June 2023 Connection

A church that worships together — thrives together —
grows together!

At the beginning of this year, the Worship and Arts Team here at GBUMC set some goals around worship, including one around worship attendance: to see in-person worship attendance at GBUMC increase by 10% throughout the year. This goal was based on a few contributing considerations:
1. We have the people to make this happen! In other words, even without visitors flocking to GBUMC, this goal is more than attainable.
2. While worship attendance doesn’t necessarily make someone a Christian, we do strongly believe that regular worship attendance does have a direct relationship to our spiritual health, our relationships with Christ. Certainly, this is something we want to encourage.
3. Our online streaming of both worship services continues to be used by members of our church family who are unable to come for one reason or another. Virtual worship, while it has its limitations, still allows individuals to experience and participate in worship with us. It also continues to be a meaningful outreach tool as it provides a safe “first visit” for folks looking for a church home. For these reasons and more, we’ll continue to provide this virtual ministry. Our efforts to encourage in-person worship is not opposed to a virtual worship ministry.
In the last few months, the Worship and Arts Team has begun a few efforts to help encourage regular worship attendance such as our church text messaging service which about 60 people have signed up for. Through weekly texts, it is our hope that we can remind and encourage GBUMC’ers to make Sunday worship part of, what can often be, a busy schedule.
Now, as you read this, I want to be perfectly clear: This is NOT a guilt trip from your Pastor. This is not intended to make anyone feel like their uncommitted, or anything like that. Instead, I want it to be an invitation from your pastor to help your church grow: grow in size, grow in spiritual health, grow in its outreach and service. You see, when you are here with us in worship – when your loved ones, children, friends, etc. are here with us in worship – you become stronger in your faith and walk with God. And in turn, as the Body of Christ, we grow stronger and we grow as a family.
As I’m writing this, I am optimistic that we’ll meet our goal of 10% growth in in-person worship. Not because we’ve made people feel guilty (I hope that’s not the case), but because we all become part of a church-family effort to grow. I hope you’ll join me!
See you on Sunday!
Pastor Brian
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May 2023 Connection

“Not Complicated, Not Easy”
A Call to Real Discipleship

“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” -Matthew 22:36-40 (CEB)
In a sermon not too long ago, I made the comment that “being a Christian isn’t easy, and if anyone ever tells you that it is, they’re either lying to you, or they’re not really trying that hard.” Afterward, during a lovely conversation, someone shared with me their reflection on that idea. They said something to
the affect of, “Being a Christian really isn’t that hard, though. Just love people!” I nodded in response, agreeing that “just love people” is a pretty fair summary of Jesus’ teachings. But I also took time to add this: Being a Christian is not a complicated thing, but that doesn’t make it easy.
When we read Jesus’ response to the question in Matthew’s Gospel of “What is the greatest commandment in the Law,” we find ourselves marveling at just how simple it really is. It’s not overly complicated! There are no footnotes, small print, or hastily read lines at the end of his announcement like when we see commercials advertising the latest pharmaceutical. Jesus lays it out simply for us: Love God wholly! Love neighbor! Love yourself! Jesus even goes on to say (and I paraphrase), “and this about wraps it up!”
You see what I mean? Being a Christian and following the greatest commandment is not complicated. In fact, you probably have it memorized already (if you don’t it’s a good passage of scripture to memorize). But somehow, as Christians in the 21st century (and I would argue this really started centuries ago), we’ve conflated the idea of Christianity’s simplicity with an ease of discipleship. Herein lies the problem…It’s not always easy – in fact, it’s rarely easy – to be a Christian.
To be a Christian – to love God, neighbor, and self – means that we stand up for those who are forgotten. In a world and culture that often leaves people at the margins (and in some instances, pushes), to be a Christian means that we need to speak out against powers, policies, and practices that would leave the
margins as they are.
To be a Christian – to love God, neighbor, and self – means that we advocate for peace and community wellbeing amid a culture that encourages fear of “the other.”
To be a Christian – to love God, neighbor, and self – means that we draw the circle wider, not smaller. It means that we define ourselves by the ever growing size of our table, and not by rules that would dictate who gets to sit at it. It means that no one is forgotten, ignored, or kept at arm’s length.
We could go on and on, but I’ll leave it at this: Being a Christian requires nothing less of us than using
Jesus’ greatest commandment as a litmus test for what is good and right. Does it love God? Does it
love the neighbor? Is it loving ourselves? It’s not complicated, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.
And so, may we journey as Christian disciples together! May we encourage one another to love in a
way that is oftentimes challenging! May we remind one another of what Christ’s love looks like, so
often that we can’t help but reflect it, too! May we seek to be a church that embodies the love, grace,
and joy of Christ in this world…this community.
May we love.
Pastor Brian
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April 2023 Connection


Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
                                                                                                                ~John 20:24-28 (CEB)
As you’re reading this, we’re likely toward the end of Lent, approaching Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter. Maybe you’ve picked up the newsletter a bit later in the month and have Easter Sunday in the rearview mirror, along with Michigan snowstorms (hopefully). Either way, this passage of scripture from John’s Gospel comes soon after Jesus’ resurrection, and so it’s fitting that you’re reading it.
So often, we title this passage “Doubting Thomas.” Chances are you’ve heard it called that before, but I’ll be honest, I’ve never liked that title for it. Truth be told, I’ve never liked using titles for scripture passages. They seem to set us up to see only one thing. For example, in the “Feeding of the 5,000,” our brains are trained to only see the feeding miracle. The title keeps us from seeing the miracle of 5000 men (plus women and children) gathering because they believe that Jesus can heal. It keeps us from seeing that all of this takes place in a fishing village, pointing out the disciples’ singular focus on what they have, while not noticing the potential in the community in which they find themselves. Considering that, the title could also be “The Disciples Can’t See the Forest for the Trees.”
Here, in John 20, the title forces us to see Thomas, one of the disciples, as “doubting.” And because of that, it’s hard to see anything else. So, let’s look at some other aspects of this story, ignoring Thomas’ doubt for a minute. Did you notice that Thomas wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came? Where was he? The answer is that we don’t know, but perhaps Thomas didn’t have the benefit of having seen the empty tomb as Peter, Mary and the “beloved disciple” had. Perhaps Thomas had continued on in ministry, returning only when he heard of Jesus’ resurrection – returning to see if it was real.
Or, do we notice that Jesus, now resurrected, still has the wounds in his hands, feet and side? So often, we think of Jesus resurrection as a healing from his earthly death, but here that’s challenged. Jesus was alive, to be sure, but he still had evidence of the death he experienced. Could it be that resurrection in and through Christ doesn’t take away wounds, but rather that it restores life in spite of this world’s wounds? Maybe, then, Thomas’ reaction was not so much “doubt” as it was surprise. Perhaps the disciples assumed all along that resurrection would mean that the cross would be erased, only to discover that it simply rendered the cross ineffective. Was Thomas simply responding to this new realization? (Keep in mind, It’s in John 16:33 that we hear these words: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”). If that’s the case, couldn’t we title this passage, “Thomas Discovers Resurrection’s Power”?
Now, okay… Jesus does say “Stop doubting and believe.” I will admit, it seems like this would completely dismantle my defense of Thomas. Maybe Thomas was doubting a bit. Maybe it’s not the worst title in the world. But until we got past the title, we wouldn’t have looked more closely at Jesus’ wounds – only Thomas’ doubt. Now that we see the wounds, and now that we’ve explored what that might teach us about resurrected, perhaps the “doubt” Jesus is referring to is not Thomas’ doubt that Jesus really was resurrection, but rather the disciples’ (Thomas included) doubt that resurrection could only be real if it erased the trouble and wounds we experience in this world.
There Jesus stood – wounds, trouble and all – not in the tomb, but resurrected. Jesus reminds Thomas…Jesus reminds the disciples…Jesus reminds us, the reader, that though we’ll carry our own cross in our discipleship (Matthew 16:24), ultimately the wounds of this world don’t have the final word. Resurrection does.
May we no longer doubt, but believe.
Pastor Brian
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March 2023 Connection

Rubber Band S#%

Sin. There, I said it! It’s a word that we seem to want to avoid as often as possible. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard people offer their pastor the critique of “I wish you wouldn’t talk about sin so much,” or my personal favorite, the veiled critique of, “It’s nice to hear a sermon that didn’t talk about sin, for once.” The word “sin” has even taken on its own monikers, such as the “three letter word” or, as I’ve done in the title, omitted words as if it’s a curse to even write the word, let alone speak it.
Okay, you’ve probably picked up on my facetiousness, but there is a significant amount of truth in it, as well. We don’t like talking about sin, and I’m convinced it’s because we don’t really know what it is. We assume that it’s breaking God’s law – which is fair, but still a very vague description? Or, maybe we
focus in on the 10 commandments. After all, we like neat, concise lists, and there is some truth to this, as well. But “sin” isn’t really a noun, as in a set of rules, sin is really more a relational verb.
What do I mean by a relational verb? It’s actually pretty simple. Sin or sinning is something that we do. That makes it a verb. It’s relational, because it is something that we do in relation to another – God, a neighbor, or ourselves. So here is the definition I like to work with when I think about sin:
“Sin is the action, word, or thought, intended or otherwise, that creates distance between us and God, us and others, and/or even within ourselves.” 
-Pastor Brian
So, here’s where the rubber band comes in. If you have one, take it out and follow my instructions. If you don’t have one, just pretend…you’ll still get the idea.
Holding the rubber band loosely on both of you index fingers, your left index finger representing you, and your right index finger representing God. Now, with no tension on the rubber band, consider that this is the relationship we deeply want to have with God. It represents an almost closeness, maybe even a sense of comfort. This feels good, and because there is no tension on the rubber band, it may even feel effortless. This is where we want to be in our life with God. 
But then, sin comes in. Now, remember that sin is anything that puts distance  between us a God. So, gently, pull your left index finger (you) away from your right (God). As we “commit sin” this is what we are doing. We (not God) are putting distance between us and God. The more we sin, the more distance we
have. Go ahead, keep adding distance.
Now, as you add more and more distance, what are you are beginning to feel is tension. The rubber band is constantly pulling you (your left index finger) back toward God (your right index finger). We call the rubber band “grace” or even just “love.” God’s loving grace is constantly pulling us back toward God. God
NEVER pushes us away. God only pulls us back toward God’s self. Why? It’s because close to God is where we feel good. Close to God is where we feel at home.
Now, let’s go one step further. Imagine now that your right index finger is you and your left index finger is your neighbor (this can be absolutely anyone). When your neighbor (lefty) sins against you, they create distance from you? The more they sin against you, the more distance they create. The question then is, how is your rubber band holding up? Is the pull of your love the same as the pull of God’s love, or are we more tempted to let the rubber band snap – or even just take it off? We are invited by God to share the same love that is in Christ Jesus. We are invited to remember the pull of God’s grace which pulls us back despite our sin, and, in turn, seek right relationship with our neighbors through grace.
Friends, it is my commitment to you to never let go of the rubber band we share, together. I hope that you will share in that commitment with me.
Pastor Brian
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February 2023 Connection

“This Is One Boring Article”

In the book of Acts, chapter 6, we discover what might be considered the first church committee. It was a team of 7 who were charged with making sure that the widows who were part of the early Christian community were cared for and not forgotten or neglected in the midst of all the great work of ministry. In other words, it was a committee that was created for the purpose of not neglecting what really does
matter…caring for others!
Fast forward about 2000 years, and we’ve expanded the idea of church committees, just a bit [insert church committee joke here]. As a United Methodist Church, we are part of a conference that, in our case, encompasses the entire state of Michigan. Our conference – the Michigan Conference of The UMC – is made up of somewhere in the ballpark of 800-900 churches. Currently, those 800+ churches are organized into 9 geographical “districts.” Grand Blanc UMC is part of the East Wind District.
A while ago, the Conference began a process to explore how we could move from 9 districts to 7 districts by July of 2023. As that date approaches, we’ve been given an update, and so I wanted to share that update with you. The conference is, in fact, moving from 9 districts to 7 districts. Grand Blanc UMC will still be part of the East Winds District, along with many others, and we’re even welcoming some new
churches to the district! Oh, and I’ll still be serving as your pastor here at GBUMC.
Knowing that our current district superintendent, Rev. John Hice, had planned to retire, we assumed we’d be assigned a new district superintendent, and that has happened, too. Effective July 1, 2023, our district superintendent will be Rev. Dr. Margie Crawford. I look forward to Dr. Crawford’s leadership, and I am sure that you’ll enjoy getting to know her as we have the opportunity.
Now, I know that this might not be the most exciting newsletter article that you’ve ever read. In fact, I know it’s not! But I wanted to share all of the above with you in order to share this important piece of information.
By and large, this change has minimal impact on Grand Blanc UMC. And the minimal impact that it does have is all good and helpful! Grand Blanc UMC will still be in the business of making and nurturing disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We will still be seeking ways to create new spaces for new faces. We will still be connecting with our community, serving as Christ first served us, and loving our neighbors.
You see, the first church committee that we discovered all the way back in the Book of Acts was put together to make sure that certain things were taken care of in order to make sure ministry could still be fruitful. The same is true here. Our relationship with our Annual Conference and our district provides us with meaningful and helpful connections and relationships, as well as certain ministry resources. What that kind of organization does, in essence, is it allows us to be the hands and feet of mission and
ministry in our own backyards. And so, as disciple-makers and disciples ourselves, we keep serving, loving, and being the church!
Pastor Brian
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January 2023 Connection

“For Auld Lang Syne and Days to Come”

In May of 2013, the American adaptation of the television series, The Office, aired its series finale which was cleverly titled, “Finale.” During that heart-string-pulling episode, the character Andy Bernard, played by actor, Ed Helms, reflected on the many memories of his years at the Scranton, PA branch of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company (true fans would demand that I mention the fictional Sabre Electronics division to that title).  In that moment of sentimentality, Andy says: “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” 

I was thinking about those words the other day as I was surrendering to the speed at which the 2023 new year seems to be approaching (though, it will have arrived by the time you read this).  Andy’s reflection actually got me thinking a bit about how we can approach the new year, specifically this time around the sun.  What if, instead of approaching this year as if it is just another year – a year of our lives, a year of our careers, a year of our relationships…perhaps a year of our ministries? – what if we approached it as THEE year of our ministry as church?  THEE year of our lives as family people, relational people, even working people.  In other words, what might happen if we approach 2023 as if it was already a year that we’d remember with excitement for all our lives to come? 

To do this, we have to first accept a few nuances:

  1. It is safe to say that 2023 will not be perfect! We need to anticipate that there will be moments of disappointment and dissatisfaction during the year.  There will also be moments of heartbreak and seemingly failure.  This is part of life and is unavoidable.  That said, how we approach those inevitable challenges makes all the difference!  If we go into January 1st expecting 2023 to be a fruitful and special year in our lives, then we can approach difficulties with a reminder within ourselves that God has already overcome anything that seems insurmountable.  The grief we’ll face, the loss we’ll experience – it doesn’t get to define us!  Perhaps we can reflect on these words from the Gospel of John,

“In the world you have distress.

But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.”

-John 16:33 (CEB)

  1. We have to put some energy into making it true! Like with planning our New Year’s resolutions, we sometimes forget that nothing magical happens as we hang our new calendars on the wall or as we watch the ball drop in New York City.  If I resolve to eat better, I have to actually change my grocery shopping habits.  The calendar won’t step in to start making me kale salads, much as I might want it to.  And yet, we mark time by dates and years, and so we can certainly enter 2023 with a desire to make it special.  But then we have to join forces with God to begin doing something to make 2023 special and memorable for all the right reasons.  IF this is the year that we’re going to see ministry at GBUMC flourish, then we all have to, not only get excited about that, but we have to start making it happen! 
  1. 2020-2022 weren’t all bad. Were they difficult years for a variety of reasons?  Absolutely!  Were there moments when we faced fear and uncertainty?  Absolutely!  Did we grow in areas during that time?  We sure did!  Did we learn as we experienced life in new ways?  Of course!  Like #1, we will face challenges in the year to come.  We should expect that!  But, we can’t forget that we’ve faced challenges in the years gone by. 


I look forward to all that we will be as a church in 2023.  I do believe it will be a year we will look back on with memories of growth, new beginnings, and fruitful ministries!  Do you believe it?  Will you help to make it so?  If so, take a seat at God’s ever-growing table with me and all others, and lets begin to feast!!!

For auld lang syne and for days to come,

Pastor Brian.

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December 2022 Connection

“A Nativity’s Purpose”

I have no doubt that, by the time you’re reading this, nativity scenes will be set out on front lawns, placed on fireplace mantles, and just about anywhere else Christmas decorations find themselves. In fact, even as I’m writing this article in mid-November, I’ve already spotted some nativity scenes while out and about
(we’ll leave the “it’s too soon for Christmas” argument for another time). We all know what we’ll find in a nativity scene: Mary, Joseph, some shepherds, an angel, 3 magi/kings/wisemen, perhaps some sheep and a camel, and of course Jesus.
Now, not to be a bah humbug, but it’s probably worth noting that we don’t find that exact nativity when we look in scripture. I know, I know…I’ve ruined Christmas! But, let’s be honest. When we look at the Gospels, we only find the Christmas story in two of them: Matthew and Luke. Luke tells us about the birth,
the angel’s announcement to the shepherds in the nearby countryside, and then…well, that’s about it. Matthew is kind enough to include the visit of the magi, but says nothing about shepherds. So, how did we arrive at our favorite nativity scenes at Christmas time? We simply bring the two Gospels – Matthew
and Luke – together and provide a few embellishments. Anything wrong with this? Not at all! Is it accurate? Well…not really.
You see, we still have the timeline to deal with. Luke’s shepherds are nearby, and while we don’t know how quickly they ran to the manger, we get the sense that it was pretty soon after Jesus was born. Jesus probably still had that newborn baby glow, and Mary and Joseph were still probably trying to figure out
how they might ever sleep again. Coincidently, probably not the best time for shepherds and sheep to show up, but hey! It could always be worse, right!? But, how about Matthew’s magi. Speculation is that they (not necessarily three of them, by the way) probably arrived a good bit after Jesus birth. Herod’s order to kill all children in the region 2 years old and younger (Matthew 2:16) suggests that Jesus may have been as old as a toddler by the time the magi greeted him and the holy family. Frankincense, gold and myrrh – every toddler’s favorite gifts!
Now, before you’re tempted to call for my retraction of this nativity heresy, or begin demanding the accuracy of every nativity scene you come across, let me offer this assurance. The accuracy and historicity of a nativity is not and has never been the main point of the Christmas decoration. I’d argue that the nativity scenes we find at Christmastime are intended to remind us of something far more important than historical accuracy and fact. They’re there to remind us that people showed up. People showed up to the manger, not just to see what had happened, but to prophecy God’s truth, once again, to the holy family. The magi, the shepherds –even the sheep, camels and others – showed up at the manger in order to proclaim to Mary and Joseph that their child was truly the incarnation of God. Now, certainly they already knew this, right!? Gabriel told Mary as much, and Joseph had a dream during which he was similarly informed. So why the messengers? I believe that they came with such a witness to the earthly
parents of Jesus because for the next 30 years or so, Mary and Joseph would be tasked with raising this
infant child to be the Son of God. They’d teach him how to pray, how to love, how to worship, and how to
care for neighbor. They’d model forgiveness for him, and remind him that he is loved. Could it be that
Mary and Joseph simply needed some encouragement, and so God sent these unlikely prophets to them
in order to confirm a divine truth? I suspect that’s the case!
This Advent, we prepare our hearts to journey toward the manger where we know what we’ll find! We’ve
rehearsed this journey for generations, and so we know what will be there. Though, don’t we still need
prophets of some sort to announce and witness to us what we’ve come across? To declare to us the full
divinity of the child born on Christmas? Don’t we need to, not only see Jesus, but hear the reminder that
he came to us as Emmanuel, God with us, that we might discover love, grace, and new life?
This Advent and Christmas, my prayer is that we might be that witness for one another and that we might
share that same confirmation with others who need to hear it. This Advent and Christmastime, consider
these questions: for whom can you be shepherd, magi, or angel? And who can be that for you?
Pastor Brian
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November 2022 Connection

Bridging Divides and Setting Tables

As Jesus sat down to eat in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and his disciples at the table. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard it, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. Go and learn what this means: I want mercy and not sacrifice. I didn’t come to call
righteous people, but sinners.”
-Matthew 9:10-13 (CEB)
What have you done to bridge the divide lately?
It’s a tough question, isn’t it? It almost sounds like a Jesus question. Not necessarily gentle, but also full of truth and conviction. Seems like one we should have a quick answer to, but at the same time makes us really think. Yep, those are Jesus-style questions. In the above passage from Matthew’s Gospel, we find Jesus sitting at the dinner table with tax collectors and sinners. Sometimes, we forget that this dinner might not have been like our typical eat-quick-so-we-can-get-to-piano-practice dinners on Tuesday nights. There’s a pretty good chance this was a Shabbat meal – dinner on the sabbath day – and it would have been full of ritual and moments of holiness. Jesus is eating this dinner with his disciples, and who comes and sits down but tax collectors and sinners. Sabbath dinner gets awkward…quickly! This meal that is full of ritual and celebration of God’s goodness is infiltrated by those who probably weren’t welcome at many sabbath dinner tables. We don’t know who they are exactly – Matthew just calls them sinners and tax collectors. But, at the same time, we know exactly who they are, don’t we?
The Pharisees see it. Now, hear me out, Pharisees were not bad people. They just understood their faithfulness to rely on ensuring that God’s laws in scripture are followed and never ignored. They wanted to preserve what they understood as the foundation of faith. Jesus sometimes let things slide, and
that raised eyebrows! But what is Jesus doing? He’s making the table big enough to welcome those who don’t necessarily fit in at any other table.
So, back to the initial question, “what have you done to bridge the divide lately?” We have to be careful as we answer this to remember that Jesus has don  quite a bit to bridge the divide with us, too. We don’t have it all figured out, and the proverbial table is not yours or mine. It is, has always been, and will continue to be God’s table. Room has been made at the table for us. What are we doing, each of us to make room for others?
You see, this question isn’t about who is right and who is wrong, and who will be the bigger person to let the other person sit at the table. This question is about drawing closer to someone else, in spite of anything that might divide us. I believe this story from Matthew’s Gospel is there as a reminder to us that there is plenty of room at Christ’s table, and when we sit at it, we’ll also be sitting with those who live, believe, vote, and relate to others differently than us. The table then becomes vast! So, what’s then served at the table? Grace. Love. Peace. Hope. That’s all!
Does that mean that we’ll all start to automatically live in peace and harmony with all those on the other
side of the divisive canyons in our lives? No. That is possible – and it is the hope – but that takes a lot of
work! But, sitting at the table and pulling out the chair for someone else is a great place to start!
What have you done to bridge the divide recently?
Pastor Brian
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October 2022 Connection

A Learning Church

As your pastor, one of the things I commit myself to is regular continuing education. It’s something I enjoy, as well as something I very much appreciate as it continues to nurture my own capacities for effective ministry and leadership. It is also my aim to ensure that I gain nuggets of learning that I can
pass on to you all as a church!
Currently, I am taking an online course called “Creating Learning Environments” through my seminary Alma Mater, Methodist Theological School in Ohio. The course is designed to help think through ministry as a constant process of creating learning environments for each and every one of us, as people of faith,
to learn, grow, and discover the goodness of God in all that we do. One thought that the class has been playing with for a couple of weeks now is this: The church does not have a Christian Education program. The Church is a Christian Education program
Admittedly, that sounds a bit like a fortune cookie saying, doesn’t it? But, what it is getting at is a very important truth. It reminds us that our education as Christians – our growth as disciples on a journey toward a community of God (sometimes we call that the “Kingdom of God”) – is not just something we do in a Sunday School classroom, in a pew at 9am or 11am, or in a Bible Study.  Those are vital and meaningful, to be sure! But, they are by no means a complete listing of the ways in which we “learn” as Christians. We also learn as Christians every time we expand our capacity to offer compassion and extend
God’s grace. We grow every time we find ourselves breaking bread with neighbor, friend, and stranger. We educate ourselves as disciples of Jesus Christ every time we dance to the rhythms of forgiveness and reconciliation. 
Our means of Christian Education in the church that we are most familiar with – Sunday School, Bible Study, Small Groups, and even worship – are, once again, vital and important. But to assume that our Christian Education box is checked with just these is to ignore our greater purpose as a church. All that we do as a church – as a Christian Education entity – is to make disciples for the transformation of the world into the Kingdom of God that we glimpsed through Jesus presence, ministry, and promise.
And so, what do we do with all of this? We commit ourselves to learning and growing. We commit ourselves, not merely to knowing more, but to discovering, dancing, playing, and witnessing God’s grace, love, hope, and peace, in all that we do as a church – as Christians. My prayer for you as you read this is that you would rediscover (or perhaps discover for the first time) the deep joy of being church. And once you’re there, come and make community with each of us! 
Pastor Brian
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September 2022 Connection

An Obvious Miracle

When the apostles returned, they described for Jesus what they had done. Taking them with him, Jesus withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. When the crowds figured it out, they followed him. He welcomed them, spoke to them about God’s kingdom, and healed those who were sick…[Jesus said], “You give them something to eat.” But they said, “We have no more than five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all these people.” – Luke 9:10-11, 13 (CEB)
The story of the feeding of the 5,000 found throughout the Gospels is perhaps one of the most well known biblical stories. Throughout generations, this story is told and retold, often focusing on what I like to call “the miracle of the plenty.” Sermon after sermon has been given on the multiplication of the loaves and fishes; Jesus taking what seems like not nearly enough, and turning it into more than enough. Amazing!
But, in reading this version of the miracle story from Luke’s Gospel, I started to ask myself, “why didn’t Luke say more about what this would have been like, to miraculously see more food created?” Surely, someone must have noticed the sudden smorgasbord appear right before them, right?! Then it occurred to me: maybe Luke did! Just not in the details we were paying attention to. In Luke 9:10, Luke shares with us that Jesus retreated from the town where they had just been in ministry, to the town of Bethsaida. It’s not uncommon that, in reading scripture, we skip over names of people and towns we don’t know much about. Often, we’re just glad that we scored a passing grade on pronunciation. But, here, that town’s name is vitally important! In fact, the very mention of Bethsaida might be just the detail we need to know. Why? Because Bethsaida was a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee.
Why would that matter?
As they entered Bethsaida, Jesus instructs the disciples to feed the people who had discovered that Jesus came to town – all 5,000 men plus women and children. The disciples question Jesus, in effect saying: “With what food Jesus? All we have is 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.” You see the irony? The disciples are complaining that they don’t have enough bread and fish to feed the hungry people, all while standing in Bethsaida…a FISHING VILLAGE!
The disciples were looking only at what they had on hand, and paid no attention to the environment and community in which they found themselves. It’s easy to do that isn’t it? As a church, we often talk about our resources, and we think only of those who are a part of the church – resources of energy, of time, of giving, etc. When we do this, it’s all to easy to throw up our hands and repeat the age-old gripe of churches: “we just don’t have enough.” (It’s probably worth noting that your pastor has said this his fair share of times). What if, instead, we were to include the whole community and environment around us in that evaluation of resources? Would we discover partnerships in the community, eager to help improve the lives of those in our community?  Would we discover donors who are excited about the ministries we are sharing?  Would we stumble upon ministry opportunities, themselves, such as service to the students in our schools? 


If we limit ourselves to only what we already have, we’ll always be staring at not enough.  But, if we’re to open our eyes to what Jesus sees, suddenly the miracle of plenty and the multiplication isn’t that dumbfounding. 

Jesus found fish in a fishing village.

Peace, Pastor Brian

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