An Apostolic Care Act – Bill Leonard* – Baptist News Global

Bill LeonardFirst a confession: As a result of recent healthcare debates, Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress got me to listen to Jesus in a way I’ve not listened before. And apparently I’m not alone.

On June 9, representatives of some 34 diverse religious groups signed onto a letter urging senators not to cut Medicaid as a lifeline to those with health needs. (Medicaid funds 64 percent of nursing care patients and 54 percent of childbirths in the U.S.)  The document declares: “Access to affordable, quality health care should not and cannot be a privilege; it is a requirement rooted in faith to protect the life and dignity of every person.” Signers include NETWORK, a Catholic justice lobby; the Islamic Society of North America; the Union of Reformed Judaism; and denominations such as the Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Presbyterian Church USA and the National Council of Churches. (No Baptist communions are listed.)

I’ve long been haunted by the 10th chapters of Matthew and Luke, passages in which Jesus sends out his first apostolic reps, the Twelve (Matthew) and the Seventy (Luke). They are lessons in gospel minimalism, the first inkling of how Jesus understood and enacted his witness in the world, trusting those folks to help take the Story on the road. Teaching new generations of seminarians compelled me to consider the calling Jesus extended, the message he instructed them (and us) to declare, and the messengers’ inevitable vulnerability.

In classes and ordination services, I’ve warned would-be ministers that the “sent ones” are vulnerable from the start. Jesus advises: “Don’t take purse, shoes, a change of clothes, or an ATM card [postmodern update]. Depend on God’s Beloved Community to sustain you.” He even throws in: “And when you are arrested.” Not if, but when. That alone should scare a bit of the persistent hell out of us. I even got the part about their message: “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven [God’s New Day] has come near.’”

But after years of making a big deal out of Matthew/Luke 10, I mostly missed the depth of the passage, the first element of Jesus’ commissioning. “He gave them authority,” Matthew writes, “over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and cure every disease and every sickness.” Going out, they are to “cure the sick, raise the dead [?], cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” Jesus demands that they confront human suffering as readily as they declare God’s good news!

Holy Obamacare! Two thousand years later, our nation confronts questions over caring for those who need healing from “preexisting conditions,” require cleansing from years of chronic pain — physical, mental, spiritual — and those whose demons of alcohol, opioids, or arrogance need to be cast out. No, we can’t raise the dead, but can we keep folks from dying too soon, or get them to hospice so they can die with dignity?

We still don’t know what our government will do about the Affordable Care Act, but we do know that from the very beginning Jesus mandated an Apostolic Care Act of all who would follow him, who would work for and with people who are suffering, overlooked, and underserved. Whatever else, the Jesus Story has both physical and spiritual implications.

National health care conversations and controversies force us to reexamine our own churchly mission and ministry. What if health care legislation becomes so draconian and human need so great that churches have to initiate or expand community clinics, not because Obamacare is repealed, but because Jesus requires it? Even that won’t be enough. A friend reports being in a meeting where someone declared that if churches would only do their duty, health insurance wouldn’t be necessary. To which my friend responded: “When you start doing surgery in the fellowship hall, call me.”

Some Christian communities are responding with their own initiatives. Medi-share is a Christian based program that asks participants to select the monthly amount they wish to contribute, and, if they do not need it themselves, to contribute it toward the care of others persons in the system. The needs of participants are published online and contributions to their health care are funded to them directly from Medi-share. I don’t know how effective this is, but it illustrates a faith-based alternative.

My own hesitancy to claim Jesus’ first-century healing admonitions inured me to the depth of his concern for persons’ physical well-being and its continuing imperative. He won’t let any of us off the hook. At the end of Matthew 10 Jesus sweeps us up with a minimal mandate for all disciples: We may be unable to hit the road for the kingdom, heal the sick, cleanse lepers, cast out demons, or get arrested for the gospel’s sake. But we can all give “a cup of cold water to one of these little ones” in the church and the world.

Indeed, in behalf of the “little ones,” we may even need to get prophetic. In Prophecy without Contempt, Cathleen Kaveny says that prophets provide a “kind of moral chemotherapy … a brutal but necessary response to aggressive forms of moral malignancy.” Should legislators link healthcare cuts with tax breaks for the rich, some prophet might remind them that Original Sin is a preexisting condition.

*Dr. Bill Leonard spoke at the Hamrick Lectures at First Baptist Church of Charleston. He speaks with a clear voice.

Ordinary Grace – Jo Turner

The Daily Cup
 Jun 21, 2017 08:54 pm

According to the Church calendar, we are in the season known as Ordinary Time. The 28 weeks are marked by … well, not much. No angels and wise men, empty tomb, tongues of flame, no ascending Messiah. It’s not called ordinary because it’s boring, however. The name actually comes from the root word “ordinal;” we are counting the weeks following Pentecost, all the way to Advent.

I’m more than comfortable with it just being plain old ordinary, though. It’s Holy Spirit season, when we are reminded that God is with us exactly where we are, not just in mountaintop experiences. I don’t know about you, but I don’t live a life of banners and fanfares, and life certainly is not always a celebration. Loving those enriching holy days as we do, we now have the opportunity to be Spirit-fed in our everyday living. Particularly here in Washington, we are often braced for the next dramatic turn of events. We may miss the gift of uneventful days to recharge in every way, including spiritually.

I left my office early today. Not in the best if moods, I was struggling, so I came home and scrubbed my kitchen floor. And I mean down-on-hands-and-knees scrubbing. In the silence of an empty house, applying myself to a simple task that humans have done for thousands of years, I started to feel at peace. As often happens, a bit of music started playing in my head as I worked.

From Bernstein’s Mass:
Sing God a simple song:
Lauda, Laudē
Make it up as you go along:
Lauda, Laudē
Sing like you like to sing.
God loves all simple things,
For God is the simplest of all,
For God is the simplest of all.

Whether we are scrubbing floors or sipping morning coffee or waiting for sleep at night, we can be quietly vulnerable to the workings of the Spirit. God longs to be in relationship with us, it is indeed that simple. Ordinary Time is a gift. Let us always keep an empty chair at our soul’s kitchen table for the heavenly guest. Our ordinary lives can be transformed.

A Cup of Cold Water* – Week One Devotional for Say Something Nice Sunday

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Matthew 10:42 (NIV)

There is a member of our congregation who calls me regularly to share a great quotation or an especially meaningful devotional. She has taken the time to do this for years. She knows that I collect quotations. It is always a welcome call and seems to come just when I need it most.

Another church member calls almost every day to see how our day has gone and to see if we need anything. What a blessing. A third member calls just to inquire how things are going. We share our stories with one another because we are dealing with very similar circumstances and our calls strengthen one another.

The wife of a close friend is a fantastic baker. Two or three times a month her husband will bring us a loaf of her home baked bread or cinnamon rolls. Not only do these fill our kitchen with a heavenly aroma, but her thoughtfulness fills our hearts with gratitude. Of course, she has removed the calories.

These are blessing freely given and I am grateful for these expressions of Christian love, thoughtfulness and caring. I have chosen gratitude as my theme for the year. I held it over from last year. It reminds me that we are not alone and that we accomplish absolutely nothing without the help and support of others. I am convinced that God brings people into our lives when we most need them. They are gifts.

There is a wonderful Catholic/Episcopal benediction that says, “We leave as the church to go with love to serve God and one another.” It is a great reminder that we do not leave church, we leave as the church to love and to serve.

Prayer

Dear God, thank you for Christian friends who share your love with those around them. Help me to be grateful and to follow their examples. Amen

*These were published as an insert in the First Baptist Church of Charleston Builder June 4, 2017.

We Intend to Change the World through the Power of Christ-like Speech

Cross and Crown Lutheran Church in Florence, South Carolina and Providence Baptist Church on Daniel Island will celebrate Say Something Nice Sunday on June 11, Rev. Mary Finklea is pastor of Cross and Crown and Dr. Don Flowers is pastor of Providence. Rev. Finklea. and her congregation are long term supporters of the celebration.

This will be the first year for Providence and we are grateful for its support. Providence offers a progressive theological voice to the community. Corlys Devenny provided guidance and leadership.

On June 4, Rev. Bob Boston provided the Children’s Sermon at Circular Congregational Church in Charleston. He based his message on Say Something Nice and gave each of the children a button with the instructions, “When you go back to your seat ask your parent or teacher to pin the button on for you and then you say something nice.” His message was well received.

The Charleston/Atlantic Presbytery was one of the earliest supporters of our movement. This year Harborview Presbyterian Church on James Island under the leadership of Pastor Randy Boone joined the celebration. The church also sponsored an essay contest for students on the topic of the importance of saying nice things. Rev. Boone is a member of our steering committee.

We rejoice over each new congregation that joins our movement. We have a simple objective. We intend to change the world through the power of Christ-like speech. We urge you to join us. Talk with your pastor. Write, call, email or message all of your friends and ask for their help. There is nothing to buy or join. Help is available if you need it. A church is free to choose any Sunday for the celebration.

First Baptist Church of Charleston is the flagship and has provided tremendous encouragement. The staff and congregation are unwavering in their support. The time is right and the cause in urgent. Please help.

Songwriterter sees good news in declining role of church music.

JEFF BRUMLEY | MAY 24, 2017 Baptists News Global

Some people were surprised — and worried — to learn from that sermons are a much stronger draw to church attendance than music. And it was worse than that for music lovers. The Gallup presented a list of motivations Americans give for going to worship, and music was solidly in last place. But with a month to reflect on the discovery, Christian musician, songwriter and minister Kyle Matthews is not worried. Far from it. “I think it might be good news,” Matthews said during a recent conference call. “It indicates people are more hungry for substance than we give them for,” said Matthews, minister of worship arts at First Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C. Matthews has had his eye on Christian music, and what churches want and don’t want, for a long time. he was a artist and a songwriter for publishing companies in Nashville, Tenn. He’s won a Dove Award and other Christian songwriting achievements. 38 37 an April poll survey FaithSoaring Churches Learning Community credit For more than 20 years recording FEATURED We are reader supported DONATE N S EARCH ews Opinion Curated More i 5/24/2017 Songwriter sees ‘good news’ in declining role of church music – Baptist News Global https://baptistnews.com/article/songwriter­sees­good­news­declining­role­church­music/#.WSXcH2grI2x 2/7 Kyle Matthews But Matthews said he left the industry for its focus on profit at the expense of providing theological education and Christian formation. Through his current church ministry, he pursues worship songwriting that places liturgy above entertainment. But music that provides inspiring, substantive lyrics does not sell in a praise­and­worship world, Matthews said. That’s why the Gallup poll’s findings are so interesting, he told other ministers on the conference call. The Christian music industry, he said, is made up of people who are trying to serve a market. “They are business people, not theologians, historians or music educators. They are business people.” And what sells is music with shallow lyrics with little or no theological content. Matthews said he’s known songwriters and performers who are unfamiliar with Scripture. As a result, music has become “wallpaper instead of furniture” in worship. Rather than working to instruct Christians in the faith, contemporary worship music is filled with mantras and clichés designed to alter moods, Matthews said. That kind of music comes and goes because it’s become disposable. “I don’t think people are allowed to get to know church music well enough to interact with it.” But the industry isn’t the problem, Matthews added. “If the church would demand a different product, they would get a different product.” It’s also the people in the pews. The industry is “responding to what the public is asking for.” That has been praise music which is entertaining and happy, and avoids darkness and difficult concepts, he said. “It can become a form of escapism rather than a form of encounter with God.” It’s why the April Gallup poll could be good news. It may signal that people in the pews may want something more. That could be why sermons are at the top of the list, and contemporary Christian music, with its mantras and clichés, is at the bottom.


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