What the Cross Means to Me

31 01 2014

By Cathy Loving, Heritage and Visitor Services

Worshipers path

Cross on the Worshiper’s Path

Several years ago I met Susan, a woman struggling with life. She began coming to the Community of Christ Temple in Independence, Missouri, seeking God. I don’t think she knew what that was or meant. But Susan felt something drawing her each time she approached the building, passing by the large metal cross near the entrance.

When Susan began visiting the Temple, she was physically bent with downcast eyes. She looked to be carrying life’s heavy burdens. The first several months Susan came, she prayed only in the Meditation Chapel. Then she began praying at the cross on the Worshiper’s Path. Her encounter with the Holy Spirit was slow and uncertain. She often told me she did not feel worthy to be in the Temple, but she came because she felt at peace there.

As months passed, Susan’s tentative steps led her up the path toward the Temple Sanctuary…and, I would like to think, to God’s accepting love. She found an inviting Spirit during her visits. I saw her bloom and grow. She would smile, stand erect, and overflow with joy, anticipating how God was going to bless her that day.

Because of Susan and other guests, I often receive unexpected blessings and new perspectives of what the cross means to me. Our guests unknowingly cause me to rethink its meaning.

Negative emotions are connected to the cross. History tells of intense torture and pain. I saw that pain in Susan and realized that I, too, have had moments when I experienced life’s torment. I sometimes allowed the cross to weigh me down with fear and helplessness.

It took Susan to remind me of the hope of the cross, and how hope brings unexpected blessings. I looked forward to her smiling face, filled with new life. Those were moments when she taught me to let go of life’s burdens and let God in.

Since my encounters with Susan, I have been taught other lessons emanating from the cross. Indigent guests often visit the Temple. I try to be open to them and strive not to judge them for their choices. I remember that Jesus died on the cross because others judged him. I don’t wish to place anyone on the cross because I wrongly judged. I try to value the specialness and worth of each person entering the Temple. Sometimes that is not easy.

The cross also reminds me to forgive. Jesus forgave those who accused him. When I am busy and overwhelmed it can be a struggle to openly listen to demanding guests with a forgiving heart.

I see the cross and daily find hope, acceptance, and healing. It challenges me to understand where my faith journey is taking me. I am thankful for all the Susans and others who enrich my journey and teach me what the cross represents. I wonder who will cross my path today…

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If You Feed Them…

29 01 2014

By Jan Quick, Rich Hill, Missouri, USA

Our Rich Hill Congregation had prayed earnestly for ways to share Jesus Christ in our small Missouri community and for people who would join our worship experience.

Each Wednesday, we enjoy a potluck meal, share how God has blessed us, and pray for each other’s needs and concerns.

About seven years ago, the two youth members in our small group each brought a friend to our Wednesday-night activity. The following week the two friends returned, and each of them brought a friend. Our youth attendance began to grow.

With only four or five ladies in our congregation able to bring food to share, it sometimes has been a challenge to meet this ongoing need. But it’s a challenge we joyfully pick up because things have begun to happen in the lives of the young people.

We share Bible stories, sing hymns, and have activities that demonstrate who Jesus is and how he wants to be a friend to each of us.

Some youth, who had never been to church before, began to share concerns. They found we would pray for the parent who had lost a job, a grandmother who was coping with cancer, and other burdens.

Success stories began to come in. “My dad got a job.” “Grandmother is doing better.” They share their lives, and we see Christ shining in their faces.

Now each Wednesday we eagerly wonder what opportunities will come through our doors.

 





Made with Love

27 01 2014

by Sue Dillon, Land O’ Lakes, Florida USA

Made with Love

Made with Love

Our church building sits a block from Angels Unaware, which serves mentally and physically challenged adults.

Even before we moved into our building about 10 years ago, our congregation’s women had helped Angels Unaware in various ways. We adopt them each Christmas, giving each client four to five gifts and supplying larger items for the kitchen and living room. Sometimes we take refreshments and sing for them. Though most don’t speak, they show their joy and love of music by smiling and rocking to the rhythm.

The first time we were there, I noticed the clothing protectors (adult bibs) were dingy and worn out, so I made a dozen from hand towels.

Those in charge were very happy to receive them. Recently I mentioned to our pastor that I was getting ready to make some more. She suggested I get our ladies to help. I said, “OK,” but most don’t sew.

Finally, I decided to have them cut the necklines and pin on the bias tape.

We worked on them for several hours one Saturday morning. During this time we also enjoyed visiting with one another. The rest were finished at home. When they were done, we had 38—each made with love.

For More Information
If any other congregations would be interested in a similar project, contact me Sue Dillon at suesews2@verizon.net. She will send a pattern and instructions.





Receiving Peace from a Turtle

24 01 2014

Re-blogged from: Proclaim Peace http://proclaimpeace.blogspot.com/2013/09/aloha.html) and the Young Adult Blog (www.CofChrist.org/ya)

By Seth Bryant, US Navy chaplain

image by Jack Martin

image by Jack Martin

Jenn and I went to Oahu, Hawaii, sans kids, for an overdue 10th anniversary and second honeymoon.
We had an amazing experience. As someone who loves to snorkel, I felt like Oahu was heaven. While Jenn sunbathed on the beach, I spent almost all my time in the water. The diversity of fish, and their vibrant colors amazed me.

While floating in the blue waters of a bay at North Shore, something large came into view. Snorkeling can be relaxing, exciting, and at times, terrifying—like when a wave threatens to throw you onto rocks, or when a big unknown mass comes swimming your way. In the back of my mind, the “Jaws” music is always queued up for when something large materializes (usually another snorkeler). As I made out the shape, my fear melted away. I realized it was a massive sea turtle.

I expected the turtle to swim away, but it didn’t seem bothered by me. Instead, the turtle seemed like it was inviting me to follow. Precious seconds turned into minutes as the turtle slowly led me on a tour of the coral, plants, and fish.

At one point, with the turtle floating directly below me, a large wave crashed over us. I fought against it. The turtle seemed startled by my ungraceful movements. It looked me in the eyes, as if to say, “Don’t fight the waves.”

As I later told Jenn, “It was like the turtle was speaking to me. Like he had something to tell me.” Jenn asked, “Well, what did he tell you?” I paused, and then it was quite clear. “He told me, ‘Aloha. Be at peace.’”

Commonly used to say hello or good-bye, aloha means so much more: peace, mercy, compassion, love. Visiting the islands taught me that it’s a way of life, a way of being—like the idea of shalom.

The turtle was both my guide and messenger in a holy place. I felt like I better understood the experience in Isaiah 6, even if just a little. After about 10 minutes, another snorkeler swam up, scaring away the turtle. So I swam back to Jenn, without words to adequately describe the experience or convey how it transformed me.





The Offering Envelope: The Church Responds

22 01 2014

By Jim Poirier, Presiding Bishopric

Jim Poirier, Presiding Bishopric

Jim Poirier, Presiding Bishopric

I remember that when I was a young child, on Sunday mornings my parents would retrieve an envelope from a special box and place some money inside. The box resided next to my mother’s jewelry box. On the envelope were a number and a date. My father said the number was our family number, so there was no need to fill in our name.

We would take this envelope to church and give it to God at the weekly worship service. My father would fold the envelope in half to conceal the amount inside. He said that was between us and God.

My sister and I would have the honor, on alternate Sundays, of placing the envelope in a basket passed through the congregation during the “collection.” (See Paul’s instruction to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 16:1–4).

The envelope contained only two boxes to check: one for the church and one for missions around the world. The baskets were filled to capacity. Ushers then placed them at the altar. There, a minister offered them to God in a prayer of blessing.

I remember feeling part of a community that shared and prayed together. That was many years ago in a different denomination. However, the same spirit of community envelops me today at the part of the service Community of Christ calls A Disciple’s Generous Response, or DGR.

Community of Christ also provides envelopes to members wishing to support the mission of Christ to everyone from very young children to adults. Children receive a special envelope featuring Jack and Jenn, the stars from the Jack and Jenn video series (www.CofChrist.org/jackandjenn). The envelopes are a bit different than the ones I remember from my childhood. There is still a number on the envelope that identifies the member. And there is a date. The similarities end there.

Our envelope has a title, “Mission Tithes.” This means that whatever we give called tithes is given to “mission.” The word tithes provides a connection to Old Testament times when followers of Yahweh (God) brought their first fruits—the first and best of their labors—to the altar and offered them to God.

Community of Christ follows that same tradition of giving first to God. The word mission aligns our giving with the mission of Christ in Luke, chapter 4. We refer to these as the Mission Initiatives. These initiatives are printed on the reverse side of the envelope. We are reminded there, as Christ reminded his disciples, that Christ’s mission is our mission, as well.

As has been our custom for many years, the envelope’s left side has two sections, one for local ministries and one for mission center ministries. This provides you with the opportunity to support ministries at the congregation and mission center levels.

The right side of the envelope supports worldwide ministries, or the mission of Christ around the world. These range from ministries in your community to communities in parts of the world where the church has a presence and is funded by a budget approved by the World Church Finance Board (a body of elected representatives from around the world).

This board approves the budget of the worldwide church in a form that aligns funding with Mission Initiatives. There is a space entitled “use where needed most” where you give leaders permission to place your offering among the five initiatives where there is the most need.

Recent words of counsel again remind the church about the urgent need to support both local and worldwide ministries:

“Continue to align your priorities with local and worldwide church efforts to move the initiatives forward” and to “free the full capacity of Christ’s mission through generosity that imitates God’s generosity.”

Without the generous response of members and friends to both local and worldwide ministries, mission cannot go forward.

As I placed the envelope in the basket so many years ago, I was participating in a community that supported the worldwide ministries of Christ. Today Community of Christ does the same by upholding the mission of Christ through this community and around the world. It is all done by the simple act of placing our first fruits in an envelope that reminds us of this mission week after week.

The call to respond is urgent. Look to the needs of your own congregations, but look also beyond your walls to the far-flung places where the church must go. Each disciple needs a spiritual home. You are called to build that home and care for it, but also to share equally in the outreaching ministries of the church. In that way the gospel may be sent to other souls also yearning for a spiritual resting place. —Doctrine and Covenants 162:7d





Praying the Worshiper’s Path

20 01 2014

By Kathy Shockley, Independence, Missouri, USA

tree on Worshiper's Path

tree on Worshiper’s Path

Just past the cross along the path, the worshiper comes to a tree. It is artfully stylized, fashioned from rods and wire, accented with colorful metallic leaves. The shape of its branches suggests they are blowing in the wind, bringing to mind Christ’s teaching to Nicodemus about the blowing wind as symbolic of the Spirit’s movement.

Throughout history trees have played roles in the secular and sacred worlds. They feed and shelter us. They have been objects of worship and sources of myth. Trees populate the entire Bible, from their creation in chapter one of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation, whose tree of life has leaves for the healing of nations.

This common part of creation has much to teach us. Paul reminds us:

By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of [God’s] divine being. —Romans 1:20, The Message

An example of the transforming possibilities of taking a long, thoughtful look at a piece of creation is found in the story of Brother Lawrence. In the 17th century a young footman was regarding the winter-bare branches of a tree. He thought about how in a short time the leaves would be renewed, and then the flowers and fruit would appear. In that moment the Spirit “blew” into his life, and he received a powerful sense of the providence and power of God. With that sense came an all-consuming love for God.

He joined a monastery shortly after this experience, taking the name Brother Lawrence and spending the next 40-plus years striving always to practice the presence of God and act solely out of love for God. More than 300 years later, his story continues to inspire and challenge us, all from taking time to contemplate a tree.

The tree on the Worshiper’s Path with the Spirit blowing through its branches invites us to meditate on trees for ourselves. It invites us to grow increasingly aware of the Spirit blowing through our lives.
As a personal meditation, choose a tree to observe. As the wind moves through its branches, imagine the tree as a reflection of the Holy Spirit moving through you.

Connect with the tree, feeling its bark. If you wish, wrap your arms around the trunk and try to feel its life force with your own.

What aspects of God does the tree reveal to you? What other elements of creation speak to you? How can creation’s voices call you into a more continual awareness of God’s presence?

All of creation speaks of the God who created it. May our hearts and minds be opened a little more each day through the testimony of the objects of God’s creation.





Community: I Need It, and It Needs Me

18 01 2014

By John Bonney, Springfield, Oregon, USA

This is an excerpt from one of the entries appearing each day in the Daily Bread blog. Visit http://CofChristDailyBread.wordpress.com to subscribe for free.

Be patient with one another, for creating sacred community is arduous and even painful. But it is to loving community such as this that each is called. Be courageous and visionary, believing in the power of just a few vibrant witnesses to transform the world. —Doctrine and Covenants 161:3c

Even in the smallest congregations of Community of Christ, I have found a kernel of mission—Christ’s mission.

I have been with Community of Christ more than 50 years. The several congregations I belonged to over the years had their ups and downs, and I had mine. But I always felt accepted and a part of the church. The community allowed me to be who I was. It encouraged and supported me in my humanness; and sometimes I even believed I was contributing something worthwhile.

People may not always have agreed with what I said, but they did not stop me from saying it. I remember a few years ago, when I was in a vocally robust stage, one of our dear, elderly women said after my sermon, “Oh John, I can always hear everything you say. And sometimes I even agree with you!” I had to laugh.

Here, in this faith community, I have a place. I am able to speak, teach, counsel, guide, and, of course, learn. I have a venue for expression. For my personal and corporate worship, I am delighted when I hear well-thought-out scripture reflection from the pulpit. I am uplifted when I feel the Spirit in worship.

That it does not happen every time doesn’t bother me. I see people trying, as they are clothed in the love born from their sharing. How can I not love them and accept their offering?

I am there with our people as much as possible simply because they need me, and I need them. We come together for companionship, love, and to gather strength for the mission. I praise God for my faith community.