November 2018

“Teacher, we want you to do whatever we ask of you.” (Mark 10:35b) In the
Gospel of Mark, the Disciples are portrayed as an especially challenged
group of people. They seem to misunderstand a lot about Jesus, about
God, and our faith. In Mark 9:33-37 they show their competitive side as they
argue over who is the greatest among them, and even after this discussion
and the clear response of Jesus, in Mark 10:32-34, James and John, sons of
Zebedee come to ask that they might occupy positions of great honor
alongside Jesus. The disciples just don’t get it. They compete; they argue a
lot. And yet God is at work with them, and they grow to set the foundation
for our lives in faith and all the countless generations that followed. And
God c an be at work in us too.
Jesus also warns the disciples that the road or journey of discipleship is not
easy. It is worthwhile, the most worthwhile or best life we can put ourselves
to. The conflict that is revealed throughout the Bible (and there is a ton of
conflict) shows us that while we want to work together and to love each
other as God loves us all, we cannot avoid conflict. A good church is not
one that avoids or doesn’t have any conflict, but one that learns how to
process it faithfully. When we hide it, we risk suppressing it in unhealthy ways
that prevents growth, and it is likely to surface later in the worst ways. When
we trust God, trust the growth of God’s love in our hearts, and learn to trust
one another, it means that there will be conflict that we work out together
i n God’s guidance.
Among gifted, intelligent, diverse people who are passionate about receiving
God’s love and serving God, we will often see things differently. We can
work out and work through those differences to see a more complete picture,
developing deeper understanding together. Our world today seems so
fractured. Difficulties and challenges cannot prevent us from living our faith.
They certainly will not prevent God from being faithful with us. Such is the
witness of the cross and those sons of Zebedee. When challenges come, it
can be helpful to remember that they are often a sign of movement and
transformation.
As we approach a time of year in November of consecration in our dedication
and commitments to Christ through Time & Talent, and our Financial
giving, we know we all face many challenges, with many of the greatest
ones being the ones in our own hearts. We can’t be afraid of change and
transformation; or, like so many people today, even fear success because
we are too happy with what is comfortable, known, and under our control.
With Christ, we step out in faith. Please take a look at our list of ministries and
consider how God is calling you to serve in 2019. While on vacation, I was
finally able to read several books I’ve had and only skimmed through. In the
book, The God-Shaped Brain, I read a quote, “Love has nothing to do with
what you get; It’s what you are expected to give – which is (that means)
everything. – Anonymous

I thought of how Jesus took the misfit band of disciples and called them friends, partners in ministry (John 15:14-15). Jesus went further and taught that the bad actions we do are symptoms of the problems. We have often created a system designed to treat the symptom rather than the real problem. We have misdiagnosed our greater, or great-est problem. It is the fearful and selfish heart that is at the root of our sins. We need to accept God’s remedy for the underlying illness; our hearts and minds need to be healed by God’s love. Instead of seeking simply to have our mis-deeds pardoned and our sins appeased, we must allow God’s love to take control of our lives. We don’t earn our way to heaven; our faith is not a business transaction. Instead of filling our lives with lots of actions that only run us around in circles, we need to get closer to God in effective ways. “Friendship consists in forgetting what one gives, and remembering what one receives. – Alexandre Dumas Pere I pray that the month ahead is a time of deep renewal for us all, when we accept anew the great gift God has entrusted to us by faith. As Jesus entrusts us with his friendship, may we give him ours in return. – Tim