Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gracious Words

Now that you can find our churches on Facebook, by searching for Bethel UMC, French Broad UMC, or Huckleberry Springs Administrative Center and Chapel (UMC), you can check out a daily (or almost daily) devotional on any of those pages. Here's the daily thought/devotional from January 11th, which is a response, of sorts, to the shooting in Tuscon, Arizona, on January 8th. Feel welcome to share your thoughts by commenting here.
The apostle Paul gives the early churches a lot of instructions on how to be the people they are called to be, as this new Church, as followers of Christ, as members together of the Body of Christ. In Colossians 4:6, he instructs the people at Colossae, "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone."

This verse has challenged me since I was in college. Often prone to bitter words, and sometimes easily angered, I wondered how to use more gracious words with the people around me. I am still challenged by this verse today, though I've learned a lot more about being gracious and showing grace since I started college almost 14 years ago.

Recently, people in our country have had reason to examine their words more closely. Following the shooting in Tuscon, Arizona, on Saturday, lots of things have been said about people's words and how others translate them into actions. Last night, Jon Stewart addressed this issue on his nightly news parody show, _The Daily Show_. He pointed out that trying to blame Saturday's tragic events, or the choices of the shooter, on what any one person or group has said or done is fruitless; there are many factors that make people act out the way the shooter did, and though placing blame is always tempting and can make us feel a bit better or perhaps "safer," in some sense, in reality, doing so very rarely brings resolution or positive results. Trying to make sense out of something senseless is, to say the least, futile.

Now, I realize it may be questionable to refer to a self-identifying political liberal (and one who is Jewish) in a devotional writing, but Stewart's comments brought me back to Colossians 4:6, as I reflected on them this morning. We are called to use "rhetoric" that is gracious and loving, not because of our nationality or our political leanings, but because we are Christians. We know the political climate in this country is full of words that hurt, despite the childish mantra we were all taught to recite--"stick and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." As Christians, I believe we are called to something better, not for the sake of democracy, but for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Whether we identify with a particular political party or ascribe to a particular leaning theologically, there should be no room in our churches and communities of faith for words that are ungracious. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, not to place blame or use words to cut people down. Using gracious speech, seasoned with salt, should be an aspiration for each of us, not because of anything about who we are or where we live, but because we know the one who offers us salvation, whose gracious words, even in the midst of agony--"Father, forgive them..."--speak life into our broken hearts.

Today, wherever your find yourself, and whatever conversations you're involved in, pray for gracious words, use language that is life-giving, and give thanks to the one who offered grace to you--to each of us, if we will only turn and accept it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bible Study News

Coming soon: A brand-new Bible study! Betty Newman and I will be co-teaching the new Immersion Bible Study of Matthew, written by Ellsworth Kalas, using the new Common English Bible, beginning Wednesday, January 19th. We'll meet at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays, at Huckleberry Springs Chapel and Administrative Center. The study lasts for 8 sessions, so we will conclude on Wednesday, March 9th. Drop me a line at betzy.elifrits.warren@gmail.com or comment on this post to let us know you want to join us. We're looking forward to this!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Reading Material

Looking for something to read in the new year? I've got just the thing for you, then! I'm hoping to do more reading this year (other than commentaries!), and I've already picked out one book for each month that I think you might enjoy reading with me. This month, I'm looking at Mark Batterson's In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day. I'll create a post at the end of the month with some thoughts and questions on the book, but if you'd like to read it, too, and discuss it with me in person, just comment here or email me at betzy.elifrits.warren@gmail.com. I plan to have a "book club" type meeting each month, but the details of this meeting haven't been set yet because my "book club" is missing one important thing--you!! Will you come along on this journey with me? I hope to hear from you soon!