Friday, October 21, 2016

Creating the Counter Narrative

Post by: Andrea Laser

Lately the words “counter narrative” keep showing up in my life. It seems like every training or class I go to describes creating a counter narrative when talking and thinking about people who have historically been marginalized or children who don’t envision a positive future for themselves.

One of my hesitations about going to church when we started attending BUMC was the narrative that existed in my mind about Christians being judgmental and hypocritical about what groups of people they decided to support and what groups they shunned. I was pleasantly surprised when we kept coming to BUMC that the message revolved around love. It was not conditional love, not loving the person and hating the sin, just loving one another.

A couple Sundays ago, Pastor Ken reinforced what I know to be true about the messaging of BUMC. He preached about the half-truth of, "love the sinner, hate the sin", and essentially rebuked this as being against what Jesus emphasizes as one of the two most important parts of scripture: Love thy neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31).

As we continue to grow as a church and envision our future, I think creating a counter narrative of a church that truly practices the message of loving each other, without judgment, must be central to our focus. If we can create this counter narrative, we can truly begin to help people to realize that this is who Jesus was and wants us to be. The historical division between groups of people, sadly with Christians as one of the persecuting groups, must be a dark point in history not a legacy to continue. We as a church have the potential to begin to reframe how people know what Christians believe, but it must start with how we decide to love and discuss one another. 

Andrea is an Early Childhood Special Educator, as well as mom to Paxton and Wyatt. She and her husband Steve, have been members of BUMC since 2009.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Playing Defense When All You Want To Do Is Score

Post by: Joe Mazza

For most Coloradans, fall means football and the Broncos. For our house, it means hockey. What?? Hockey over football? Well, for one thing, we prefer a sport that offers more than
12 minutes and 8 seconds of action in three hours’ time. More than that though, hockey season for us doesn’t only mean the NHL, it means that our son JJ gets back out on the rink to play his favorite sport.
Coach Joe, Defenseman JJ and his defense partner

This year, I’m helping coach his team and, in their first game, they came away with a 7-0 win. That’s a great way to start a season (let’s hope the Avs can do that too!), but JJ was a little disappointed because he had to play defenseman for the game, and that’s not his favorite position. He loves crashing the net and scoring goals, and that’s not in the role of a D man. Toward the end of the game, after watching all his friends score, he saw a chance to skate in on the goal and scored the 7th goal of the game. He just had to get in on the action. After the game he asked me if it was ok that he left his position at D to score. The conversation after that went like this:

I replied, “Are you asking me as your dad or as your coach?”


I told him, “As your dad I always love watching you have fun and score goals. As your coach, we were up 6-0 and the thing on my mind was keeping the shutout, not getting another goal. I was glad you scored but if you had turned the puck over and let them score because you weren’t playing D, that would have been really bad for our goaltender. So, what you did worked but remember that you’re part of a team and playing your role is more important than your individual achievement."

I am hoping that JJ can play some forward (the players who usually get to score goals) as well as defense this year because I know that it’s fun for him. But I also love that he’s getting to learn that playing his role on the team is important because a hockey team made up of all forwards and no defense would not be a very successful team.

There’s obviously a great life lesson in this. And it’s not a half truth like we’ve been looking at in our current sermon series. It’s actually straight from the book of 1 Corinthians, verses 12-21.

"You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster.  
What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”?"

One body, many parts. That’s how we work best in the church. There are a lot of roles to be filled at BUMC, and everyone has an important role to play - church is not a spectator sport, but a team. Some roles might be your favorite thing to do, others might not be as fun but might be exactly the role our BUMC team needs you to play. Our Worship Arts department needs musicians AND behind the scenes tech volunteers. Our Family Ministry needs teachers AND greeters. Our Student Ministry needs people to lead fun events AND people to make Sunday night dinner.

A friend of mine recently shared the Wesley Covenant Prayer on her Facebook page. This is a prayer that was adapted by John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) for use in Covenant Renewal Services. It goes like this:

I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, place me with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you,
Praised for you or criticized for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and fully surrender all things to your glory and service.
And now, O wonderful and holy God,
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,
You are mine, and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it also be made in heaven. Amen.

My friend’s challenge was that we pray this every day for a week and see how God responds. I need a little more time for God to get through to me so I’m going to pray it for a month and I encourage you to as well. We are coming up on the season of consecration here at BUMC, which is similar to covenant renewal. It’s a time when we recommit our time, talent, and treasure to God through God’s church at BUMC. Maybe God will ask you to play defense for a while even though you really want to score goals.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Lux Aeterna – Eternal Light

Post by: Nicole Stegink

The September 29th entry of Jesus Calling, Sarah Young’s best-selling daily devotional, opens, “I am with you and all around you, encircling you in golden rays of Light.” I read it right after I completed a rough draft of my blog post. A post I was unsure about submitting, but the message about Light from the devotional tied in exactly with what I had just finished writing, and I knew God was indicating to me it was okay to share. This particular devotional entry served as yet another proof to me of the miraculous and synchronistic ways in which God works. Below is an excerpt from a longer piece I am writing about my spiritual encounters with God this past summer during a singing tour through France and Germany with the Colorado Symphony Chorus. This God sighting comes from the chorus’ rehearsal of the Faure Requiem in the Strasbourg Cathedral in France.

The tenors open the Agnus Dei, singing “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Grant them rest.” The soprano line continues the message, “Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine.” Let eternal light shine on them, Lord. In two of the most stunningly beautiful measures ever composed, the sopranos enter in unison on a single, sustained a cappella note, singing two words “Lux aeterna”: clear, focused, pure, simple, unwavering and unaccompanied. There is no other music but this lone vocal that brilliantly radiates forth: a human prayer, asking for eternal light to shine on humanity. For me, those brief, few seconds of music miraculously blend both our prayer to God and God’s promise to us: the requestor and the grantor in one unison voice, simultaneously asking and giving, entreating and providing. Eternal light is a promise of God’s unwavering presence and a symbol of man’s undying faith. In life or in death, it will never be extinguished. If God had a voice I could hear, this angelic, graceful utterance of “Lux aeterna” in the 5th movement is what I imagine He would sound like: equal parts calm, gentle, inviting, open, pure, resonant and reassuring.

During the break between our rehearsal and the performance, I meandered through the Strasbourg Cathedral, capturing with my camera the sheer grandiosity and magnitude of it all. Goethe declared the cathedral “like the most sublime, wide-spreading tree of God, proclaiming the glory of the Lord.” At one point, I found myself back by the narthex, drawn for a reason I didn’t know to one of the many banks of votive candles stationed around the cathedral. For a brief moment, my mind was completely boggled thinking about the countless millions throughout the centuries who have stood and kneeled where I now stood. They lit candles and prayed for healing, for hope, for loved ones, for help, for clarity, for joy, for sorrow.

The cathedral is still an active Roman Catholic cathedral, and Catholic tradition places great significance on the lighting of candles because it symbolizes Christ who said in John 8:12, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Now I have to be honest, I was actually raised Catholic until about age 10, but as I stood by those votives, I wasn’t thinking of my Catholic roots or tradition. I failed to remember Jesus proclaimed He is the light of the world. I neglected to take even a small moment to be grateful for what Jesus’ assurance meant for me, now, in 2016. I didn’t contemplate that the purpose of light is to illuminate and keep us from the dangers of darkness and if we stay focused on the light who is Jesus, then life’s pathways will be revealed. I confess I only thought of myself: how can I capture these candles in some cool, artsy way?

Lit in prayer and offering by parishioners and visitors alike, the candles glowed and flickered. The Gothic cathedral was so large and so massive the light of each flame barely illuminated beyond the protective cup of its glass holder. I found a place from which to take my picture, choosing an angle which allowed me to get both the candles and some of the cathedral into the frame. Unbeknownst to me, my camera captured some weird phenomenon of light flare or glare on all of the lit candles and the candelabra hanging in the background. So imagine my surprise when I viewed my photo later and discovered this manifestation of light – a marvel of light emanating beyond the original source of light.

 I know why I was I inexplicably drawn towards the candles. God nudged me there so I could take this picture and understand better “Lux Aeterna” - the very thing about which I had been singing mere minutes before. I think surely this must be the embodiment and representation of eternal light if eternal light was a spiritual phenomenon we could actually witness. Eternal light, though imperceptible, is constantly present with us and around us. We walk by it, through it and with it with every step. It touches our skin, our face, and our souls. It’s divine light which constantly surrounds us, silently inviting us to call our attention to the One who bestows it. Lux aeterna: God’s eternal light perpetually shining, forever offering His divine presence, life and salvation.
I think it’s so prophetic that the ethereal glow from each candle and lightbulb emanates from a single source and then pulses outward, like a life-giving heartbeat, in ever-widening circles until they merge and coalesce and just become endless rays of light. For me, it’s the visual equivalent of Ephesians 5: 13-14 which states, “But everything exposed to the light is revealed by the light. Everything that is revealed by the light is light. Therefore, it says, Wake up, sleeper! Get up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

God, the eternal light, is with us always.

Nicole Stegink is a Colorado native and currently lives in Arvada.  She is active in the music ministry of BUMC, singing for both the traditional & 505 services and has been a member of the church since 2010.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Creative Writing but currently works in the legal field and doesn’t get to exercise her writing skills as often as she would like which is why she is excited to be contributing to the church’s blog.