Praying For Our Coptic Brothers and Sisters In Christ

Egypt

In human history, conquering generals would process into a city high atop a large stead or chariot.

Our God chose a lowly donkey to enter triumphantly into the city.

Why?

For sure it was to fulfill prophecy but could there be additional reasons?

The Romans chose tall stallions to exalt themselves above the crowds.  Jesus chose a young donkey to put Him in the midst of the crowds.  It made Him vulnerable and accessible.

Like our Savior, we as Christians, make ourselves vulnerable and accessible in a world that can be, at times, terrifying.

Two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt learned first hand the terror of being open to the world.  A bomb planted under a pew is a violation of the sacred and brings death and destruction into a place where only love and grace should exist.   People came this past Palm Sunday to meet their Jesus on a humble donkey.  Instead, forty-seven were killed and met their maker too soon.

Much like the church bombings during the 60’s in the South, these barbaric acts unsettle our faith.  People were being killed at the end of a bible study in church simply because they were part of a racial group.  It is at these times that we wonder where was God.

Then we remember the simple donkey and we realize that God was there in the midst of that chaos and bloodshed as well.  We choose to worship a God with us and not over us.  We worship not a conquering general atop a noble steed, but instead we worship a God that is vulnerable and accessible to us especially during horrific times.

We pray God’s continued presence for our Coptic brothers and sisters in Egypt.  Indeed, we pray for all our fellow Christians under persecution in our world today.  These killings are not the last chapter in our lives as believers in Christ.

For every death there is a Resurrection!

Monday Meditation – Fear in the Garden of Gethsemane

Fear in the garden

Vincent Taylor, author of the Gospel of Mark (1963), surveys several interpreters for the verses in Mark 14 that states in the NIV, “He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’ ”

Here are the various interpretations Taylor found.

“The Greek words depict the utmost degree of unbounded horror and suffering” in this biblical passage

“Suggestive of shuddering awe”

“His [Jesus] first feeling was one of terrified surprise … the distress that follows a great shock”

Jesus is “appalled … agitated”

“It [the biblical passage] describes the confused, restless, half-distracted state which is produced by physical derangement, or by mental distress, a grief, shame, disappointment, etc.”

Jesus faces his destiny with abject terror, like any human being in His place would do.

Much like we do, when in fear, we go to those closest to us to comfort us, to help us get through the fear.  Seeing that “Abba” (Father) was not going to take away this cup from Him, Jesus goes to his inner circle of disciples leaders and finds them asleep!  Even they couldn’t stay awake long enough to pray for and with Jesus.  Three times Jesus finds them asleep.

Peter who boasted of never denying Jesus, John and James who wanted to be on the right and left of Jesus on the throne, none of them could last one night without sleep.

Yet Jesus, even in fear for his life, returns again and again to God.  He handles His terror with prayer, in the very presence of God.

Let us remember to do as much when we feel scared or lack courage.  Prayer helps us not be unafraid but to have courage in the face of fear.  Much like it did for Jesus.

Dear God, even in our fear, help us to see Your protection and love around us at all times.  Despite what we may be feeling, help us know that You have called us to a purpose to be fulfilled and You are with us every step of the way.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Righteously Livid

House of Prayer

When dealing with the emotional life of Jesus, one must turn to the cleansing of the Temple as a direct action campaign by our God in the political economy of the Temple state.

After examining the Temple the evening before, (Mark 11:11) Jesus returns to the outer court where businessmen have set up shop to exchange money and sell live sacrifices. Others were transporting goods to and from the Temple.

He takes three actions:

  1. Drives out those buying and selling
  2. Overturns the tables of the moneychangers and those selling doves
  3. Prevented people from carrying anything through the temple.

The Temple was not solely a religious institution but also an economic hub of activity.  The mixing of the sacred and the profane did not surprise Jesus.  So what was He righteously livid about?

He drives out the buyers and sellers, but more specifically He “overturns” – another translation could read it as “destroys” – the moneychangers and the sellers of doves or pigeons.  Why these two?  They represent the buyers and sellers who come in and rob those who are trying to regain introduction back into the community.  The poor and the unclean were considered second-class citizens and had to pay for their return to acceptable status within society often only able to afford the smallest sacrifice available to them, doves.

Jesus had done away with the purity laws and practices of the time throughout His ministry.  He does not want the people to be taken advantage of as they sought to regain some sense of humanity after being declared unclean by the very people who can then capitalize from their need to become clean.  He realized that these cultic practices of the day were no longer about God’s will but humanity’s greed.

House of Prayer, Den of Robbers

Isaiah 56:1-8 (ESV) reminds the readers that all are included in God’s “house of prayer.”  However, the Temple has instead become a den of robbers as in Jeremiah 7 (ESV).  It oppresses the foreigners, the fatherless, and the widowed.  Its follower and leaders “steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to other gods” and as such actions imply “rob” God of all due to God.

Just like the place in Shiloh, Jeremiah 7:12 (ESV), if the Temple does not reform its ways, it will be destroyed.

Dear God, help us to see how we may be hindering people from coming into the church.  Help us to see the ways we make people jump through hoops to be a part of our community.  Help us to love everyone who comes to our doors as sisters and brothers.  And let us be righteously livid when they are not.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Lent : Love

Love

Who do you love?  What do you love?

In Mark 10:17-22 we have the only reference in the gospel to Jesus “loving” someone.

What makes this man so special that we learn Jesus “loved” him?  The assumption is not that Jesus loved no one else but we aren’t told in the other stories so explicitly as we are told in this story that Jesus loved someone.  Why are we told that Jesus “loved” this man?

It is in his commands to the rich man that shows us the reader, that Jesus’ love extends to all he has encountered in his ministry – the healed, the called and the oppressed.

One translation for Mark 10:21 is as follow, “Get up, sell that which you have, give it to the poor and you shall have treasure in heaven.  Come, follow me.”

“Get up” is used in “healing” stories.  This is a “healing” story as well.  It is a healing of the soul from the accumulation of stuff and wealth.

The second “sell that which you have” and last commands “Come, follow me” recalls the disciples and others who were asked to give up all they had and follow Jesus.

These two groups, the healed and the disciples, Jesus alludes to also have his love for they already have done what he asked of the rich man.  Even though ultimately the rich man does not do as commanded, Jesus knowing this, still loves him.

The poor are brought front and center with Jesus commanding the rich man to give all he had to the poor.  Jesus loves them enough to tell this rich man to provide for them.

Unfortunately, the man cannot obey and leaves.  While he has kept the commandments he has not acted in the spirit of the commandments.

Dear Lord, let us not just adhere to the letter of the law but the spirit in which you intended it.  Otherwise we run the risk of turning the law into an idol.  The Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Lent : Compassion

sheep without a shepherd

In Mark 6:30-44 we have Jesus filled with compassion for his people who are like “sheep without a shepherd.”  In the original Greek, literally the word we translate as compassion means “to have one’s guts torn apart.”  What causes this primal compassion Jesus feels for the crowds?  Their ignorance, their lack of knowledge?

He teaches them well into the late hours of the day. Later in the story he had further compassion on them for their physical hunger.  He tells the disciples to feed the people.  He doesn’t ask them to, he tells them to.

The disciples’ lack of compassion for the people makes Jesus’ all the starker.  The disciples balk at having to spend so much to feed so many when they had suggested that the crowds be told to go and buy their own food.  Having just come from the mission fields, the lesson of hospitality has been wasted on them.  While they were to rely on the compassion of others in the mission fields, we find them without compassion for the people following Jesus in desperate need for His teachings.

Jesus cares not solely for His people’s spiritual lives but also their physical well-being.  And He tells us to do the same.

“But he answered and said to them, ‘You give them something to eat.’”  Mark 6:37 NKJV

Dear God, help us to do what you commanded your disciples to do all those years ago – Give your people something to eat, both physically and spiritually.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Lent : Rage

rage

Continuing with our Lenten series on the emotional life of Jesus, we turn to Mark 3:1-6.

In this passage the Pharisees provoke Jesus’ anger.  After a discussion about what one can or cannot do on the Sabbath, Jesus makes the talk concrete by inviting forward a man with a withered hand.  Jesus asks the Pharisees, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil?  To save life, or to kill it?

The Greek description Mark uses for Jesus’ anger at the Pharisees is unprecedented in its use in the gospels anywhere.  Jesus is enraged because of the Pharisees stubbornness of heart, their lack of compassion for someone on the day made for humans to contemplate not just God but God’s relationship to humanity.

Do we do good when it is convenient for ourselves?  Or do we do it at every opportunity that God presents us with?  Does our own selfishness get in the way of our own compassion for people and do we use rules and regulations to keep ourselves out of the discussion?  How enraged would God be with us on the Sabbath?

Dear God, sometimes we have not been a loving church.  We have sometimes been too obedient to the structure and laws of the church than we have been compassionate to others.  Lord help us to see that the Sabbath was made for us and not us for the Sabbath, an idol that can obscure your face from us.  Help us live to do good when and where we can.  Amen.

Spring Checklist from United Methodist Insurance

UMI Spring Checklist

The leaves are returning to the trees. The perennials are popping out. It’s time for the annual spring inspection of your church’s interior and exterior. Here is a checklist to help your trustees through the process. Brought to you by United Methodist Insurance.

OUTSIDE 

Walk around the property to get an overall sense of what needs to be done. Consider potential repairs to buildings, walkways, entrances and exits, steps, and parking areas.

Create two lists: one of things that need to be done immediately and the other of things that can wait.

  • Items needing immediate attention could be broken steps, loose handrails, debris that needs to be collected and removed, cracks in the walkways or parking lot, and any conditions that could cause physical injury.
  • As soon as you’ve dealt with the first list, move right on to the second list. Check the roof, gutters, and flashing, and look for deterioration of concrete and seals around windows and doors.

This is also a good time to service maintenance equipment such as leaf blowers and lawn mowers.

INSIDE 

Inspect your fire extinguishers and arrange for service or replacement. Determine if you have enough of them or need to add more.

Check all lighting equipment and replace malfunctioning fixtures and burnt-out bulbs.

If there are building-related systems such as sprinklers or alarm systems, arrange for the necessary water flow tests and circuit testing of all alarms.

Inspect all electrical and plumbing systems and immediately repair any damage.

SPRING PLANNING: 

Produce, distribute, and discuss the report on the risks you’ve identified in your Risk Management report and the actions you’ve taken in regard to them, as well as risks scheduled for correction at a later date.

Click here for a downloadable version of this spring checklist.

For more resources and information about protecting the people, property, and finances of your church, visit www.uminsure.org or sign up for the quarterly Church Protection Guide.

We Are Called To Serve Out Front and Behind the Scenes

Spiritual Gifts

Biblical Foundation

We are all called to serve.

Some are called to serve as teachers and shape the next generation; some are called to serve as pastors and lead a congregation; some are called to serve as performers and use their art to glorify the Lord; and others are called to serve behind the scenes, to organize, to report, to communicate in order to support ministry.  1 Corinthians 12:4-6 states, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (NIV).

I love this scripture because it reminds me that our service, whether out front or behind the scenes, is all God’s work.  Personally, I identify with those who are called to serve behind the scenes, who support others in their ministry.  At GCFA, we call that “the ministry of administration.”

Many Who Serve

There are many in The United Methodist Church who serve within this ministry of administration.  And, as part of my role, I have the opportunity to work with church business administrators across the denomination.  They, too, are individuals who are called to serve.  Often they serve behind the scenes.  They manage the church budget; make sure the bills are paid; coordinate the church management system, and so much more.  At GCFA, we seek to serve these individuals through our Academy of Church Business Administration (ACBA), two weeks of classes that cover 14 different areas of study.

Being part of this ministry supports the connection’s mission to make disciples.  It is my privilege to support the ACBA, and to serve the entire United Methodist connection through the ministry of administration.

Thank you,

Jodi Chadwell

Chief Officer of Shared Services and Ministry Evaluation

Professional Development and the Value of GCFA Staff

Professional Development

As the Chief Officer of Human Resources and Professional Development, I have the privilege to do what I love. Every. Day. At the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA), we place a priority on professional development. In 2016, one of the goals for the agency was for every employee to participate in a minimum of one professional development opportunity.

Professional Development

Although we tend to focus on development solely as training, it is important to acknowledge that there are many forms of development that help us identify an individual’s development needs. And when this is done well, we are developing one of the church’s blessings…the people who serve the Church through their work with general agencies.

Performance management tools are fundamental to staff development. They can provide managers and Human Resources Professionals with knowledge of the areas individuals need to develop and grow.

In my experiences, it is helpful to use a mixture of methods to ensure successful professional development:

  • Training
  • On-the-job learning
  • Coaching
  • Mentoring

Having a structured training and development program provides needed consistency for employees. At GCFA, are in the process of fine-tuning the New Hire Orientation and Onboarding experience to ensure employees have a consistent experience. When employees enter an organization knowing the expectations, it sets them up for success. Providing them with the policy and procedural information up front is essential. However, it cannot stop there. Ensuring continuous learning throughout an employee’s tenure allows for continued engagement and growth of the individual.

Outcomes

Professional development offers many positives for the agency, the Church, and the individual. Investing the time to train your staff shows that you value them. You also allow for development opportunities that employees may not have sought out for themselves. This encourages them to continuously learn and grow. It also ensures that employees are confident in the job they have been assigned to do. When we focus on training and development, we provide the employees with the tools to be successful on the job to grow as individuals, showing them that they are appreciated, and positively impact their work for the Church.

In 2016, GCFA reached its goal of ensuring each staff member received professional development training. The majority of our staff received 2 or more training events. Management was trained in the process of Performance Reviews and were encouraged to set additional professional development goals for 2017.

We Are Still Learning

Although we are still in progress to fine tuning our training and development program, I am confident that our staff and managers are dedicate to continuous learning. In the summer of 2016, Cheryl Akey, Travel and Meeting Planning Manager at GCFA, received her Certified Meeting Planner certification. Knowing the value it added to her job, she encouraged an employee in the department to receive her certification. In January of 2017, she did it! Cheryl said, “The qualifications for certification includes education, experience and a rigorous exam.  There are approximately 11,000 meeting planners around the globe that have a CMP designation. It is considered the badge of excellence in the meeting and event industry.” There are now three CMP’s on staff at GCFA serving the Church as dedicated professionals! It is the dedication of managers like Cheryl that help organizations achieve their Professional Development goals.

Thank you,

Caitlin Congdon

“My brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, because we know that we teachers will be judged more strictly.”

James 3:1 (CEB)

Monday Meditation – The Body of Christ

Body of Christ

As I grow older, I have begun to realize just how knitted together our bodies are.  How pain in a knee joint can have consequences on the back or hips.  How a vision issue can affect our ability to process situations.

When you’re younger the body is better able to compensate for these “distractions” and heal.  But as we grow older that is less so the case because everything is now worn out!

Body of Christ

As the body of Christ it can be the same thing.  When one part is in pain we all take part in that distraction and have to deal with it or else, the entire body grows weak.  We are all connected together through Christ and as such must recognize the hurt we feel as a body together.

This is one reason we are all in such high anxiety and stress even when life is going well for us.  We feel the interconnectedness of those who are struggling to live.  Our very bodies cry out in solidarity with those in the body of Christ who are suffering.  If only we would listen as God commands us.

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?  Micah 6:8 (NRSV)

Dear God, we thank you for forming us so intricately as a physical being.  We thank you for promoting us into the body of Christ spiritually.  Help us to be with one another when one part of the body is in pain.  Help us to know each other as a body and not just as individuals.  Amen.