Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Healing

Last Sunday, Sept. 27, the lectionary included that passage from James which asks: "Is anyone sick?" An Anglican priest was serving communion from house to house in his parish when he got a call from his bishop. The bishop said: "You can't do that; house communion is reserved for the sick." The priest responded: "That's just fine, bishop, in my parish, we're all sick."

James tells us to call for the Elders of the church to pray and anoint the sick. So, I felt led last week to have a Healing Service in church. I have done Healing Services before in smaller settings. In one church I served, the practice was to have a Healing Service immediately after Communion. We'd go from Communion in the sanctuary to a Healing Service in the chapel. It was a group of ten or twelve. We prayed and anointed with oil.

Never had I don't anything like this in a larger setting. So, I felt led to do it on Sunday. I got the olive oil and I invited all who wanted to come forward to be anointed to do do.

I gave the invitation, not telling peoople not to go to the doctor. No, we live in a wonderful age when all kinds of treatment and help are available for our health. I said that God in Christ offers us a deeper healing- which is the meaning of salvation or wholeness.

AA reminds us that we are all at times hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. I asked: "Are you hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?"

I expected some to come, but I was astounded when just about everybody came. I anointed them and said: "Be healed in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." The altar was full of people. It was moving. Lots of tears were shed and lots of love was experienced- God's love.

We are living in a difficult time when many of us are feeling the hurt and pain of the economy, the brokenness in the world, and our own loneliness.

My prayer is that God's healing was experienced in new ways at Bethel Church.
Blessings!
Dave Nichols

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Love...in Action

Last Sunday, Sept. 20th, I preached the last in a series of sermons on our Core Values at Bethel. I said at the beginning of the series that I was preaching out of my nearly four years of experience of Bethel and also out of my own life-long experience of the United Methodist Church, not to mention nearly 35 years of ministry.

The last in the series was "Love...in action". I took as my text the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. I said that we are on a mission from God, individually and corporately. John Wesley called this factor of faith: an act of mercy. The acts of piety are worship, prayer, Bible Study, fasting, etc. The acts of mercy are loving our neighbors.

In response to a young lawyer (expert on religious law), more like a religion professor, Jesus asks: "How do you read the law? How do you think one inherits eternal life?" The lawyer says: "Love God and love your neighbor." Jesus says: "Do this and you will live."

The text says that the lawyer, seeking to justify himself, asks: "OK, who is my neighbor." Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. A man is going from Jerusalem to Jericho and is attached by robbers who beat, stripped him, and left him for dead.

Two religious persons, a Priest and a Levite see the man and walk by on the other side. The Samaritan sees the man, and puts him on his animal. He takes the man to an inn where he leaves his credit care to take care of the man until he returns.

Jesus asks: "Of the three, who was neighbor to the man who fell among theives?" The lawyer answers: "The one who showed mercy."

Love in action means that we see the suffering. We don't ignore it or pull down the shades. We see the suffering and the sufferer like the Samaritan.

Then, like the Samaritan, we move toward the suffering. The others got as far away from the suffering as they could get. We move toward suffering.

Finally, we do what we can to show mercy, to relieve suffering. We can't do everything, but we can do something. We offer a cold cup of water, or we work to change a law, or...

We are under a moral obligation to love...

Blessings!
Dave Nichols

Monday, September 14, 2009

When You're Depressed

The Bible never talks about depression, though the Psalmist asks his soul: "Why are you disquieted within me?" Scripture sees everything from the standpoint of faith. I am down because I am away from God. I have let other things come between me and my faith, other priorities take first place.

And, yet, we do get down. Depression is basically anger turned in on oneself. Feelings are just feelings and we all have them. And, if we don't deal with them, they don't go away. Feelings will hang around within and they can hurt us. Sometimes they have the power to destroy us.

Living the way we do we don't take time to take care of ourselves enough. We ignore our feelings or push them down.

We are living through a time right now when people are collectively depressed. It sort of reminds me of the time when Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston. We were living in Goose Creek, SC, just north of Charleston. We had just built our new building for the new church which we started in 1984. And, Hugo hit leaving devestation in its wake. We were fortunate. All the pine trees were down in our yard, and the roof of our house had to be replaced. Others lost much more.

The Sunday after Hugo hit we gathered for worship in our church. No electricity or water, we huddled together and held each other. It was a difficult time as we all tried to put our lives back together. That year we lost about a month of offerings. You think we've got it bad now?

Never before had I seen people so depressed, not just one of us, but en masse, so to speak. And, like then, our collective depression will pass, but while we're going through it what should we do.

We should keep our faith and trust God to get us through this. God really will get us through this. We will survive. During such a time as this, we need to keep working and moving forward. It is a time to pare down, to ask what is most important in life. It is a time to pray and worship. Maybe it's a time to think about someone else's needs.

So, if you find yourself down, you really are not the only one. All of us are fighting off this feeling that we have been robbed.

The Psalmist also says: "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want...Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life..." Goodness and mercy are right behind you.

Blessings!
Dave Nichols

Friday, September 11, 2009

9- 11

Where were you when 9-11 happened? You know, when the planes flew into the towers and the Pengagon, where were you? We ask that question as readily as my generation is asked "where were you when John Kennedy was shot?"

When John Kennedy was shot I was in the sixth grade. It was the last class of the day, sixth period study hall. Mrs. Mabry, my science and math teacher came into our room and announced that the President had been shot. Mrs. Mabry was crying. Wow. She was the meanest teacher I ever had and she was crying. I knew something serious was going on.

School was dismissed early that day and we all went home not knowing whether our country would hold together or not. Was this just one thing among many that would happen? Was there an underlying conspiracy to overthrow our country? We watched as that huge Lyndon Johnson was sworn into office. We watched the funeral and John-John salute his daddy's casket. It was a moving and difficult time. We were mired in Vietnam and the civil rights movement was in full swing. When you're eleven or so, the world seems so big.

In 2001, Sept. 11, I was putting on my shoes in front of the TV when the first plane hit and it was reported. I drove to the office where we learned about the other planes and all that was going on. We sat for hours in front of the television trying to take it all in. We were in a collective depression.

At a worship service at the National Cathedral, world leaders gathered to worship and pray. These big people seemed all of a sudden so small. All kinds of questions circulated as we tried to figure out why this could happen. Did others hate us that much? What did we do? Most of the people killed were just at work.

Some say that this was an event that changed the world. One of my teachers says that this event didn't change the world; it was just more of the same. An endless cycle of violence and revenge. My teacher says that Easter was the day that changed the world- but nobody believes in Easter.

Maybe that's overstating it a bit. And yet, as Christians we always have to ask: "What is God saying to us in all of this?" Not that God caused it or wanted it to happen. But, what is going on here.

It's difficult for us to ask questions like that. It sounds like we're saying at some level that we deserved it. NO, no one deserves this- no matter what.

No, it's just acknowledging that it's God that we worship. And, our great towers of pride have come down. Shouldn't that remind us who is truly God and what is of true value in this world?

God bless the USA!
Dave Nichols

Friday, September 4, 2009

Don't Waste Good Crisis

The speaker for our Spartanburg Kiwanis meeting on Thurdsday, Sept. 3rd, was Darrell Parker, dean of the business school at the University of South Carolina Upstate. He was there, of course, to talk about the great new business school building that is being built in Spartanburg. He did a good job of talking about what they are going to do educationally and business wise.

But, when question time came, the topic of discussion was the economy. Is it over yet? What can we expect from the fall quarter? If we don't produce anything in this country, do we have a future? There were some really good questions.

One thing that stuck with me was a line that Darrell Parker said while talking about the economy. He said something like: "You don't want to waste a good crisis." He said that this crisis in which we have seen about a 12% drop is a good time to take stock, re-evaluate ourselves, and make some solid plans to come back. He said that if business is smart in this they won't waste a good crisis.

That applies to life in so many ways. Even Christians know that life is filled with storms and crises. We know that the in the Chinese language the same symbol is used for crisis as opportunity.

Every crisis is an opportunity to pare back to what is necessary. It is a time to take stock of what is really important. It's a good time return to what is important. We ask questions like this in times of crisis. When everything is going well, when there are not real challenges to our lives, we rock along. But, when the waters come up to our necks, when things are out of control (and they most always are), we get serious about what we value and what we love.

This has been a time of cutting back, paring, and changing, I hope it's been a time when we've really dealt with what is important. After all, no one should waste a good crisis.

Blessings!
Dave Nichols

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Teamwork

On Sunday Aug. 30th, we worked with our third core value at Bethel Church. The first, you remember was Biblical Foundation. The second was evangelism. I got the notion of teamwork from a book called: Church is a Team Sport. It got me to thinking about the church as the Body of Christ.

If God had wanted to do his thing without benefit of a community of people, God could have done that. Instead, in God's wisdom, God chose to work with and through us to make "his appeal to the world..."

As a team, I said, we are united. We are one. Recall Matthew 18 where Jesus establishes the church and says that the "gates of hades shall not prevail against it." Recall John 17 where Jesus prayed to God in his high priestly prayer that his followers would all be one. Recall Ephesians 4 where Paul reminds us that we are one because we have one Lord, one faith, on baptism, one God and Father of us all.

It doesn't mean that we all agree on everything. We, as John Wesley says, agree on the essentials and we have love/charity about the rest. Jesus invites us to this unity when he reminds us that if we have something against another when we come to the altar to bring our gift we should go get it straight first then come to the altar. I invited the congregation to look around the room and if there is anyone who has anything against anyone to get it straight because we don't want anything standing in the way of our doing God's will.

I also said that in this team we "bear one another's burdens". On any given Sunday we come to church with burdens, pain, grief, suffering. Sometimes it's all we can to do bring ourselves before each other and God. But, in church we are reminded that we are not alone. We are part of a team that is hold us up, praying for us, working with us. Susie ran into a little girl with a broken doll. Susie's mother asked: "Did you help her fix it?" susie said: "We couldn't fix it, but I stayed a while to help her cry..." That's it. We share our burdens on this team.

Next, I said, that we have a common calling. We are all ordained (chosen) in baptism to be God's agents of love and grace in the world. Pastors are expected to be agents of God's love; so is every Christian expected to walk out into the world in service and love. At work, at play, wherever we are we are one in our calling. Jesus said: "Follow me and together we will change the world..."

Last, I said, we have a common mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ. We do that by inviting others to Christ, by growing in Christ, by sending others out into the world to live out Christ's love. This is the church.

We are on the same team, working for the same purpose, and sharing the same love. Our prayer is that we will grow together in love as we seek to do God's will.
Blessings!
Dave Nichols

Sermon Player -

Welcome

Thanks for checking out my blog. I'm new to this, as you can probably see. But, I, like you, have convictions and ideas worth sharing. I hope this will be an opportunity to connect with others who are Christian and/or religious. I am happily United Methodist. I am committed to the basic teachings of our church, and to the compassionate outreach to the world.

I hope these pastoral ponderings will generate something in you that is hopeful.
Blessings!
Dave

About Me

A graduate of Newberry College and Duke University Divinity School.  I have served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church since 1975.

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