The NSU Wesley Foundation

Dusk and Dawn

13 We have the same faithful spirit as what is written in scripture: I had faith, and so I spoke.[a] We also have faith, and so we also speak. 14 We do this because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus, and he will bring us into his presence along with you. 15 All these things are for your benefit. As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory.

16 So we aren’t depressed. But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day. 17 Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison. 18 We don’t focus on the things that can be seen but on the things that can’t be seen. The things that can be seen don’t last, but the things that can’t be seen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:13-18, Common English Bible (CEB), The United Methodist Lectionary

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Cody C. Robinson, Director of Leadership Development

 

In this epistle, the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Corinth, a Greek city-state between Athens and Sparta. Corinth was one of the largest and most important cities in Greece, with a population consisting primarily of Greeks, Romans, and Jews. This rich mixing of cultures meant that the city-state was a hotbed for spiritual activity.

What we see in Paul’s letter throughout the chapter is a theme of encouragement and endurance. During this time, Christians were being persecuted by the Roman Empire. Paul calls the followers of the Christ in Corinth to not become discouraged because they received the privilege to spread the story of Jesus’s ministry in the same way they received God’s mercy and grace.

In so many words, Paul wants his people to speak of Christ’s sacrifice and love that’s both genuine and frank. It’s inferred from the text that some of the Christians in Corinth were trying to convert others by means of ‘deception, secrecy, and “shameful actions”‘, but Paul wanted them to be open and honest about God’s transforming love.

He tells them that if the story of Christ’s love for us is veiled, it’s veiled to those who have hardened their hearts. It is veiled by those who can’t see God working within them and others because of all of the darkness in their lives.

Darkness, perhaps, that obscures their paths not because of their own volition, but because circumstances and events have dimmed the light that not only illuminates the path ahead, but also radiates from within.

In verse 6 of the 4th chapter, Paul explains that God’s light shines out of the darkness, and the God he describes is no doubt the same one that shines in our hearts to this day.

It’s written that ‘as grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory’.

But what is grace? Grace is a form of God’s mercy- God’s forgiveness. Often in my talks with my friends and students, I discover that many carry feelings of guilt and shame, often for situations or events in their lives that were beyond their control.

This causes a separation from themselves and others, separation within themselves, and, naturally, a separation between themselves and God.

Something that took me a long time to realize is that God’s grace is sufficient for us, for power is made perfect in our weakness. For God’s love covers a multitude of sins.

If sin is something that separates us from God, separates us from others, and separates us from ourselves, then when we acknowledge the love, grace, and mercy God has for us, we are made anew. We are no longer defined by those mistakes and misgivings that haunt us.

We then must learn to forgive, and love, ourselves. In this letter, Paul explains that the person that we are on the inside is being renewed each day. In our journeys, there is a continuous cycles of dusk and dawn, hills and valleys. There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we petition to God to not only forgive our trespasses, but also those sins committed against us by others. Therefore, I challenge you to try and forgive yourself for all those times you let yourself or others down, for God has forgiven you.

I want to remind you that God has always loved you, and God has loved you before you’ve learned to love yourself.

And if you haven’t learned to love yourself yet, that’s okay too.

Know that you are worthy of grace.

Know that you are worthy of forgiveness.

You are worthy of love.

Peace be with you,

Cody.

June Reflections from Shana Dry

22 Instead, the parts of the body that people think are the weakest are the most necessary. 23 The parts of the body that we think are less honorable are the ones we honor the most. The private parts of our body that aren’t presentable are the ones that are given the most dignity. 24 The parts of our body that are presentable don’t need this. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor 25 so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other.
1 Corinthians 12:22-25, Common English Bible (CEB)

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Shana Dry, Director of Campus Ministry

Paul argues that every member of the body is necessary. There are no exceptions. Those body parts that are deemed weaker, less honorable, or less presentable are all very important. Paul rejected the Corinthians criteria for evaluating which gifts were most honorable.

The only purpose of the gifts was to build up the body of Christ; the true measure for the greatness of any gift would be its usefulness to the body of Christ. By now you’re reading this thinking Shana what does this have to do with our church?

Every church has people who are out in the forefront and love the public spotlight. But what is really essential to the ongoing life of the church is the people behind the scenes—those who serve faithfully and quietly (and often are the ones who make the leaders look good).

We tend to forget that many of the strengths we so admire in one person are often incompatible with the strengths we admire in another.

The grace of a figure skater is useless to a Sumo wrestler.

The hard-working research and study of my favorite theologian doesn’t leave much time for the world traveling compassion of my favorite missionary.

If you are interested in finding out what your strengths and gifts are, come talk to me. I would love to be in conversation with you about where you are being called to serve in the life of our church.
Peace & Love Always,
Shana

 

Our Political Responsibility

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Cody C. Robinson, Director of Leadership Development

The strength of a political system depends upon the full and willing participation of its citizens. The church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state, supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing policies and programs that are unjust.” – The United Methodist Social Principles: “Political Responsibility”

Upon reviewing the Social Principles for my United Methodist Doctrine class, I was surprised that the Church challenges us to not only be concerned for, but also involved with the application of public policy and ideological discourse.

This idea is at odds with the way I developed my concept of what role the institution of religion (or the Church) takes. While growing up, I constantly heard the maxim: “Don’t talk about religion, money, or politics; especially at the dinner table.”

It’s fascinating, however, that the United Methodist Church (UMC) encourages us to become invested in local, state, regional, and global politics despite the growing of trend of people leaving Christian denominations by the droves.

More fascinating than this call to action is recent studies show that, while the reasons why younger generations are leaving the greater Church are many, political ideology is not a leading cause of this exodus by far.

By no means do I believe this section of the UMC Social Principles asks the United Methodist to use these social paradigms as tools to oppress, control, or harm non-Christians (other faith traditions are doing a good job of that already).

No, I believe the Church calls us to use our social capital/resources/privilege to give voices to those who do not have them.

An example of this would be providing platforms for discourse and understanding for those have been wrongly targeted, vilified, or oppressed by unlawful legislation that blooms out of the poisonous roots of fabricated dichotomies, racial prejudice, and the overarching culture of fear of the Stranger.

What does this mean in practice? When the Oscars aired in March, rapper Common and singer Andra Day performed a song from the 2017 movie Marshall. During the performance, the two musicians invited activists on the state. Among them was 14 year old Alice Brownotter, one of many Standing Rock reservation leaders. Common and Day used their privilege and social capital to bring Brownotter’s cause to the spotlight.

Do most Christians have access to this amount of clout, money, and resources? No. However, in this age of information, many of us do have access to our social media platforms, organizational websites, and offline social networks (i.e. our friends and family).

The United Methodist Church’s founder, John Wesley, had an understanding of God’s grace, love, and justice that calls us to action- actions in which our daily discourse and discussions must extend into those ‘taboo areas’- from the dining room conversation to the front steps of the capitol.

Protest unethical laws.

Hold your leaders accountable.

Develop healthy theology.

Use your voice and space so that others may have a chance to use their own.

For while God is not partisan, God is political.

No one ideology holds the monopoly on the Christian faith, regardless of what narratives are being constructed. Our obligation as those who are called to “love your neighbor as you love yourself” is to “learn to do good. Seek justice: help the oppressed; defend the orphan; plead the for the widow.”

Not taking those three concepts at face value, I believe inspiring action and strengthening the spirits of those who are at the margins of our society.

Those who have been made to feel less than should be our priority as not only as political leaders and/or Christians, but fellow human beings to protect, provide, and invigorate our neighbors with the Divine’s unconditional and everlasting love and passion.

Furthermore, what about caring for those around you? Who among you is in need of justice?

Who in your life is in need of grace, love, or mercy? Among those who you interact with daily, do any of them feel abandoned? Depressed? Alone?

How would you know if you do not take the courage to ask?

I encourage and challenge you to attune yourself to the pain of the world. To look into the eyes of your loved ones and treasured friends and find vulnerability.

Seek opportunities to use your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness to help mend this broken world.

We must do better, and demand that those who hold the power in our world to do the same.

Forgiveness, Toxicity, and the Space Between

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Brad Dame, Wesley Leadership Team

One of our most important pillars in Christianity is to forgive others as God forgave us, to summarize Colossians 3:13.

So important, in fact, that in order for God to forgive our sins we must also forgive anything we have against anyone (Mark 11:25). Our entire faith is based on the acceptance that we are human and therefore imperfect and need God’s grace and forgiveness in order to separate ourselves from our imperfections until we are eventually completely free.

So, it is vital that we understand forgiveness and what it truly means for us as Christians.

Something I hear a lot in sermons about forgiveness is that forgiveness is “for you, not for them”, the point being that holding a grudge is ultimately more harmful to the wronged than the wrongdoer, and forgiving and letting go is the way to be free of the emotional power the wrongdoer has. I agree with this.

However, I still believe there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what forgiveness entails after the fact.

We are not God; we do not have the ability to wash away sins, plain and simple. That is the difference between our forgiveness and His. This is precisely why we hear forgiveness is, again, “for you, not for them”. This is important because it is in opposition to what is at times expected of the Christian community. That we should be unconditionally, absolutely, totally forgiving.

But there is a line, isn’t there? There is no question that toxicity is present in people. Generally, I prefer to see the good in people. Life is hard and unfair and emotions are difficult to sort out and I do my best to be an encourager.

But there is a line, isn’t there?

People will take from you, tear you down, suck you dry, leave you for dead. Learn to know what that looks like. Forgiveness is shedding the power someone has over you. Sometimes that means shedding the person themselves.

Do not be afraid to trim the fat.

They are not your responsibility.

Thank you.

 

Outrageous Grace

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Shana Dry, Director of Campus Ministry

You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of“. ~Ephesians 2:8-9

There is a story I read the other day that describes grace.
Former U.S. President Richard Nixon is infamous for his place at the center of the Water gate scandal.

He disgraced both the office of the President of the United States and the United States itself in the eyes of the world.

When Hubert Humphrey, a former U.S. vice-president died, Nixon attended his funeral. Dignitaries came from all over the country and the world, yet Nixon was made to feel decidedly unwelcome.

People turned their eyes away and conversations ran dry around him. Nixon could feel the ostracism being ladled out to him.
Then Jimmy Carter, the serving U.S. President, walked into the room.

Carter was from a different political party to Nixon and well known for his honesty and integrity. As he moved to his seat President Carter noticed Nixon standing all alone. Carter immediately changed course, walked over to Nixon, held out his hand, and smiling genuinely and broadly embraced Nixon and said “Welcome home, Mr. President! Welcome home!”
The incident was reported by Newsweek magazine, which wrote: “If there was a turning point in Nixon’s long ordeal in the wilderness, it was that moment and that gesture of love and compassion.”
Carter gifted Nixon with love and compassion. Nixon had done nothing to deserve it. It was an act of pure grace on Carter’s part.

When the Bible speaks of God’s blessing it speaks in exactly the same way. Blessing is never a reward for good behavior. It’s a gift, a gift of pure, unadulterated grace.
Outrageous grace isn’t a favor you can achieve by being good; it’s the gift you receive by being God’s.
Outrageous grace is God’s goodness that comes looking for you when you have nothing to offer in return.

During this Lenten season, I ask of you to practice outrageous grace that was expressed FIRST by our Lord and Savior.
“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to Love.”…….. Billy Graham
Remember; God loves you, and so do I.

Pastor Shana

Psalm 22: A Lenten Reflection

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Cody C. Robinson, Director of Leadership Development

    1 Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?

(Lord, hear my prayer.)

2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;

    and by night, but find no rest.

(Lord, hear my prayer.)

3 Yet you are holy,

    enthroned on the praises of Israel.

(Lord, You are holy.)

4 In you our ancestors trusted;

    they trusted, and you delivered them.

(Lord, in You alone, we trust.)

5 To you they cried, and were saved;

    in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

(Lord, to You be the Glory.)

6 But I am a worm, and not human;

    scorned by others, and despised by the people.

(Lord, hear my anguish.)

7 All who see me mock at me;

    they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;

(Lord, grant me strength.)

8 “Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—

    let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

(Lord, in You alone, we trust.)

9 Yet it was you who took me from the womb;

    you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.

(Lord, to You be the Glory.)

10 On you I was cast from my birth,

    and since my mother bore me you have been my God.

(Lord, in You alone, we trust.)

11 Do not be far from me,

    for trouble is near

    and there is no one to help.

(Lord, quell my fear.)

12 Many bulls encircle me,

    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

(Lord, quell my fear.)

13 they open wide their mouths at me,

    like a ravening and roaring lion.

(Lord, hear my prayer.)

14 I am poured out like water,

    and all my bones are out of joint;

my heart is like wax;

    it is melted within my breast;

(Lord, quell my fear.)

15 my mouth is dried up like a potsherd,

    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;

    you lay me in the dust of death.

(Lord, hear my anguish.)

16 For dogs are all around me;

    a company of evildoers encircles me.

My hands and feet have shriveled;

(Lord, hear my anguish.)

17 I can count all my bones.

They stare and gloat over me;

18 they divide my clothes among themselves,

    and for my clothing they cast lots.

(Lord, hear my prayer.)

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away!

    O my help, come quickly to my aid!

(Lord, to You be the Glory.)

20 Deliver my soul from the sword,

    my life from the power of the dog!

21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!

(Lord, in You alone, we trust.)

#NoFilter: Sanctuary

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Abigail Shaw-Bolen, Student Intern

“Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary;

Pure and holy, tried and true.

With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living

Sanctuary for You.”

 

It’s the song most often stuck in my head, most often hummed as I work, and most often (kindly) shushed by my husband. There’s something about the hymn that sticks with me.

Though I was raised attending three church services per week, it has taken until very recently for me to settle into God’s love. My family gave me the best foundation possible, but I think grace is the kind of thing you have to experience and claim for yourself. It’s uncomfortable, to say the least, to accept (I can barely cope with someone complimenting my outfit… How am I supposed to embrace the Creator’s love for me?). It requires me to be vulnerable and to recognize that my self-deprecation is not the same thing as the mature humility needed to take God’s hand and walk, but I am beginning to understand.

As I’ve grown more comfortable taking refuge in God, I’ve felt a push. Well, sometimes it’s less of a push and more of a shove. It’s a reminder that I am not here for myself, that God does not fill my cup for me to hoard, but to serve.

I’m sure most of you have heard of the #nofilter movement? The concept: followers on social media platforms are given a glimpse into the barefaced, authentic reality of another person. It’s similar to #nomakeup in that it seeks to dismantle the destructive ideals usually represented as the norm on social media. It’s a reminder that everyone is human and, therefore, flawed.

Sometimes, while I’m busy praising myself for coming to God with “no filter”, I forget to empathize with those who come to me exposed, raw, and honest.

I sidestep the anxious.

I brush off the upset.

I internally criticize what I see as oversharing.

And I fail to consider until convicted how hurt I would be if God viewed me that way. If my God wished to hold me at an arm’s distance, or held back cringes, or rolled Their eyes at my problems.

So I’m calling on the Lord to prepare me to be a sanctuary, to make me an instrument through which those who need can find refuge.

Prepare my cup to pour out daily.

Turn this little light of mine into a candle in the window.