When God Sets the Table

26 05 2014

By Kathy Sharp, Bothell, Washington, USA

My closest friends and family know I’m lousy at hosting dinners and table fellowship. The older I get, the less confident and proficient I become. Lack of practice, I guess.

Recently, the Spirit made clear how vital it is for followers of Jesus always to offer hospitality. Here’s the good news: I don’t have to be the host. God already is setting tables through other people. Like the parable of the wedding banquet (Matthew 22:1–14) my (our) job is to recognize God’s invitation and show up at the table!

For five years I’ve represented Community of Christ on the board of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, an ecumenical group “grounded in faith and working for justice.” I also inherited a strong relationship with Seattle University, a Catholic school with an ecumenical seminary. As I struggle to keep up with my Community of Christ responsibilities, I often ask, “Is ecumenical work where God wants me to spend part of my time? Am I serving my own people best when I invest in the faith-filled efforts of others?”

The answer came in 2013. Through my friendships on the Church Council and Seattle University, I joined a long-term dialogue among Christian and Muslim clergy members. This group of about 10 worships together and respectfully shares the basics of our faith traditions.

We hope to form trusted friendships. If trouble comes someday between our faith communities, we’ll be ready to stand together to promote God’s peace and sanctuary.

Within a month, Sanaa Joy Carey, a Muslim, invited me to bring a Christian perspective to an interfaith panel at her mosque’s Iftar dinner. Iftar is the Ramadan evening meal eaten together to break fast as a community at sunset.

The dinner’s theme, “Being Human,” sought commonalities and differences among our faith traditions. I used the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37) to illustrate Jesus’ challenge to expand our definition of neighbor to all people. More than 300 people attended.

Meanwhile, Church Council staff members asked if they could lease part of our Rainier Valley Community of Christ building. They wanted to move their offices into a diverse neighborhood. They said our church is in the most diverse zip code in the nation! They also appreciated the relaxed fellowship, hospitality, and consistent “showing up” by Community of Christ members.

Just months earlier, congregation members had discovered building decay that threatened to overwhelm them financially. They desperately needed a tenant. The Church Council’s presence brings hopeful energy. The council’s open house drew 100 people to celebrate and worship together, most for the first time.

God is setting tables everywhere. God invites us to join with interfaith partners. Opportunities abound to build stronger bonds as the body of Christ and to work together with people of faith to pursue peace, justice, fellowship, mission, and inter-religious friendships.

Sometimes, we are faithful simply by saying yes and showing up at God’s banquet, already prepared by other hosts.

Helping to Pursue Peace

26 03 2014
Chaplain Ken Stobaugh discusses the unique cross  in the Temple with a visitor.

Chaplain Ken Stobaugh discusses the unique cross
in the Temple with a visitor.

By Ken Stobaugh,
Independence, Missouri, USA

Being a chaplain at International Headquarters is challenging and most rewarding. Several faithful ministers, charged with being a presence, fill this need.

At times we express this presence by visiting offices in the Temple and Auditorium. Other times we are called to meet the needs of those who come to headquarters for a friendly ear or the sacrament of laying on of hands for the sick.

Recently a woman and her husband came to the Temple. She felt deeply in need of administration. We spent time sharing, followed by a rich experience through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes the chaplain accompanies guided tours. This is to help answer questions without interrupting the flow of the tour. Such questions may address doctrine, history, or the architecture and construction of the Temple.

The Temple holds two notebooks, one at the top of the Worshiper’s Path, the other in the Meditation Chapel. People can write down concerns. Chaplains check these entries each day and offer prayers.
The chaplains are faithful to their mission statement:

The Temple Chaplaincy is a ministerial witness of Jesus Christ—providing the ministry of presence, pastoral care, and counsel for headquarters complex visitors and staff. Chaplaincy ministries are focused on the divine call to peace; affirming that life is sacred, that it is affirmed only when all persons are acknowledged as worthwhile and loved.

Those who serve help to Pursue Peace on Earth.

“How Will You Show My Love?”

21 03 2014

By Abby Nowiski
Lansing, Michigan, USA

I have often referred to Luke 10:27 as a summary of my beliefs and my duty as a Christian. In this scripture Jesus tells us that to inherit eternal life we must love God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind and our neighbor as ourselves.

Until recently I hadn’t realized the true challenge lies in Luke 10:29 (NRSV), when a lawyer, “wanting to justify himself,” asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In the small Michigan town where I grew up, my neighbors looked mostly like I look and had beliefs mostly like mine. My perceptions were challenged a few years ago, when my husband and I moved to Memphis, Tennessee, so I could earn a master’s degree.

We moved into an apartment near the university in what was once the zip code with the city’s highest crime rate. It seemed that everywhere people looked different, talked differently, were less educated, and had values different from my own.

One day I decided to walk to the bank. I walked past a pawn shop and a liquor store with bars on the windows. A man greeted me and asked if I wanted to have lunch. I smiled, said no, and kept walking, perhaps more quickly.

I never found the bank, and eventually the heat persuaded me to head home. I realized I was too faint to make it without stopping for water. I reluctantly walked into the liquor store and saw the man I had ignored earlier.

He greeted me again, gave me his seat in front of a fan, and handed me a bottle of water and half of his sandwich. We shared a meal after I earlier had determined he was not worth joining for lunch. We talked until we were kicked out for loitering.

I met a new neighbor that day, a kind man with good intentions. I had assumed he had nothing good to offer me, and he ended up filling my need for food and water. More importantly, he taught me a lesson I will never forget.

Until I met Deion, I had justified myself by defining my neighbors as people like me. It became apparent that I sometimes valued people based on education, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or status.

Those who were not in my neighbor box were people to be feared, or helped—not loved. When those boundaries were removed, I experienced the true power of God’s love through my neighbor.

As I begin to open my eyes to the worth of God’s people everywhere, I often hear God whisper, “She is your neighbor; how will you show my love to her?”

Uniform of Invisibility

24 02 2014

By Karen Brown, Blue Springs, Missouri, 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.

I went back to college recently to enable a career change. I spend most of my time in one building, and I often cross paths with a housekeeping staff person named Rosemary. I always smile when I see her, but I became aware other students ignore her.

I thought it must be lonely to work in a place where no one even acknowledges your presence. I, too, have experienced that to some extent, being older than most students.

I introduced myself to Rosemary and began speaking to her whenever I saw her. That seemed to cause a transformation. She went from avoiding eye contact to her face lighting up. Then she began starting conversations with me. At first we just engaged in “small talk” such as the weather. Now we share more about our families and challenges in our lives.

One time I was going to class with another student, and I stopped to talk to Rosemary. When I caught up, the other student asked what I was doing. I said, “I wanted to talk to Rosemary.” She said, “Do you know her?” I said, “Yeah, Rosemary’s my friend.”

Many times I have failed to respond appropriately in similar situations, but I’m glad I had the courage to speak to Rosemary and then say she was my friend. All people matter to God, no matter what their job or life circumstance. Every person should matter to us. Treating others with love, kindness, and respect—wherever we happen to be or whatever the uniform—is what Christ did and would do today. He expects the same from us. Can you make a difference today to a person made invisible by their position?

Join the Online, Interactive President’s Address April 6

19 02 2014

By Kendra Friend, Integrated Communications

The studio in the Temple will buzz with activity during President Steve Veazey’s address in April.

The studio in the Temple will buzz with activity during President Steve Veazey’s address in April.

Opportunities to come together as a worldwide church through the Internet continue to grow. On April 6 we will take advantage of this with an online-only, interactive event. President Steve Veazey will share a live webcast address with the worldwide church. Afterward, he will take your questions live through e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook.

During his address, President Veazey will take us deeper into the words of counsel given at the 2013 World Conference, focusing on the first six paragraphs. Prepare by studying and reflecting on this portion of the words of counsel found in the May 2013 Herald and http://www.CofChrist.org/presidency/041413wordsofcounsel for video and text.

During the live question-and-answer session following his talk, you can e-mail questions to AskSteveVeazey@CofChrist.org or post them on Facebook or Twitter with #AskSteveVeazey. You don’t have to wait for the live event to send your questions. Feel free to send or post them early to get them into the queue. He will answer as many as possible during the live event.

The April 6 President’s Address is one of two interactive, webcast-only addresses President Veazey will make in 2014. The second will be October 5. Both will be webcast live at http://www.CofChrist.org in English, French, and Spanish.

Find the webcast time for the April 6 event and other details on how to receive a live webcast at http://www.CofChrist.org/broadcast/upcoming.asp.

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.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

25 11 2013

By Paula Rummel,
Health Ministries Association

I find myself reflecting on times and places that have molded who I am. Last week my husband, Gary, and I spent a week traveling to historic sites and to our own genealogic sites.

Paula Rummel

Paula Rummel

Some locations had markers and memorials so we could remember the events and those who had given their lives for a cause that they believed. Other places helped shape the core of who we are as individuals and what we value.

Locations maintaining the appearance of history-making days helped us understand why and how events unfolded, changing countless lives. Discovering details about our ancestors and how they lived helped enlighten us about the foundation for our personal values and beliefs.

Memorials, tangible and intangible, enrich our lives. Finding John Blumenschein’s grave in Honduras last year made his health-care dream for Central America become more alive to me. I go to Honduras because of the love of these people that he and his wife, Marion, inspired in me when I was 8 years old.

We will never know the impact or how far-reaching the actions of our lives will be. While my ancestors lived in a time of limited contact with the world, I want my life to impact places I will never see and people I will never meet.

I want my life to reflect God’s guiding hand, a recognition that all persons have worth with activities that address the basic needs of hunger and health and a genuine appreciation for those who have blazed the trails I follow!

Hello from Zambia!

27 10 2013

By Matthew Waite, World Service Corps

Matthew Waite, World Service Corps

Matthew Waite, World Service Corps

I’ve been learning a lot while I’ve been here, not only about the culture in Africa but about the depth of Community of Christ, our worldwide mission, and myself.

Below are the top 10 things I’ve learned so far:

10.    Doing laundry by hand is much harder and more time consuming than you would think. I’m not sure if any of my clothes are even clean at this point. I’m also a bit embarrassed to say that I never realized those wooden things at my grandparents’ house called “clothespins” are actually used to hold your clothes on a line. There are few things as frustrating as putting your wet clothes on the line and having them blow off and land in the dirt before you can pin them up.

9.    Taking handfuls of water from a bucket to shower is very difficult. I’ve found it best to splash some water on, soap up, and then attempt to rinse it off.

8.    Always know where your flashlight is and be able to find it when (not if) the electricity goes out.

7.    Get used to being stared at. You’re the only white person most people have ever seen.

6.    When asked to do something, just say yes. Thanks to this, I joined an awesome choir and learned how to carry things on my head. I started by practicing with five-gallon buckets of water. Once I proved myself fit, I was able to carry 150 baby chicks over two miles to my host parents’ farm!

5.    African hospitality is unlike any other. I took a 20-minute walk with my partner to escort his cousin home one night. When we got to her house, she turned around and walked halfway back with us to “see us home.” Why we didn’t both just walk halfway I don’t know.

4.    Always read the theme and scriptures and prepare a couple of thoughts before the Sunday service. Don’t be surprised if 3½ hours into the service your translator tells you, “It’s time for the sermon, and they want you to give it,” even though no one told you beforehand you would be speaking.

3.    Get over being afraid of bugs. There will be roaches, spiders, and more flies than you can count everywhere (including in your food). I’ve found it best to cowboy up, brush them off, and move on.

2.    Thank God for PowerBars. Boiled chicken legs (and I don’t mean drumsticks; the actual scaly legs) are much less filling than you would think.

1.    When things get tough, and they will, the power of prayer and meditation can be much more fulfilling than I ever thought possible.

I hope this is helpful to you.

Swords into Plowshares for Children

14 10 2013
Children’s Sabbath emphasizes the importance of developing peacemaking values in our youngest disciples.

Children’s Sabbath emphasizes the importance of developing
peacemaking values in our youngest disciples.


by Diane Sadler, Disciple Formation Minsitries

Beating Swords into Plowshares: Ending the Violence of Guns and Child Poverty” is this year’s theme for Children’s Sabbath. How timely to affirm the values of nonviolence, peacemaking, and well-being for our most precious resource: children.

The world’s great faith traditions teach that children—the most needy and vulnerable among us—should be lovingly cared for and treated with justice and compassion. The National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths® is a way for all faith communities to celebrate the blessing of children and to act in mission for their needs.

Plan a Children’s Sabbath worship October 20 (see Worship Resources Year C). Invite children to write or read a prayer, sing in a children’s choir, collect A Disciple’s Generous Response, offer their testimonies, or take part in a readers’ theater performance, listing facts about children and their needs. You also could join with another denomination to offer a combined service. Beyond October 20, advocate for children as a congregational mission.

For worship and advocacy ideas, download a free Multi-faith Resource for Year-round Child Advocacy from the Children’s Defense Fund at www.childrensdefenseorg/programscampaigns/faith-based-action/childrens-sabbaths.

Unity in Diversity

26 08 2013

By Emma Gray, Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, USA

Reprinted from the Young Adult Blog at http://www.youngadultministries.wordpress.com.


South Africa flag

Since they first came to be, I have loved the Enduring Principles.

As I was sitting in the Auditorium at World Conference in 2010, I watched these concepts flash across the screen and felt deep love for Community of Christ and these principles we have chosen to uphold. For once, I knew I had a real reason for belonging to this church beyond the simple fact that it is the church I was born into. The whole experience nearly brought me to tears.

Now, years later, I have been blessed with the opportunity to study abroad in South Africa. I have traded my home in Iowa to live in Durban for a little over four months while studying at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

During one of our first days here, we were guided on a tour of Durban by a man named Sthembiso, a history major who was extremely knowledgeable about the distant past and the more recent strides that South Africa has made.

As we were driving, I was distracted, looking at my new surroundings. However, my attention snapped back to Sthembiso when I heard him begin to talk about Unity in Diversity. He used this phrase to describe how South Africans had come together in just a few years following apartheid and had especially impressed the world during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Of course, things here aren’t perfect; they aren’t anywhere. But as I’ve continued to learn and grow in this country, I’ve found that South Africans feel those words in a way I have never experienced and can’t accurately describe.

Unity in Diversity has been sewn directly into the fabric that continues to be strengthened in this beautiful nation of numerous ethnic groups and 11 officially recognized languages.

This idea is depicted in the Y shape of the colorful South African flag that represents, according to the government, “the convergence of diverse elements within South African society, taking the road ahead in unity.”

I have continuously been inspired by the people I have met and the passionate ideas they have shared. It is clear that, although not everyone’s visions are the same, there is a strong common desire for this country—their country—to be all that it can be.

These experiences have helped me begin to understand the concept of Unity in Diversity in a way that I never would have before. Unity in Diversity no longer means it is merely necessary or beneficial to come together despite our differences. For me, it directly affirms this vast diversity of opinions, backgrounds, visions, and dreams as an essential and invaluable part of our community.

These differences enrich our daily interactions as part of our collective and individual journeys with God. After all, “We value our connections and share a strong sense of trust in and belonging with one another—even if we never have met.”

Community with Christ and of Christ is simply not possible without celebrating the world’s expansive, beautiful, and lovingly created diversity. May we continue on the road ahead as a community that not only is united with one another, but is extending hands of invitation from all sides.

Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another. —Archbishop Desmond Tutu