title of his servant, thereby signifying that he accepted of his service, and good intentions.
Verse 10
[10] Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime,
Appoint — That is, I will make room for them, whereas hitherto they have been much distressed by their enemies. Or, I will establish a place for them, that is, I will establish them in their place or land.
My people — Among the favours which God had vouchsafed, and would vouchsafe to David, he reckons his blessings to Israel, because they were great blessings to David; partly, because the strength and happiness of a king consists in the multitude and happiness of his people; and partly, because David was a man of a public spirit, and therefore no less affected with Israel's felicity than with his own.
Before time — Namely in Egypt.
Verse 11
[11] And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the LORD telleth thee that he will make thee an house.
And as since — Nor as they did under the judges. But all this is to be understood with a condition, except they should notoriously forsake God.
And have caused thee — That is, and as until this time in which I have given thee rest. But these words, though according to our translation they be enclosed in the same parenthesis with the foregoing clauses, may be better put without it, and taken by themselves. For the foregoing words in this verse, and in verse 10, all concern the people of Israel; but these words concern David alone, to whom the speechs returns after a short digression concerning the people of Israel. And they may be rendered thus.
And I will cause thee to rest, … — More fully and perfectly than yet thou dost.
He will, … — For thy good intentions to make him an house, he will make thee an house, a sure house, that is, he will increase and uphold thy posterity, and continue thy kingdom in thy family.
Verse 12
[12] And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.
And when, … — When the time of thy life shall expire. This phrase implies, that his days shall be prolonged to the usual course of nature, and not cut off in the midst, by any violent or untimely death.
I will set — I will set up in thy throne, thy posterity, first Solomon, and then others successively, and at last the Messiah. So the following words may be understood, part of his posterity in general, part of Solomon, and part of Christ only, according to the different nature of the several passages.
Verse 13
[13] He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
He shall — This is meant literally of Solomon, who alone did build the material house or temple; but ultimately of Christ, who is the builder of God's spiritual house or temple.
For my name — That is, for my service, and glory.
For ever — This is not meant of Solomon, for his kingdom was not for ever. But it is to be understood of David's posterity, in general, and with special respect to Christ, in whose person the kingdom was to be lodged for ever.
Verse 14
[14] I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:
His father — I will carry myself towards him as a father, with all affection, and I will own him as my son. This is intended both of Solomon, as a type of Christ; and of Christ himself as is evident from Hebrews 1:5.
If he commit — This agrees only to Solomon and some others of David's posterity; but not to Christ, who never committed iniquity, as Solomon did, who therein was no type of Christ, and therefore this branch is terminated in Solomon; whereas in those things wherein Solomon was a type of Christ, the sense passes through Solomon to Christ.
Rod of men — With such rods as are gentle and moderate, and suited to man's weakness.

Psalm 89:20-37
Verse 22
[22] The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him.
Exact — Not conquer him or make him tributary.
Verse 25
[25] I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers.
Set — Establish his power and dominion.
The sea — The mid-land sea.
The rivers — Euphrates, called rivers, in regard of divers branches of it, and rivers which flow into it. So here is a description of the uttermost bounds of the promised land.
Verse 27
[27] Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.
My first-born — As he calls me father, verse 26, so I will make him my son, yea my first-born; who had divers privileges above other sons. This and the following passage in some sort agree to David, but are properly accomplished in Christ.
Higher — This also was in some sort accomplished in David, but more fully in the Messiah.
Verse 29
[29] His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.
For ever — To sit upon the throne for ever, as the next words explain it. This was accomplished only in Christ.
Verse 37
[37] It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. /*Selah*/.
A witness — The rainbow, which is God's faithful witness, a token of God's everlasting covenant between God and every living creature for perpetual generations, Genesis 9:12,16.

Ephesians 2:11-22
Verse 11
[11] Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
Wherefore remember — Such a remembrance strengthens faith, and increases gratitude.
That ye being formerly gentiles in the flesh — Neither circumcised in body nor in spirit. Who were accordingly called the uncircumcision - By way of reproach.
By that which is called the circumcision — By those who call themselves the circumcised, and think this a proof that they are the people of God; and who indeed have that outward circumcision which is performed by hands in the flesh.
Verse 12
[12] That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
Were at that time without Christ — Having no faith in, or knowledge of, him.
Being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel — Both as to their temporal privileges and spiritual blessings.
And strangers to the covenants of promise — The great promise in both the Jewish and Christian covenant was the Messiah.
Having no hope — Because they had no promise whereon to ground their hope. And being without God - Wholly ignorant of the true God, and so in effect atheists. Such in truth are, more or less, all men, in all ages, till they know God by the teaching of his own Spirit.
In the world — The wide, vain world, wherein ye wandered up and down, unholy and unhappy.
Verse 13
[13] But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
Far off — From God and his people.
Nigh — Intimately united to both.
Verse 14
[14] For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
For he is our peace — Not only as he purchased it, but as he is the very bond and centre of union.
He who hath made both — Jews and gentiles, one church. The apostle describes, 1. The conjunction of the gentiles with Israel, Ephesians 2:14,15. And, 2. The conjunction of both with God, Ephesians 2:15-18. Each description is subdivided into two parts. And the former part of the one, concerning abolishing the enmity, answers the former part of the other; the latter part of the one, concerning the evangelical decrees, the latter part of the other.
And hath broken down the middle wall of partition — Alluding to that wall of old, which separated the court of Israel from the court of the gentiles. Such a wall was the ceremonial law, which Christ had now taken away.
Verse 15
[15] Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
Having abolished by his suffering in the flesh the cause of enmity between the Jews and gentiles, even the law of ceremonial commandments, through his decrees - Which offer mercy to all; see Colossians 2:14.
That he might form the two — Jew and gentile.
Into one new man — one mystical body.
Verse 16
[16] And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
In one body — One church.
Having slain — By his own death on the cross.
The enmity — Which had been between sinners and God.
Verse 17
[17] And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
And he came — After his resurrection.
And preached peace — By his ministers and his Spirit.
To you — Gentiles.
That were afar off — At the utmost distance from God.
And to them that were nigh — To the Jews, who were comparatively nigh, being his visible church.
Verse 18
[18] For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
For through him, we both — Jews and gentiles.
Have access — Liberty of approaching, by the guidance and aid of one Spirit to God as our Father. Christ, the Spirit, and the Father, the three-one God, stand frequently in the same order.
Verse 19
[19] Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
Therefore ye are no longer strangers, but citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem; no longer foreigners, but received into the very family of God.
Verse 20
[20] And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets — As the foundation sustains the building, so the word of God, declared by the apostles and prophets, sustains the faith of all believers. God laid the foundation by them; but Christ himself is the chief corner-stone of the foundation. Elsewhere he is termed the foundation itself,1 Corinthians 3:11.
Verse 21
[21] In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
On whom all the building fitly framed together — The whole fabric of the universal church rises up like a great pile of living materials.
Into an holy temple in the Lord — Dedicated to Christ, and inhabited by him, in which he displays his presence, and is worshipped and glorified. What is the temple of Diana of the Ephesians, whom ye formerly worshipped, to this?

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Verse 30
[30] And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.
Luke 9:10.
Verse 31
[31] And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.
Matthew 14:13John 6:1.
Verse 32
[32] And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.
They departed — Across a creek or corner of the lake.
Verse 34
[34] And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.
Coming out — of the vessel.
Verse 53
[53] And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore.
Matthew 14:34John 6:21.
Upper Room Ministries, a ministry of Discipleship Ministries
PO Box 340004
Nashville, Tennessee 37203-0004 United States
Sermon Story "Really Listening & Understanding" by Gary Lee Parker for Sunday,  19 July 2015 with Scripture: 2 Samuel 7:1 After the king had been living in his palace awhile and Adonai had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, 2 the king said to Natan the prophet, “Here, I’m living in a cedar-wood palace; but the ark of God is kept in a tent!” 3 Natan said to the king, “Go, do everything that is in your heart, for Adonai is with you.”
4 But that same night the word of Adonai came to Natan: 5 “Go and tell my servant David that this is what Adonai says: ‘You are going to build me a house to live in? 6 Since the day I brought the people of Isra’el out of Egypt until today, I never lived in a house; rather, I traveled in a tent and a tabernacle. 7 Everywhere I traveled with all the people of Isra’el, did I ever speak a word to any of the tribes of Isra’el, whom I ordered to shepherd my people Isra’el, asking, “Why haven’t you built me a cedar-wood house?”’
8 “Therefore say this to my servant David that this is what Adonai-Tzva’ot says: ‘I took you from the sheep-yards, from following the sheep, to make you chief over my people, over Isra’el. 9 I have been with you wherever you went; I have destroyed all your enemies ahead of you; and I am making your reputation great, like the reputations of the greatest people on earth. 10 I will assign a place to my people Isra’el; I will plant them there, so that they can live in their own place without being disturbed any more. The wicked will no longer oppress them, as they did at the beginning, 11 and as they did from the time I ordered judges to be over my people Isra’el; instead, I will give you rest from all your enemies.
“‘Moreover, Adonai tells you that Adonai will make you a house. 12 When your days come to an end and you sleep with your ancestors, I will establish one of your descendants to succeed you, one of your own flesh and blood; and I will set up his rulership. 13 He will build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever. 14 I will be a father for him, and he will be a son for me. If he does something wrong, I will punish him with a rod and blows, just as everyone gets punished;
God has given King David and the Israelites victory over their enemies which came to rest for them and a beautiful house for David. As David was sitting there and enjoying his home, he had Nathan the Prophet in his chambers. David said to Nathan that he was living in a find home while the Ark of the Covenant was in a tent with Nathan responding that David should do waht he desires. During the night as often is the case, God spoke to Nathan to tell him what to say to David about the fact that he would not build a house for God. God told Nathan that David was taken from being a shepherd over sheep to ruling over God's people as well as telling Nathan to tell David that he brought the Israeites our of oppression to a land that is free and to worship God alone. Nathan told David all this that he would not be allowed to build  permanent house for God because his son would build one. Yes, David's Son, Solomon, did build a house for God where the Ak of the Covenant could have a more permanent home. Yet, God went on to say a prophecy that the Messiah or the son of God would come and build the house for God even while saying that when David died God would already have a house built for him. Yes, much of the prophecy was pointing to King Solomon, but in the fulfillment of the Messiah coming as Jesus, the prophecy was more fulfilled through Jesus. Yes, Jesus had no sin, but because He took the sins of the world upon Him, God had Him chastised with rods to make the world right from their sins. Yes, God did chastise Solomon for his sins by dividing the kingdom into two where his son only had two tribes of Israel to rule. Yet, Jesus in His chastisement with rods and his death on the cross, He set the world right and was raised from the dead to be the cornerstone of the Temple of Goe and all His people who worship only God and did what was right accarding to the Torah would be stones for the Temple of God made by God, not people. This story reminds me of our responsibility to come to Jesus and be redeemed by His blood and live Holy Lives by the power of the Holy Spirit to be God's witnesses of His Love for all people both Jews and Gentiles to be God's people throughout the earth as well as in Heaven. Yes, Jesus is building our home as we remain faithful and intimate to Him to love God fully, ourselves fully, and all other people fully as God loves us unconditionally. Yes, this passage may be used to build Houses of Worship to worship God in, but not only on one day of the week. Just maybe in the building of cities and towns in the United States the church building was not only used to worship God, but throughout the week as schools and community centwrs to bring people in the community to care for each other locally and beyond the local community. These 19th century buildings could have been an example of God building buildings for multipurposes not just place to worship God in a worship service. What characters do you relate to in this story or not relate to How do you understand a place of worship to be built for God worship? How will allow all people to worship God in their honorable way in your community? How do you understand the place in building Houses of worship to worship God and to build community in the community with other people of other faiths pointing to the One God? We come to realize that we have not always used our church buildings to build community within the surrounding community of others faiths coming to ask God's blessing as we repent of our sins against God and other people in taking the Body of Jesus and eith it the taking the Blood of Jesus and drinking it as we celebrate the Holy Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. We come to receive God's Grace and Blessing singing the Hymn or Song: "Loving God, Loving Each Other" by Reunited[Gaither Vocal Band]
Loving God, loving each other
making music with my friends
Loving God, loving each other
and the story never ends
They pushed back from the table to listen to His words
His secret plans before He had to go
It's not complicated; don't need a lot of rules
This is all you need to know
It's loving God, loving each other
making music with my friends
Loving God, loving each other
and the story never ends
we tend to make it harder build steeples out of stone
fill books with explanations of the way
but if we stop and listen and break a little bread
we would hear the master say
loving God loving each other
making music with my friends
loving God loving each other
and the story never ends
and the story never ends
Gary Lee Parker
4147 Idaho Street, Apt. 1
San Diego, California 92104-1844, United States

AH, WILDERNESS! by Paul L. Escamilla
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
The twelve disciples had been hard at work. It was the first recorded instance of their being without the physical presence of Jesus as they did ministry in his name—something we later disciples are accustomed to. They preached, they cast out demons, they anointed with oil those who were sick, they called people to wake up to God’s call and purpose for their lives.
Back with Jesus, they told him all about their experiences. Imagine it: six pairs of disciples. Six sets of stories. Six accounts of their time away. There must have been tender stories, hair-raising stories, heart-wrenching stories, funny stories. Children healed, adults shouting for joy, teenagers following them to the far outskirts of town, the curious and the quizzical plying them with question after question about this Jesus of Nazareth in whose name they had come.
All those people. All those problems. All that talking and preaching, anointing and praying, sun and heat and dust. We don’t know the full extent of their efforts, but of this we can be fairly certain: when they returned, they must have been tired. Small work, great work—it’s still tiring. Holding the door or holding the sacrament. Proofing the bulletin or preaching the sermon. Meeting in committee or ministering to the dying. Heat is exchanged, effort expended. Power goes out of you, and, like Jesus, you feel its departing.
Jesus apparently saw tiredness written all over their faces and responded. Come away for a while, he said, and rest. I know a place close by—just across the lake. A deserted place, the NRSV reads. A desert place. Otherwise translated “wilderness” or “desolate place.”
Some invitation! You’re tired, you’re spent, you’ve given everything you have. For relaxation and rejuvenation, why don’t we go out into the desert, fend off snakes and scorpions, get hot, hungry, and dehydrated, then crawl back home. Not exactly our idea of a good time, is it? At this stretch of the year, Lent is either behind us on the calendar, or way down the road, depending on how we prefer to look at austere things. We’d just as soon reserve the struggle in the desert for that gamey season. July is rugged enough without summoning even more wilderness.
Besides, even if, for some reason, wilderness is our idea of a good time, we’re way too busy to “come away for a while.” Jesus surely knows this better than anybody. Remember that Mark is the Gospel of urgency. Immediately is one of his favorite words. From the very first pages of this revved-up review of Jesus’ life, everything happens in a sprint. Immediately Jesus went.Immediately the Spirit drove him out. Immediately! What does the rabbi mean, “Come away for a while . . .”? We’ve got work to do— immediately!
The rabbi means just what he said. The rabbi means what he has learned from his teachers of old, all the way back to the teachings of Moses and the Sabbath commandment. The rabbi means what is still true today: that the heart is a lonely hunter. That is, a hunter for lonely, for quiet, for vacancy, for listening, for stillness, for rest. We do all we can sometimes to deny that urge, ignore it, drug it, cover it up, suppress the hunter instinct. We’re too busy for solitude, we say. We don’t have the personality for quiet time. We can’t afford the expense of going off somewhere to rest. We believe in praying as we work, staying in touch with God all through the day. No time for such extravagances as time apart.
To fortify the argument, Madison Avenue lends a hand, leading us to feel that every inch of time and space must be plastered with another sight or sound, another experience, another amusement, gadget, beverage, pill, or snack break. The church has its own way of blessing that message: hurry up and bring the kingdom, finish the work, fill up the pews and coffers, achieve megachurch status. There’s so much to be done. There are so many lives to be reached. Come away? In your dreams! Time’s a-wasting!
Meanwhile, the inner pursuit will not relent—the heart hunts for lonely. We’re good at multitasking, giving our attention to two or more activities at once. But the heart hunts for lonely. We pride ourselves on being busy, too busy.
But the heart hunts for lonely. We crowd our day planners and scheduling gadgets, fill idle seconds with cell phone calls or text messages. Aren’t we good? But the heart hunts for lonely. For quiet time, quiet space. There’s a place deep within us that, when the word vacancy is spoken, leans forward rather than pushes away. God has a secret waiting to whisper to those who yield to that forward-leaning and follow where it leads: the place we’re speaking of, the wilderness, is not what we think, but far better.
Henri Nouwen, no stranger to hard work over his lifetime, also knew something of the meaning of following the soul’s forward-leaning to the place of solitude. He once wrote that on the far side of the wilderness is a garden. The very word we translate in Mark as “a deserted place” is suggestive of the marvelous garden potential to be discovered in time apart. Ereimon can be translated “open country,” as if to say wilderness is the place from which new life embarks, new beginnings emerge, new dreams take hold; the place where we discover the new directions God wishes to lead us, gift us, bless us for the work. Wilderness is the place where anything becomes possible. Suddenly, the notion begins to hold certain appeal. Something inside begins to lean forward . . . Ah, wilderness!

WORSHIP CONNECTION: JULY 19, 2015 by Nancy C. Townley
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
COLOR: Green
SCRIPTURE READINGS: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a; Psalm 89:20-37; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Call to Worship #1
L: Come, out of your busy lives to a quiet time and place
P: Our souls thirst for some peace and quiet.
L: Come, and rest in the Lord who will restore your souls.
P: Our lives need moments of rest.
L: Come and find the quiet center. Come, be at peace.
P: Praise God who offers to us a shelter and resting place. AMEN.
Call to Worship #2
L: Welcome to worship this morning.
P: Even though it is summertime, our lives are crowded and rushed.
L: Come into this time of peace and quiet.
P: We need to rest in God’s word.
L: God’s love is with you. God will give you rest and refresh your souls.
P: Thanks be to God for this "break-away" time. AMEN.
Call to Worship #3
[Using THE FAITH WE SING, p. 2128 "Come and Find the Quiet Center", offer the following call to worship]
L: All around us are pressures, both for work and for leisure.
P: Even our meal times are rushed as we dash from one activity to another.
L: You need a time to rest and reflect on God’s word.
P: We need a place in which the sweetness of God’s love can be poured upon us.
L: Let us sing together of such a quiet place.
Cong: singing verse 1 of "Come and Find the Quiet Center"
L: Enter into the time of peace.
Call to Worship #4
L: God has called us to this place of peace and quiet.
P: We come, eager for rest and hope.
L: The Lord is always with us, offering us refreshment for our souls.
P: Let us partake of this wondrous gift.
L: It is the gift of the Lord’s love for us. Come and rest.
P: Praise God for the absolute compassion of God’s love. AMEN.
Lord, we gather here this morning with lives that are filled with activity and movement. We rush from one thing to another as though we are going to run out of time to accomplish everything. Help us to let go of the hectic times and the stresses and find our rest in you. Relax our spirits and refresh our souls. Remind us that there will always be things to do and places to go, but that we need the rest of spirit that you provide. AMEN.
Patient God, we wait all year for the summer months when we can rest and relax. Our schedules change from the demands of weekly living, to times which are supposed to be devoted to leisure. But we have redefined leisure to mean a flurry of activities. We need some time to rest, to sit quietly and listen to the beautiful sounds of the world. Forgive us when we are determined to crowd every moment of our lives with activity. Help us to find a quiet center with you where we can just relax and not try to get everything done as though life was some sort of a contest. Give us peace for a little while. Refresh our souls so that we can truly serve you, not out of exhaustion but out of enthusiasm. Be with us this day, for we ask these things in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.
God’s love awaits you. It has been lavished upon you as a gentle summer rain, refreshing your souls, opening your hearts, healing your wounds. Rest in God’s eternal love. AMEN.
God of peace and hope, we are a nation focused on activity. From every source of media we have opportunities to go and see and do a host of activities. They beckon us to come and have fun, there are activities for all ages. But one of the most necessary activities we neglect is our need for rest. We crowd each day, that has been given by you as a blessing, with busyness. We forget what it is like to sit and listen, to rest, to take time to reflect. Help us to find the quiet moments in which our souls can be made whole again. We know that there will always be much for us to do to serve you in this world, but if we keep up this hectic pace, we will be unable to accomplish anything. We have lifted before you this day names of dear ones for whom we have concern. We feel helpless to lift their burdens and their sorrows. Let us turn these concerns over to you, for you are the Master Healer who restores our souls. Help us to place our trust and our lives in your unending care. For we ask this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.
L: Come, find a time of peace.
P: We don’t think we have time. There are many demands on us.
L: Come, find a time of rest.
P: There is so much that we have to do, places to go, people to see, needs to be met.
L: Come, find a time of healing.
P: Our lives are fractured and bleeding. We give of ourselves and yet there is still much to be done.
L: Come, find a time of hope.
P: We can’t accomplish everything. Look around you. See how the cries of the world scream in our ears; how the hands of need reach out, pleading for our help.
L: You cannot serve if you do not rest. You need a time of quiet to re-gather your strength and spirits.
P: Lord, help us to slow down, even if it is for just a little while.
L: Come, find this place of peace. Let the spirit of God gently refresh and heal you.
P: We come and will find our rest in God’s steadfast love. AMEN.
You are God’s beloved people, refreshed, restored, forgiven and healed. Go now into this world confident in the gifts God has given you. Go to serve God’s people, bringing words of peace and hope to all whom you meet. AMEN.
The traditional color for this Sunday is GREEN.
Note: I recommend putting a brief paragraph describing or explaining the symbolism used in your visual display. These become good teaching tools for a congregation.
Note: This Sunday our scriptures abound with the need to rest in the Lord, grateful for all the blessings and to find some time when we can quietly reflect on the needs of the world.
SURFACE: Place 3 risers on the worship center: one centered and the other to the right and left of center, but not in a row with the center one or with each other. This should be a staggered arrangement. Place two risers in front of the worship center: one about 1 foot lower than the surface of the worship center, the about about 8" high. Again, they should be off center and not in a row.
FABRIC: The traditional color is green. Cover the entire worship center, including all the risers with green fabric - a good choice for this fabric would be a light lime color or a bluish green. Stay away from the bright "Kelly" greens - you want the color to reflect peacefulness. Using light blue silky fabric, beginning with the center riser, drape the fabric as though it was a stream flowing down across the worship center and puddling on the floor in front of the worship center.
CANDLES: Although candles are not necessary in this setting, you may use a few votive candles where you choose.
FLOWERS/FOLIAGE: Surround the back of the worship center with lush green foliage plants, such as ferns or soft-leaf tropical plants. Place ivy, ferns, and other leafy plants in front of the worship center, near the blue fabric. You may use small plants here and there in the worship center to accent the "lush garden" effect. If you wish, you may use some flowering plants, but I would discourage formal arrangements for this setting.
ROCKS/WOOD: Beautiful pieces of driftwood and rocks are effective at the base of the "puddle of blue fabric" , creating a pool effect. Keep these to a minimum.
OTHER: On the top riser you may want to place a cross or picture of Jesus.
"Come and find the quiet center" by Author: Shirley Erena Murray
1. Come and find the quiet center
     in the crowded life we lead,
          find the room for hope to enter,
               find the frame where we are freed:
clear the chaos and the clutter,
     clear our eyes, that we can see
          all the things that really matter,
               be at peace, and simply be.
2. Silence is a friend who claims us,
     cools the heat and slows the pace,
          God it is who speaks and names us,
               knows our being, touches base,
making space within our thinking,
     lifting shades to show the sun,
          raising courage when we're shrinking,
               finding scope for faith begun.
3. In the Spirit let us travel,
     open to each other's pain,
          let our loves and fears unravel,
               celebrate the space we gain:
there's a place for deepest dreaming,
     there's a time for heart to care,
          in the Spirit's lively scheming
               there is always room to spare!

WORSHIP FOR KIDS: JULY 19, 2015 by Carolyn C. Brown
From a Child's Point of View
Old Testament: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a. For scholars, this is a key Old Testament text which introduces a new theological theme. For children, it is a fascinating story about gifts. Older children, who enjoy catching the pun about "house" when it is explained, hear the text as a story about a contest of gifts: David offered a gift which God refused, and God then countered with a wonderful promise which reminded David of something he needed to remember: He had not become a great king on his own, for God had chosen him and worked through him. God was still God, and David was still human, even if he was king.
Literal thinkers have trouble with talk about where God lives, and they do not understand the significance of living in a tent rather than a temple. Furthermore, few children understand the intricacies of gifts with strings attached well enough to imagine the ways David might have used the gift-temple to "cage" God. So the royal politics of the story make little sense to them.
When the story is paired with the Gospel and Epistle lessons, children can appreciate the surprising way God kept his promise to David. A king who tirelessly healed and taught, and who died on a cross to make peace, was not the kind of king David would have expected.
Psalm: 89:20-37. If children are alerted to the fact that in this psalm God is speaking about David, and are urged to listen for what God does for David, they hear that God can be trusted and keeps promises. They find security in knowing that though God will punish when punishment is deserved, God continues to love and to keep promises.
Epistle: Ephesians 2:11-22. Elementary children define themselves by the classes, teams, clubs, and friendship groups to which they belong. They tend to focus on the exclusive nature of these groups, and quickly point out that only those who meet all the requirements, or have been properly initiated, belong. All others are outsiders and somehow "less." This distrust of those who are not part of "our" group may be extended to those of other racial, ethnic, and national groups.
Because of this, children are fascinated by the ruthless rules by which the Jews kept the Gentiles away, and they need to hear the writer's message that God is working to bring groups together. Just as Jews and Gentiles became friends in Christ, we are to look at the members of all other groups as potential friends in Christ. This work needs to be illustrated with everyday, specific examples.
Gospel: Mark 6:30-34, 53-56. These summary descriptions of Jesus' ministry show him compassionately teaching and healing the huge crowds who followed him. Because they are general rather than specific, they do not attract children's attention.
Watch Words
Speak of God's promise to David, rather than of the Davidic covenant.
Describe some of the language Jews used to exclude non-Jews:uncircumcised (circumcision was an operation for Jewish men and boys), Gentile, unclean. Compare these words to language used to belittle members of other racial and ethnic groups today.
Avoid reconciliation in favor of made friends with or made peace between.
Let the Children Sing
Sing a Christmas carol in July to celebrate the surprising way God kept the promise to David. "Once in Royal David's City" and "Joy to the World!" are best.
With open hymnals, study "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" during the sermon before singing it. It connects God's faithfulness to David with Christ's gift of peace. Since younger children learn the chorus first, define mercies and help them identify God's mercies to David and to them.
If the focus is on Christ's gift of peace, close with "Blest Be the Tie That Binds" or "In Christ There Is No East or West." Hold hands to emphasize the meaning of the hymn.
The Liturgical Child
1. If the focus is on God's promise to David, place a table-top tree or arrangement of greenery decorated with king-type Chrismons (star of David, crown, and so forth) in the chancel. During worship, explain how each ornament reminds us of both David and Jesus.
2. After a worship leader prays for each in a series of specific groups who need Christ's peace today, the congregation responds, "May your peace be with us and work through us, O Christ." For example:
Lord of all peoples, we know that there are refugees living in our town. We can only imagine how hard it must be to feel at home among people who speak a new language, eat different foods, and wear different clothes. Help us find ways to welcome them. (RESPONSE) Lord of love, we all know people who seem to have no friends. They are teased or ignored. They are the last chosen for any team, and their names never appear on lists for invitations. But we know that your peace is meant for them too. Teach us how to pass that peace to them. (RESPONSE)
3. If your congregation regularly passes the peace, this is a good day to highlight it and explain its meaning. Instruct worshipers to save one handshake or hug for passing Christ's peace to a person not in the sanctuary.
If your service does not include this ritual, instruct worshipers to introduce themselves to at least one person they do not know well as they leave the sanctuary. They might also say, "Go in peace," to each other as they part.
4. Expand on the traditional "Go in peace" benediction:
Go in peace. Christ is working for peace among people on the playing field, in the swimming pool, at the office, at home, and around the world. Your help is needed. Go in peace. Refuse to shut anyone out or cut any person down. Look for ways to help people get along together better. Love your enemies into friends. Go in peace. And remember that you do not go alone. Christ goes with you and works through you. Go in peace, and the peace of Christ that passes all understanding will be with you today and every day. Amen.
Sermon Resources
1. The Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes, tells how two older-elementary schoolgirls teased and belittled Wanda Petronski until she left school. But she left behind gifts which made the girls realize what they had done to an outsider.
2. Remind the congregation of the older man who lived next door in Home Alone. Children imagined terrible things about him. But as it turned out, he was the one who rescued Kevin and, with his help, was able to make peace with his own estranged family.
3. To explore God's promise to David, build the sermon around the surprising ways God keeps promises. Open the subject by describing a trip to the beach, during which a rainy night spent playing games in the motel room turns out to be the best part of the trip. Then describe what each of the following people expected and received from God's promise to them: Abraham (What kind of nation did he father?); the escaped slaves (What did it mean to be God's people?); David (What kind of king was his great descendent, King Jesus?).
Steps to Greatness
2 Samuel 7:1-14a
The best-selling book genre today is how-to books. These books are written to describe how you can successfully accomplish something: how to organize your life, become a millionaire in twelve months, start a successful home business, and on and on. Second Samuel 7 reveals how to become spiritually great in three simple steps.
This passage has been called the theological crux, the most important writing in the Samuel materials, and the summit of Deuteronomistic history. It confronts mistaken churchmanship with Yahweh’s magnificent Lordship. Through reflection, King David decided to construct a house for the ark of God that would be more appropriate than a tent. Nathan, the palace prophet, initially agreed that David had a good idea. Suddenly, however, the text calls David to a greater purpose. Three spiritual principles define God’s greater purpose and how you can find that purpose in your own life.
I. Accept the Call to a Greater Vision
The king desired to do something that was impossible. Yahweh’s question in verse 5 implies that David could not possibly build a house to contain God. The word “you” takes the emphasis away from the person and places it on the action. The king also desired something that Yahweh never desired, never requested. Yahweh made his position clear in verse 7; he had always walked with his people and had never asked for a dwelling place.
The destruction of the temple in later years may have occurred because it had not been required by God in the first place. Notice, however, that the house of David survived! This greater vision calls the people of God to walk with him dynamically; with holy lives in daily practice.
II. Accept the Call to a Greater Mission
Verses 8-10 describe David’s greatness in terms of what Yahweh had accomplished through him. Construction of the temple would have been a symbol of David’s ability and power: temporary, decaying, limited. God’s mission transcended human comprehension and ability.
Three statements in verses 9-10 detail Yahweh’s greater mission. Israel would experience the establishment of God’s abiding and guiding presence. David’s name would also be made great by the establishment of the Davidic dynasty through a long line of descendants. Those two elements would result in Israel’s being granted peace from her enemies.
A mission that transcends the physical and visible in programs, buildings, and budgets positions the church for a greater purpose. Called to become partners in God’s mission, the church has a global purpose with unfathomable possibilities.
III. Accept the Call to a Greater Blessing
What David knew God deserved, God would provide for himself: “Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house” (v. 11). The house of God was to be a place where the people of God would gather to celebrate the glory of God. In the meantime, David was privileged to experience the Lord in a personal, daily relationship.
Today’s church gathers, regularly but periodically, to corporately celebrate God’s presence. The greater blessing of the church throughout the age, however, is the indwelling presence of God. That presence is permanent, not periodic; dynamic, not symbolic. The greater blessing provides you and me with the privilege of God’s personalized presence.
As a result of the greater purposes of God, the people would come to celebrate in later years Yahweh’s leadership (v. 12) because of a greater vision; his adequacy (v. 13) because of a greater mission; and his mercy (v. 14) because of a greater blessing. Adopt these steps to greatness and move beyond a less than fulfilling spiritual experience. (Barry J. Beames)
Nothing but Gift
Ephesians 2:11-22
We live in something of an antiauthority age. Authority figures tend to be belittled, and even the very idea of authority finds little acceptance among many people in our day. Tell folks what they “should” do or “ought” to do, and you are likely to receive a questioning look, followed by a cynical, “Why?” While an earlier age could find some moral bearings in such exhortations, the loss of authority has cost many in our day their sense of moral identity. How do we know how to live?
We will not find easy material for oughts and shoulds in this corner of Ephesians. In fact, there is not an exhortation for miles around! Trying to get moral imperatives from these verses is like a dog trying to bite a basketball. Nevertheless, Paul wants us to understand that it is possible to find a moral compass. We can know how to live!
I. We Can Recognize What We Are
Paul wants us to understand that there is no need for “oughts” and “shoulds” when we truly recognize what we are and live true to our identity. Instead of telling us what we ought to be, this text announces what, by the grace of God, we are! In fact, the first three chapters of Ephesians are filled with such announcements of our identity: we are redeemed, we are adopted, we are forgiven; we are given revelation, inheritance, the Holy Spirit, aliveness, grace, kindness, peace, salvation, God’s indwelling.
II. We Can Remember What We Are
No exhortation for miles around? I was wrong. There is one, if you can call it an exhortation. It is this: Remember (v. 11). Remember who you are—and who you used to be (v. 12). The way the word remember comes together in Greek tells us something about how remembering works for the Christian. An-amnesis literally means “against-amnesia.” In other words, “avoid forgetting.”
In a culture that tends to borrow resources more from the future than from the past, we often place little value on the avoidance of forgetting, on remembering who we are and who we used to be. A poster on the wall at a local recreation center says it all. A young boy decked out with sunglasses leans against a beautiful European sports car, his arms folded in self-assurance. The caption reads: “I’ve worked hard all my life for this.”
Arms loaded down with every spiritual blessing, we are asked only one thing, seemingly a modest request: to remember from whom all of these blessings flow.
III. We Can Realize Whose We Are
God’s action in Christ of reconciliation, of peacemaking, of building and growing, leads to a culmination: that your life is “a dwelling place for God” (v. 22). A mystical image, perhaps hard to picture concretely, the idea hints at the very best part of the whole range of gifts enumerated here: God’s life with us.
So if we haven’t read it between the lines so far, the author makes it all clear now: the bestower of all these wonderful gifts has one further purpose in mind—to live with us forever! In such a way, the Giver becomes the ultimate, consummate Gift.
Ever hear anyone say, “I’m trying to get in touch with my true feelings”? God has taken us one step beyond. He has made it possible for us to get in touch with who we really are. And as we see ourselves for who we are, we will see God for who he is—and for all he has done for us! (Paul R. Escamilla)
Renewal, Believing, and Wholeness
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Have you noticed how people want instantaneous miracles these days? Ours is an instant-gratification culture. We want not just miracles, but instantaneous miracles. We want illnesses cured, and we pray for them to be cured now. We want financial difficulties relieved, and we buy lottery tickets in hope that all our difficulties will be relieved instantly. We want to lose weight, so we go on another miracle diet that promises us quick and permanent weight loss. We want what we want, and we want it now! Moreover, we want what we want to be bestowed on us with little or no effort on our own part.
These reflections on our instant-gratification society may seem a long way from the text about Jesus retreat to a lonely place and his response to people who came to him for healing. But the distance is much less than it seems. The text is divided into two sections. Together they tell us two important things about wholeness.
First, we see that Jesus understood the need for regular replenishment and renewal. When the disciples tell Jesus about their travels and teachings, they report that they were surrounded by crowds of people who wanted to be near them and to hear their words. Jesus knew the wear and tear of constantly being available to people. As important as such ministry is, even Jesus could not keep it up without time for renewal and replenishment. So he said to the disciples, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”
Throughout my ministry, I have struggled with my need to take time off. It is easy for us to reason that the ministry of the church, or the work at the office, or the volunteer program, or the community project will not get done if we take time off. Have we ever stopped to think that such a view of our indispensability is idolatrous—that we are so important that everything depends on us? And when we try to fulfill the impossible expectations we end up frustrated, or angry, or depressed, or disillusioned. Only then do we realize that we simply cannot meet all the expectations and care for all the needs.
If Jesus knew that he needed time for renewal, prayer, meditation, and refreshment, who are we to think we can continue to minister in his name without replenishment? We are, remember, the culture that has coined the term “workaholic.” How desperately we need to recover the practice of retreat, replenishment, spiritual nurture, and care of our souls. That’s the first thing this text tells us about wholeness: that we need to replenish the springs of our souls.
And the second thing is this: wholeness is not so much “dropped” on us out of the blue as it is a gift of God to those who believe that God can give it. The text tells us that once people recognized Jesus, they brought their sick to him to be made well. They believed that they would be made whole if they could simply touch the fringe of his cloak. And, “all who touched it were healed.”
Think of “healing” in as broad a sense as possible—as physical healing to be sure, but also as a restoration to wholeness. Think of it in terms of healing body, mind, and spirit, which represents wholeness. Think of it as healing the past, which frees persons from captivity to guilt and sin. Think of it as healing the psyche, which releases one from anxiety and restores one to a life of trust and confidence. Then ponder the faith of those who anticipated and expected healing if they could simply touch the fringe of Jesus cloak.
In the New Testament there is close correlation among the words healing, wholeness,and salvation. To be healed—physically, mentally, spiritually—is tantamount to being made whole; it is tantamount to being saved. And Christ is the giver of such healing, wholeness, and salvation to those who believe. But believing is not some kind of magical method of getting what we want from God. Rather, it is faith that Christ is the key that can open the door to allow the healing of mind, body, and spirit to come into our lives.
With such a strong connection among healing, wholeness, and salvation in the New Testament, we do well to remember that healing may not always be what we hope for. We may hope for physical healing, but the healing that comes may be strength of spirit and confidence of will to sustain us and see us through the difficulty of a physical illness.
In my first pastorate thirty-four years ago, there was a woman who suffered from severe physical injuries. She had been in a automobile accident years before, in which her husband had been killed and she had been critically injured. Many of her broken bones never knit back together again. She had to be lifted in and out of bed each day. In her last hospitalization, shortly before her death, I was praying with her, and I prayed that we would always know that God is present with us, whatever the circumstances. As I said “Amen,” she said, “He is! He is!” Physically she was never restored. But in every other way she was as whole a person as I ever knew.
I believe that Jesus knew something important about the ministry of wholeness, healing, and salvation. He knew that the caregiver must from time to time be replenished. And he knew that wholeness comes to those who, in faith, both expect it and leave its shape to God. If Jesus knew both these things about renewal, believing and wholeness, shouldn’t we take a cue from him? (J. Lawrence McCleskey)
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
COLOR: Green
SCRIPTURE READINGS: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a; Psalm 89:20-37; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
Call to Worship
L: The Lord has restored our fortunes.
P: Come, you thankful people, come; let us rejoice and be glad!
L: The Lord has brought us near, a people once far off.
P: Come, you thankful people, come; let us rejoice and be glad!
L: The Lord has reconciled us in one body through the cross.
P: Come, you thankful people, come; let us rejoice and be glad!
A: Now we all have access to God in one spirit; let us rejoice and be glad!
You, O Lord, are the Good Shepherd. Yet we drift like sheep without a shepherd. We pursue goals that demand too little of us, challenge too few of us, and threaten all of us. Deliver us from our aimless wanderings, O Lord, and lead us into paths of righteousness for your sake and ours.
L: As we come together, we are pushed by our desire for success and pulled by Christ's summons to service.
P: Help us, dear Lord, to resist the push for success.
L: We desire a life of ease and privilege.
P: Help us, dear Lord, to resist the push for success.
L: We covet the power of fame and wealth.
P: Help us, dear Lord, to resist the push for success.
L: Yet we also esteem the call to duty and charity.
P: Help us, dear Lord, to heed the pull of service.
L: We lament the rule of hate and jealousy.
P: Help us, dear Lord, to heed the pull of service.
L: Above all, we long to do your will on earth as in heaven.
A: Help us, dear Lord, to heed your summons in the spirit of Christ.
Prayer for One Voice
O God, your glory fills heaven and earth; your creation is greater than our powers to describe. We are your creatures; and you, our Creator. Who are we that you are mindful of us? The distance between us could not be bridged from our side to yours; so you bridged it from your side to ours. Despite our disregard for you, our contempt for your law, and our violation of your covenant, in Jesus Christ you took upon yourself our human frame. In him you assumed all the limits and braved all the risks of every person born of earth. In him you became a member of our family that we might become members of your family. In him you turned our adoring eyes from the majesty of creation to the love of the Creator. For this, the mightiest of all your mighty acts, we worship you.
We thank you, dear Lord, that in Jesus you rejected our low opinion of human nature: for laying bare our preference for crowns over crosses; and for exposing our habit of sacrificing the joy of eternity for the pleasure of the moment. When we behold ourselves in him, we cannot but exclaim that you have made us little less than God and crowned us with glory and honor.
But when we look away from him to ourselves, we behold a very different creature. We see a king shamelessly pursuing his ambition, ignoring the traditions of his people, to build a great temple. We discover that the enemy we most have to fear is the enemy within: that in our hearts there lurks a breaker of all those commandments designed to protect our neighbors from ourselves. The sight of this demon disgusts us, but we do not have to surrender to its power. Help us, dear Lord, so to fix our hearts upon Christ, that the good we would, we do; and the evil we would not, we do not.
O God, our towns are full of people like the crowds that flocked to Jesus—sheep without a shepherd. Yet we know to which flock they belong, for we know who their shepherd is. Lead us to them, that we might lead them to you: that we and they might become one flock; that you might be the Good Shepherd of us all; and that, with singleness of mind and purity of heart, we might heed your voice.
O God, who longs to continue in us the work begun in Jesus, let us who have been reconciled by Christ become reconcilers for Christ. Send us who have found peace in God's house to make peace in God's world.
Adapted from "Litanies and Other Prayers," Copyright © Abingdon Press

Ministry Matters
2222 Rosa L. Parks Boulvard

Nashville, Tennessee 37228 United States

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