The Power of Invitation

6 01 2011

Baptism, done in intimate settings or the great outdoors, is an invitational sacrament that reflects several Enduring Principles.

BY KRIS JUDD, president of seventy

Eight people found new life in Christ within Community of Christ in the waters of the Hills of Peace reunion last summer in Alberta, Canada

Canada West Mission Centre President Darrell Belrose had extended the invitation to consider baptism to several young people the summer before. He prayed for them as the year progressed.

When he arrived on the reunion grounds, he learned one had accepted the invitation. A few days later, another accepted. And as the week went on, the number continued to rise.

“Each time we met for service we heard there were more asking for membership into the community,” Missionary Elder Nancy Panting said. “On Wednesday eight candidates entered the cold waters at the same time with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts.”

The new members ranged in age from 16 to 65, with several having visited the reunion for the first time. When asked why they joined after such a short period with the community, their common response was, “I have never felt such love, unconditional love, from everyone. I wanted to be part of a family and community that felt this way toward others. I was made to feel I was of worth and respected, just as I was.”

The worth of all, the blessings of community, and unity in the diversity of a body willing to love without condition helped transform lives through this powerful experience.
  
As disciples of Jesus, we are to invite others to share in this sacrament of new life into the body of Christ. Many lives are waiting to be freed by the liberating truths of the gospel and life in Community of Christ.

Invite, invite, invite!





Celebrating Christmas in Our Homes

23 12 2010

BY JERI LAUREN LAMBERT,
Children and Family Ministries

I have remarked that my children are working hard to raise good parents.

Authors Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, who wrote On Becoming Preteen Wise: Parenting Your Child From Eight to Twelve Years, observed: “…[P]arenting is a process that leads to maturity, but what we don’t always realize is that the children aren’t the only ones maturing…”

Raising capable parents is not easy. It requires patience and the willingness to forgive mistakes.

As we decorated our home for Christmas, our preteen daughter, ever diligent in her responsibility to keep us on the right track, asked why the Nativity already had all the figures. She pointed out that in previous years we added the figures as we read the story of Jesus’ birth.

I did not realize how much this tradition meant to her until it was forgotten and recalled.

Each Sunday of Advent we read another part of the story, describing events surrounding Jesus’ birth. Then we add the figures in the story. Shouts of, “I’ll get the camel!” and “I’ll get the sheep!” spread through our home as each child helps recreate the Nativity.

Finally, after opening presents Christmas morning, we move from the Christmas tree to gather around the Nativity. There, we read the Bible verses describing the birth of Jesus. Our children share the honor of placing the small figure of baby Jesus in the manger. In this much-anticipated moment we experience a noticeable shift from gifts to the story that started it all.

As a parent-in-training, I am grateful for these young, patient teachers who eagerly place Jesus in the center of Christmas in our home.

Creating Space for the Sacred

You may have your own family traditions—particular ways you lift up your faith as a disciple of Jesus Christ during the Christmas season. Because many congregations do not have worship services on Christmas Day, it is even more important to create a space for the sacred in our celebrations at home.

Here are a few ideas from Karen Marie Yust, author of Real Kids, Real Faith, Practices for Nurturing Children’s Spiritual Lives:

  • Set aside a time to pray, at mealtime or before bed, for people represented by the holiday cards your family receives.
  • Have a birthday party for Jesus with other families and collect gifts for those who, like Jesus and his family, struggle to find safe places to sleep.
  • Set up a Nativity scene but add the figures slowly, holding back the Christ child until his birth (and the three kings until the religious celebration of their arrival at Epiphany on January 6). Note: On the Lambert farm, the three king figures sit atop the piano, (across the room from the Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus figures on the fireplace mantel), because they had to come from afar.




Generously Sharing from the Bounty

6 11 2010

by JOHN WIGHT, senior president of seventy

God’s gracious generosity overwhelmed me as I hiked in the Colorado Rockies recently. Chipmunks, deer, squirrels, rabbits, ducks, fish, elk, prairie dogs, coyotes, snakes, a seemingly endless display of flora, and food prepared over an open fire blessed my senses.

The Enduring Principle of grace and generosity filled my mind as I enjoyed God’s majestic creation. It reminded me of what an important part of our identity, mission, message, and beliefs this concept is.

One day, as I climbed narrow trails through the pristine wilderness, three strangers stopped me to share their excitement of seeing a deer standing nearby, looking at us. This scenario repeated itself the next day on a different trail when a boy of about 8 could hardly contain himself as he told me a deer was ahead. His younger sister added her excited voice to the chorus.

I reveled in the joy all of these people experienced because of God’s generosity. Even more, I reveled in their willingness—no, their impatience—to share that joy with me, a stranger.
It wasn’t much of a leap for me to think of Doctrine and Covenants 162:7a as I reflected on these encounters:

There are many lives waiting to hear the redeeming words of the gospel, or to be lifted from hopelessness by the hands of loving servants. But they will be lost to you without the generous response of disciples who share from their own bounty that others may know the joys of the kingdom.

The strangers I met were excited to tell me of their encounter with God’s generosity. It didn’t matter that they didn’t know me. They were not embarrassed to share. Indeed, they were willing to “share from their own bounty” so I might know the joys of this part of God’s kingdom.

“Bounty” is not only about finances. It also includes the time, talents, and testimonies God so generously has poured on us. Sacramental living involves being good stewards over all of this bounty from the Creator. It also means sharing time, treasure, talents, and testimony freely so others might know the peace of Jesus Christ.





“What Are You Going to Do About It?”

9 10 2010

 

Lidia and Carlos Roque are bringing ministry to Latino workers in New England

BY ARTHUR EMERSON, New England USA Mission Center

We never know when or where the Lord will touch our hearts with a call or challenge.

At the 2004 World Conference, during one of Grant McMurray’s challenges to respond in mission, I shared with my mission center president, Bill Gardner, that more than 500 Latino workers were living in the Down East region of Maine.

His response: “What are you going to do about it?” That was a clarion call to respond to the needs of a new people (other sheep) within our community.

The journey has been challenging, especially for those of us who spoke no Spanish. Many people have guided us on each step.

Carlos Roque, from El Salvador, originally traveled to Maine with the Methodist church to minister to migrant workers. Over the last six years we have become partners in ministry. A vision that began at the 2004 World Conference has provided a six-year journey toward a Hispanic congregation in Down East, Maine.

Last summer while returning from a New England USA Mission Center council meeting, Carlos shared that he felt it was time for a permanent Latino ministry in Maine. That conversation resulted in two families, fully committed, to build this ministry with the help and support of the mission center.

On a cold and rainy February day, Carlos and his wife, Lidia, arrived at Logan Airport in Boston to begin this adventure. In March 2010 he and Lidia were baptized and confirmed in Jonesport, Maine.

Carlos was ordained and set apart as co-pastor of the new Comunidad de Cristo in Harrington, Maine. As we embark on this journey together we remember the words of President Steve Veazey. “Forward or back? It is your choice now.”

The story continues…not just ours, but the stories of the many who choose to move in faith every day.





A Place to “Drop-In” for Some Hope

7 10 2010

By Kris Judd, President of Seventy 

The HOPE Community Care Project, a ministry of Community of Christ in Brisbane, Australia, shares authentic, holistic evangelism with residents in a caravan or trailer park. Seventy Loraine Kerswell and many dedicated volunteers run the Alpha Drop-In Center, the only one of its kind among all the caravan parks in Australia.

When the park is full, Loraine and her team have access to nearly 600 people, many of whom struggle to survive. Volunteers meet with the residents daily, sharing life stories and tea. Craft classes keep children and adults creative and busy.

A registered nurse often is the first person residents see when they are ill and need encouragement to seek medical treatment. A counselor visits with residents who suffer from life situations that victimized and left them, helpless and often without hope.

Many who are hurt by abuse attend a volunteer-led class for victims of violence. Residents heal as they share stories and look for hope. They know they can find hope at the Drop-In Center.

With the Community of Christ presence, weddings are performed, babies blessed, healing services held, and the bruised and brokenhearted loved and accepted as they are. They form a community within a community in this unusual, but sacred place.

In reflecting on the volunteers who share sacramentally of their lives and gifts, Lorraine says, “I asked these people ‘Why do you do it?’ Most of the answers were similar: ‘Service to those who need a helping hand in life’s journey.’ I believe all these wonderful people have heard the gentle voice of Christ calling them into service.”

These people have a generous spirit that flows from compassionate hearts. Without asking anything in return they dedicate their time and energy to others. Could it be otherwise in a community that shares hope in the One who gives us all hope?





The Fabric of Generosity

7 09 2010

by David R. Brock, presiding evangelist

We stand in pulpits to proclaim all life is sacred, that any moment of living can be sacramental, marked by encounter with the holy. But how do such words sound in the “real” world?I’m riding a straight ribbon of highway across a high-desert valley in the middle of Nevada, USA. It is early summer. The usual gray, ochre, and brown landscape is a hundred shades of green: from the silvery hue of sage-brush, to occasional juniper trees that dot the hillsides, to lush grasses along the damp valley floor. It won’t last long, but there’s life in this place that much of the year is baked barrenness or a snow-covered wasteland.

From my passenger seat, I use my cell phone to call Apostle Carlos Enrique Mejía, who is traveling another stretch of highway in Honduras, Central America. He has just presided over the funeral of his nephew, an active church member in San Pedro Sula who was murdered in a random act of gang violence two days ago.

We connect to share details of the tragedy, to pass along words that cannot heal but symbolize love and support. The loss is stark. A sacred being of inestimable worth is gone from our midst. Today I know sacredness by the pain of losing another being. Today I know the generosity of God in the greening abundance of high desert that so often appears lifeless. How is abundance affirmed in meager times, in times of loss? How do the contrasting experiences of our days become patterns of meaning?

Carlos Enrique stands in a place of suffering, in the violence of the city and unhealed humanity, while I traverse a landscape of silence, vast expanses of meadow with snow-capped peaks in the distance. Can we claim both realities of beauty and suffering as part of the same fabric?

To honor this paradoxical wholeness and remain bound together in the midst of it is the call to sacramental living. It is the base from which we live generously with each other.