Drop Dead Deception: What Does It Mean to Be a Church Member?

Please read Acts 4:32-5:11

Hello friends,

The-Lie-07-colThis story of Ananias and Sapphira, husband and wife, sounds harsh to our twenty-first century ears. When it is found out that the couple have deceived the early church community of which they’re a part, they each drop dead. No one kills them; they just drop dead. Many scholars think this would remind the original hearers of a story in the book of Joshua in which those who deceived God, died. The emphasis then is on living a life of integrity in relationship to God and God’s community, the early church.

Though integrity is critical in a healthy church or community, I think there is more raised by the still speaking God for us. In our era, membership in church has evolved. Membership was once about rights and responsibilities. Our identity was connected to the institutions, churches and other groups, to which we belonged. As our American cultural and communal mistrust of all institutions, has grown over the last one-hundred years, this has gradually become less and less the case. Most of those who have come of age in the last ten to fifteen years are simply not joiners. This is the case for many older folks as well.

So what does it mean to be a member, of the church? Are we expected to hold all our possessions in common? Can we keep our own things as long as everyone within our community has enough? Is is ok if some within our church struggle to make ends meet while others live extremely comfortably?

We talk about being a welcoming and inclusive community church. We believe that every human being is beloved by God. But are there limits to behaviors and beliefs for those who are a part of our church? (Our old by-laws and constitution imply there are. Implicitly even we have boundaries in what we consider acceptable. It is not quite as simple as everyone is welcome no matter what even if that is what we like to think about ourselves.)

This story of the early church implies the expectations are different for insiders and outsiders. The sin of Ananias and Sapphira is they wanted it both ways. They wanted to claim insider status — membership — while failing to live up to the expectations and responsibilities required. In their case, sharing all the proceeds from their land sale with the community.

The Church Council is beginning the months (and maybe year) long process of revising the church constitution and by-laws so that they match how we currently operate. The first task before us is to define what it means to be a member of the Condon United Church of Christ. Our old documents have specific ideas about it that do not match how we function now.

I know of a UCC church in which all it takes to become a member is to write and sign your name in a book in the narthex. I know of some churches who have given up the concept of membership completely. Others have doubled down and increased the expectations of what it means to be a member.

Please read this biblical story prayerfully. What is the still speaking God telling us about what it means to live in community? What is the Spirit’s message about the nature of membership (or lack of it)? Think. Reflect. Doubt. Listen & Love.

See you Sunday,

Tim

How do you want to die?

4oh4 dying.jpgCondon United Church of Christ will be holding a discussion and workshop about Advance Directives and POLST forms at their next 4oh!4 meeting, Sunday, May 22.  The public is encouraged to attend.

According to the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business services website:

In Oregon, the Health Care Decisions Act (ORS 127.505 – 127.660 and ORS 127.995) allows an individual to preauthorize health care representatives to allow the natural dying process if he or she is medically confirmed to be in one of the conditions described in his or her health care instructions. This act does not authorize euthanasia, assisted suicide, or any overt action to end the person’s life

As many people unfortunately know, making health care decisions for a loved when they are unable to make decisions for themselves and don’t have an Advance Directive or POLST can be gut-wrenching.  Oregon Health Decisions emphasizes,Whether you are 18 or 80, documenting your wishes today means your family won’t have to make heart wrenching decisions later.” In addition to completing a form, Oregon Health Decisions encourages people to have the KEYConversations™ with family members so they understand why a person has made the decisions they have made.

Chaplain Maggie Sebastian, Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center, will talk about the purpose and use of Advance Directives and Physician Orders concern Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST).  Copies of KEYConversations™Advance Care Planning Kit will be available.  Attendees are encouraged to complete the documents or begin their family conversations at the 4oh!4 gathering.  For more information contact Tim Graves at 541-256-0565 or email condonucc@gmail.com

Do We All Have Spiritual Gifts?

Please read Acts 2:1-4 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 and/or join us for worship Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m.

1Corinthians16.14-2

Copyright © SALT Project. Used by permission.

Pentecost is a Jewish festival. After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension the disciples and others from all across the known world were gathered in Jerusalem for the festival. (Recall, like Jesus, the disciples were Jewish.)

While they were together, a fierce wind and sound filled the house where the disciples were gathered. They saw hovering above each of them what looked like flames. Traditional interpretation views the flames as the Holy Spirit. The people gathered in Jerusalem were able to understand one another though they spoke different languages.

That Pentecost is often called the birthday of the church, though no institutional structure or separation from Judaism would come for years. The disciples each received spiritual gifts on that day to help them do the ministry set before them.

Some more exclusionary theologians argue that not everyone — only the disciples or followers of Jesus — received gifts of the spirit. Though I admit the literal reading of the Acts story only specifically names the disciples as having tongues like flames above their heads, all those in Jerusalem could understand one another. The apostle Paul in his later letter to the Corinthians church implies that everyone of us have spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:6).

But what are spiritual gifts? Certainly some have the gift of music while others (like me) do not. Is musical ability a spiritual gift? What about the ability to effectively run a ranch or store or teach? Are they spiritual gifts or some sort of less important skill?

A few weeks ago we talked about Paul’s warning to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 13:1-13) that whatever our ability or skills might be, without love they are worthless. I think this means that any one of our skills can be spiritual gifts if we use them out of love. Some can effectively lead council meeting. Some can make blankets from cloth scraps. Some make us smile and feel loved by the way they greet us. Some have a knack for cleaning. Some are doctors.

All of these and so many more are spiritual gifts IF they come from a place of love.

As you prayerfully read the scripture lesson for this week, consider your own gifts. Think about the gifts that you see in others. Are there times when you or someone you know has used a talent, skill, or gift has been used without love? How did that feel? What about when that same talent, skill or gift was used lovingly?

Tim

Where Is The Love?

Where is the love? Join us at the Condon United Church of Christ at 10:30 this morning for worship.

***

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 13:12-14:1a NRSV

***

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.” –Mahatma Gandhi

***

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” –Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

 

If I Don’t Have Love.

Hello friends,

Our scripture lesson for this week may be familiar to you if you’ve ever attended a wedding. Young couples often choose this passage from Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. We often associate it with gentle music, floral images, and loving couples.

Only problem, that’s not what it was about.

Paul writes to the church at Corinth because they were having conflict. They puffed themselves up about who had the “best” spiritual gifts. I imagine Paul angrily writing his first draft of this letter. The Corinthian church has missed the point. None of the good things the members of the budding church do matter if they’re not done in, through, and with love.

As you prayerfully read the scripture, consider the things that you do out of obligation or out of a sense of responsibility or for any other reason besides love.

Do you angrily clean up after others? Do you continue doing something in the church or elsewhere begrudgingly? Do you fail to do it in love because you need to change your own attitude? Maybe you fail to do it in love because your spiritual gifts no longer suit the task. What if it is time to give that responsibility up and pursue another outlet for your spiritual gifts?

Tim

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:1-14:1a

1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.

11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

14:1a Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts.

Copyright © 1989 NRSV
Words of Wisdom

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”  –Mahatma Gandhi

***
“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” –Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet