Living the Resurrection Life as the Body of Christ

THE ANOINTING OF RUBY

BY STEPHEN DUNN

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:13-16

I come from the stream of Christianity that takes the instructions in these verses very seriously.  Those of us who are pastors and elders approach it with fear and trembling because we know that we are going to be instruments of an Awesome God, a God of the Impossible–a God of healing and of hope.

Many years ago I was serving a church that was making its first “baby steps” into a deeper and more authentic discipleship.  I had seven elders. One had been an elder for some time, but by his own admission, at a fairly perfunctory level. One was a life elder, which in that church was an emeritus status. The other five were relatively new as elders, still engaged in some “on the job” training.  Then there was me, the pastor.

We were a church that had a growing reputation as people that love. It was a new direction God had taken a congregation that had sometimes been fractious, a little too worldly, and more works-oriented than grace-formed.  We had gone this direction by simply taking the commandment to love one another and loving God more seriously by being sure that we practiced in the ways that the Bible commanded of us.  We were still forming this new identity, feeling our way through years of confusing church history.

Ruby was one of the members of our congregation who embodied a spirit of love.  She was a widow with a southern drawl.  Gentle-spoken and gracious, always dressed carefully and and with dignity.  Willing to defer to others, gracious in her praise, and confident in her faith.  We all loved and respected Ruby.

The rain falls on the just and the unjust.  Ruby got cancer. They tried many treatments over a long period of time. Nothing worked to arrest its development.  Without extraordinary measures, Ruby would soon die.

Ruby was invited into research protocol at the National Institute in Maryland, more 600 miles from her home.  Ruby wasn’t necessarily gung ho, but she new it was important to her children that she do everything to preserve her life. A few days before she and her daughter would make that journey, I went to visit Ruby.  “You know, Ruby, there is still one thing we can do.  We can anoint you and pray for your healing.”  Ruby was quite familiar with the words from James. She agreed and we set the appointment for the next evening.

I contacted all of the elders,but since only one of them had ever been a part of this kind of service I suggested we meet at the church at 6.30, an hour before our appointment with Ruby. She only lived a few blocks away.

All of them were busy and the schedule would be tight but they agreed to be there at the appointed time.  I was the last to arrive. Just before leaving the house I had gotten into a fight with one of my sons and my attitude was not good.  I wasn’t feeling very spiritual at the moment, let alone righteous. When I arrived I confessed my attitude and my anger to my brothers.

Immediately Glenn, the elder emeritus spoke. “I must confess, too, that I have harbored some attitudes towards people that I know don’t please God and I have not been behaving with a spirit worthy of being a leader of this flock.”

Next another elder opened his Bible and read to us words of counsel and encouragement.  Soon each elder was confessing his own sin,  some sharing scripture that God had been using to convict them.  Then we gathered in that room holding hands and praying for one another that God might do His cleansing work in our lives.  The hour passed quickly.  We set out for Ruby’s.

Ruby greeted us along with her family, inviting us to sit.  “You will stay for tea afterwards, won’t you.”  We agreed. Ruby was not someone to say “no” to.

After a bit, we placed in a chair, read the scripture, anointed her with oil and then each one of us in turn prayed for Ruby.  We declared upon the promises of God that we believed Ruby would be healed.  Then, Ruby prayed for each one of us who had prayed for our wholeness, our healing, our faith.

Ruby left for Maryland.

Each Sunday her son-in-law would greet us before worship to share an update on her progress.  For weeks there was no change.

Then one Sunday, as two of the elders and I stood in the lobby, he came up and said, “I have incredible news.  Ruby’s cancer is gone.  The doctor’s examined her yesterday and said where there had been a body riddled with cancer two days before, there was absolutely no sign of tumor or lesions or anything!”  He said, “We cannot explain it, but Ruby is cancer-free!”

One of my elders, the youngest in fact, spoke with awe in his voice. “We prayed for that! We prayed for that! God has answered our prayers.”  No shouting, just a quiet word of reverence recognizing that God had used them and their prayers as instruments of His healing of Ruby.

Ruby returned two weeks later.  There was great rejoicing. She lived a very long time.

And these seven men, and myself, had a new sense of awe for what God can do and a deeper realization of what we can do when we let God work in and through us.

(C) 2012 by Stephen L Dunn

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ASH WEDNESDAY

From TS Eliot’s “Ash Wednesday” – the first stanza

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

 

 

WHEN IT ALL FALLS APART

As we prepare for Lent, this post from Tammie Gitt living3368 is very important.

The taste of the bread … a reminder of your body broken for me.

The taste of the cup … a reminder of your blood for me.

Communion and betrayal.

Oneness and separation.

Wholeness and brokenness.

All these thing were part of a single day in your life, Lord, but aren’t they all part of our lives over time?

One day we feel we have it all together. The next is as if it has all fallen apart.

The thing to remember, though, is the light of hope.

You did not stay in the grave.

You rose again.

Even now you usher is into the presence of God.

I have two weeks on sabbatical from my congregation.  When I return you will begin receiving postings on this blog at least once a week. To get us started, however, and reconnected, I offer this guest blog by a good friend and former missionary Dale Miller. -Steve


“Fulfill my joy by being like-minded . . . Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 2:2, 5

A little boy strutting through the backyard, baseball cap in place, toting ball and bat, was overheard talking to himself, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world.”  Then he tossed the ball into the air, swung at it and missed.  “Strike one!”  Undaunted he picked up the ball, threw it into the air and said to himself, “I’m the greatest baseball hitter ever,” and swung at the ball again.  Again he missed.  “Strike two!”  He paused a moment to examine his bat and ball carefully.  Then a third time he threw the ball into the air.  “I’m the greatest hitter who ever lived,” he said.  He swung the bat hard a third time.  He cried out, “Wow!  Strike three!  What a pitcher!  I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!”

I like the kid’s attitude.  I’ll bet he’ll go far, no matter what he chooses to do in life.  His spirit reminds me of something I read about Thomas Edison.  In December 1914, the great Edison Laboratories in West Orange, New Jersey, were almost destroyed by fire.  In one night, Edison lost two million dollars’ worth of equipment and the record of much of his life’s work.  Edison’s son, Charles, ran frantically around trying to find his father.  Finally he found him, standing near the fire, his face red in the glow, his white hair blown by the winter winds.  “My heart ached for him,” Charles Edison said.  “He was no longer young, and everything was being destroyed.  He spotted me. ‘Where’s your mother?’  he shouted.  ‘Find her.  Bring her here.  She’ll never see anything like this again as long as she lives.'”
The next morning, walking among the charred embers of so many of his hopes and dreams, the sixty-seven-year-old Edison said, “There’s great value in disaster.  All our mistakes are burned up.  Thank God we can start anew.”

With an attitude like that, no wonder Edison’s name is still prominent eighty years later.  The point Paul was making in Philippians 2 is that our attitudes are important, perhaps more important than our actions, because they’re the foundation on which our actions are built.
 
As he wrote to his friends at Philippi, the apostle Paul was in prison in Rome.  Paul saw everything that happened to him through the lens of his service to Christ.  Outwardly he was a prison of Caesar, but inwardly he considered himself a bond-slave to Jesus Christ.  Paul’s attitude was one of humble service to the Savior who rescued him from a life of selfishness and self-centeredness.  It’s no wonder Paul had an attitude of love toward everyone he met, even toward the Roman soldiers who guarded him day and night.

Viktor E. Frankl, a prisoner held in a Nazi concentration camp wrote, “Everything can be taken from a person but one thing: the last of human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
And there are always choices to make.  Every day, every hour, offers you to opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determines whether you will or will not submit to the powers that threaten to rob you of your joy.  So my friend, today I challenge you to choose a joyful attitude, to choose an attitude of love, even when others align themselves against you.  Choose your attitude!

Determined to find joy in serving Jesus!
Pastor Dale

Pastor Dale Miller, Jr. is privileged to serve as the Senior Pastor of the Newburg First Church of God
“Where Christ is found, love is felt, and lives are changed!”
260 Newburg Road, Newburg, PA  17240

Mailing address: PO Box 160, Newburg, 17240
Email Address: Newburgfcog@centurylink.net

TO CLIMB OR NOT TO CLIMB

A great post about Zaccheus from the blog Forward Progress: by Michael Kelley

I haven’t climbed a tree in years.

His heart was beating fast now, though he didn’t really understand why. But he had a growing sense that things in his life were coming to a head. A culmination. Something was getting ready to happen.

The branches are low enough. I could do it, you know. I could…

Never before had he been so upset to be short, and he had been upset about it plenty. There were the calls and nicknames from the boys when he was growing up, but then he had showed them hadn’t he? He was the one who had the important job now. He was the one they had to be nice to because he was, in large part, in control of their livelihood. He had proven his importance and put his thumb of authority down on top of those same people who had made up those silly songs about his height. He had more money, more power, and more prestige than any of them had. But now, there was this whole issue of height. He simply couldn’t see, but he wanted to. He wanted it more than anything he had wanted in a long time.

It’s the only way, right? If I want to see, I’ve got to climb. I can’t push through this crowd.

His feet were twitching now. He was moving back and forth, a kind of nervous dance. He knew his anxiety and excitement weren’t logical. Who was this he wanted to see so badly anyway? A teacher? A magician? A miracle worker? Or was he something else. It was this thought that had made the well dressed but small man consider the unthinkable.

What would people think? I’ve got a reputation to think about it. I’m sure they would make up whole new songs about me now. The short man climbing a tree. Foolishness. Right?

Foolishness, of course. But then again, not much in his life made sense any more. He no longer was satisfied with the accumulation of more and more wealth. The pursuit of power over others seemed more and more empty. He had been asking questions, at least in his own mind, that were of a foreign sort. His life seemed devoid of meaning, and he was looking… for something anyway. And now, in his robes, he was standing on the edge of the road, looking into the distance. Jesus was passing through, and the tax collector couldn’t shake the idea that this mysterious man walking through Jericho was was he was looking for. The only way for him to see Jesus was to go up. To climb.

To climb or not to climb? To risk or not to risk? The tree is right there. I know I could get high enough.

He took a tentative step forward. Then another. Then he grabbed hold of the low branches and swung a leg up. He looked around briefly. The crowd was coming, the noise growing louder. Up and up and up. His heart beat faster and faster and faster. Still he climbed. He was sweating now through the weight of his clothes. They were right below Him now, teeming with excitement. The leaves got thicker as he edged forward… and then he saw Him. And something burst inside of Zaccheus. He froze, straddling a branch of the sycamore tree. It was a feeling like he’d never experienced, for to his great surprise, the man wasn’t looking at the crowd. He wasn’t glad-handing the people around Him, nor was He looking forward where He was going.

He was looking into the tree. And for a moment, Zaccheus was crushed.

Great. He’s looking up here. Now everyone else is looking up here, too. Here it comes – the jeering and mocking, just like when I was a kid.

“Come down, Zaccheus.”

And then he knew. He could never, in the days that followed, know exactly how he knew. It wasn’t quite a feeling, but something more. But as he scurried down the tree, he was absolutely convinced that though he was anxious, though he had climbed the tree, though he had wanted just one glimpse of Jesus…

He knew that Jesus had really been looking for him.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

Illustration added by Steve

WAYNE BOYER

A treasured friend of mine and fellow pastor, Wayne Boyer, went home to be with the Lord a few days ago. Another friend of mine, Bill Sloat blogged a tribute to him that I am reposting here for broader distribution of the tribute. – Steve

Cancer stinks.

I’ve smelled the stench in a more up-close-and-personal way than I ever wanted to.

Since her diagnosis, Evelyn has had the joy of walking the cancer road with three people she regarded as friends before cancer came into their lives. It’s a road you don’t want to walk on without human companionship. On Tuesday, Wayne became the last of those three ‘cancer buddies’ to come to the end of the journey.

The cancer road is such a strange one. Though he’d been on it long before Evelyn, she endured a particularly harsh chemo drug before Wayne was put on it. So, she was able to describe for Wayne its horrid effects before he experienced them. And, we were able to understand what he went through during those treatments and to appreciate the faith, the grace and the courage with which he embraced that incredible suffering.

Not long ago, I could not get Wayne out of my mind and so, as I was driving, I phoned him. From the instant he answered, I could hear the smile in his voice. I actually heard his laughter as he told me that he knew that the cutting-edge drug he was on was not working and that he knew that it would not extend his life and that that was okay. He talked about the joy he still felt in the Lord’s salvation. He expressed his only real regret that Kay would be left alone. When we hung up, it was with laughter and a naive, “Talk to you later.”

Two days after that, the final onslaught overwhelmed him and he was rushed to the hospital.

Cancer killed Wayne. It did not beat him.

Wayne followed Jesus. He set his heart on living out obedience to the greatest of all the commands in the Law: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

Thanks, Wayne, for letting me see that.

Talk to you later.

I AM SYZYGUS

Normally I reserve this blog for original posts written by myself.  I was intrigued, however, by thus post from the archives of Charles Stone’s  THE CHURCH WHISPERER giving us an imaginative, but quite credible portrait of an original Easter Person who has always fascinated me. – Steve

 

I Am Syzygus

9 02 2010

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

(This is the second in a series of posts from Philippians 4 about church conflict)

Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow,help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Philippians 4:3

Have you ever thought about your name and wondered how it has shaped you or influenced you as a person?  I have…

syzygusMy name is Syzygus.  It is Greek.  There really isn’t a good English translation of it, but “yokefellow” comes pretty close.  It’s a bit of an embarrassing name, actually, because it is a reference to oxen in a yoke.  I have no idea what my parents were thinking.  But today, looking back on my life, I’m glad they named me Syzygus.  When I think of how God worked in my life, it fits.  I suppose it refers to a co-laborer wearing the same yoke as you, pulling along with you.  If there is any truth to the old adage that names do reflect something about us, then I am a true friend who has walked along with you during good times and bad times, never leaving your side.  I am a person who has been coupled with you through difficult service together.  I have grown to trust you and you have grown to trust me.  I am your “yokefellow”.

I suppose I was not surprised, then, when Paul called me out in his letter to my church in Philippi.  I had been yoked with him in ministry and had been yoked with Euodia and Syntyche as well.  I knew them well and they knew me and trusted me.  As much as I did not want this assignment, I was exactly the right person to confront them about their disagreement.  In his wisdom, Paul knew that.

I suspect Paul also knew that all of us in the church were a bit perplexed about what to do with these two sisters.  We knew their broken relationship had gotten out of hand, and we knew someone needed to love them enough to confront them about it, but none of us wanted to do it.  I suppose we were all hoping someone else would step up, or maybe by some miracle Paul himself would be released from prison and he would come and do it.  Hey, don’t laugh, it’s happened before.

But there would be no miraculous prison break this time.  One of us (or perhaps a few of us) in the church would have to step up and deal with this conflict.  Personally, I usually run from it.  I really hate conflict.  I don’t like getting up in other people’s business, I don’t like being perceived as judgmental, and I don’t like sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong.  Frankly, I can probably think of at least a dozen other excuses if you give me a little time.  Bottom line: none of us in the church wanted to do this, but we all knew it needed to be done.  Some argued it was the pastor’s job.  Others argued it was the elders’ job.  I was neither.  I was just someone who cared deeply for these two women, which is why Paul knew I was the right person to do this.  After all, if it were me who needed confronting, I would want it to be someone whom I trusted and who I knew loved me.  Why shouldn’t Euodia and Syntyche have the same benefit?

I pray that, when you need someone to tell you the truth about yourself, you will have a “Syzygus” in your life.  And I pray that, when someone you love needs a “Syzygus” in his/her life who will help him/her see the truth, you will step up and be that yokefellow for him/her.  I pray that, when God touches you on the shoulder with that assignment like Paul touched me, you will kneel down and pray and then go.  And I pray that God will use that experience to change your life the way He changed mine.

I am Syzygus.  And I am so very glad for that.

© Blake Coffee

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