Aidan of Lindisfarne, Missionary

The following was written by Joshua for his collection of stories, Telling the Stories that Matter.

Christianity was known among the Roman Britons but it had waned recently. Christianity had come into Britain in wrapped up in the pax romana but had begun to become less popular and populous within the reach of the Imperial rulers. Instead, the people were returning to their own religions and beliefs and rejecting the religion that had been compelled upon them. In Northumbria, an exiled king–Oswald–returned from Scotland to become ruler once again. He had been forced out of his home land and had taken refuge among the Scottish and Irish Christians near Iona. While at Iona, he had been converted to the Christianity that his companions professed and, so, when he returned to Northumbria he sent for missionaries from Iona and not from Rome.

The first missionary was a man by the name of Corman who experienced little to no success and, eventually, left Northumbria and returned to Iona. He reported to his friends, colleagues, and superiors that the people were too stubborn to be converted and too entrenched in their polytheistic ways. When met with the legacy of bad discipleship and spiritual formation, Corman found that what he had to offer the people was not of interest to them. He gave up when growth was not immediate and went home where he was comfortable. One man openly criticized Corman’s methodology and approach to ministry in Northumbria. This man is the one that Iona sent to replace Corman. His name was Aidan.

Aidan was different. When he arrived, he founded a monastery on the island of Lindisfarne and slowly involved himself in the lives of those whom he hoped to minister to. Instead of showing up and simply preaching fiery sermons and expecting the immediate movement of the spirit and explosive growth, Aidan recognized the importance of relationships. He started a monastery and devoted himself to prayer, worship, and investing himself in the lives of others. He wasn’t trying to recreate Iona in Northumbria but, rather, recreate the situation and circumstances that gave rise to Iona–committed followers of Christgathering together in relationships to worship, pray, and devote themselves to the ministry of the Kingdom of God.

Aidan made it a habit to walk between the villages of Northumbria and converse with any who might walk along the way with him. He spent many days simply walking and talking with people and learning to love them as they learned to love him. His conversations were not engineered attempts to “witness” to the people but, rather, he understood his life to be his witness and the relationships he built as ways for others to partake of his life. Oswald gave Aidan a horse, once, because he had heard that Aidan was walking between villages as he went about his ministry. Aidan gave the horse to a nearby beggar and insisted that he’d rather walk. Aidan knew that a horse would disconnect him from the people he loved and was invested in.He knew that spiritual formation and invigoration of people was accomplished slowly and through prayer, worship, and healthy, sincere relationships.

Aidan’s monastery grew slowly and steadily and was intentionally composed of people from Northumbria.So, as the people of Northumbria needed more Christian leaders they were provided with people who they knew and trusted already. This was part of Aidan’s plan all along–not to make the Northumbrians over in his own image but, rather, to help them follow after God who had made them in God’s image. Aidan would die in Northumbria many years later but his monastery and ministry would continue on as a witness to those who had ears to hear and as an example to all of us.

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G+M Worship – August 26, 2012

The following was written by Joshua for the service of worship and prayers held at Grace and Main Fellowship on August 26, 2012.

Worship on the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 26, 2012
Preparing and Setting the Altar
Lighting of the Christ Candle

Lord Jesus, we welcome you into this place and ask you to teach us your way so that we may truly live. 
Be present among us, Lord. Fill this place with your Spirit.
 
Sharing our Stories

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us—sinners that we are—and hear these ours prayers:
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

As we learn from our Lord who lived, died, and was raised for us, let us sing.


Singing

Lord who reconciled sinners to God by death, show us the path of peace and grace.

Psalm 119:1-8
are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.
Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways.
You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances.
I will observe your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.

 
Lord who reconciled sinners to God by death, show us the path of peace and grace.
Genesis 4:1-16
Lord who reconciled sinners to God by death, show us the path of peace and grace.
5:1-2, 21-26

Lord who reconciled sinners to God by death, show us the path of peace and grace.
We Listen and Interpret Together 

Our brother, John Calvin, was a 16 th century protestant reformer, theologian, and writer. In his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, he wrote about our passage: “It were to be wished, indeed, that no controversy of any kind should ever arise among us; and undoubtedly men would never break out into abuse or quarreling, if they possessed a due share of meekness. But, as it is scarcely possible but that differences will sometimes happen, Christ points out the remedy, by which they may be immediately settled; and that is, to put a restraint on our desires, and rather to act to our own disadvantage, than follow up our rights with unflinching rigor.”

Prayers for Others

The Lord’s Prayer


Singing
You have heard our Lord place a high priority on reconciliation—prizing the relationships we build and maintain above even our worship and prayer. This isn’t because they are somehow more important than the praise we owe to God, but because the ways we treat others are acts of worship and prayer in and of themselves. Our God is praised when we are reconciled with those from whom we are alienated. Go now in pursuit of reconciliation.

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you.
May he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm.
May he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you.
May he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.

Amen.

Genesius, Actor and Martyr

The following was written by Joshua for his collection of stories, Telling the Stories that Matter.

Genesius was not raised in a Christian family but he was a member of a class of people who were not highly esteemed or respected–actors and comedians. He sacrificed to the Roman gods and said all the right things but the Roman world seemed to offer him no opportunities to attain its great reward of wealth and a life of leisure and influence. Diocletian had made it clear that it would not be profitable–or even safe–to be a Christian but he had not been very clear on how anybody else could attain the rewards of the Empire. Genesius was an enterprising man and deduced that Diocletian would be making a rare trip to Rome to celebrate the 20th year of his rule and devised a plan. Knowing Diocletian’s hatred of Christians, he endeavored to work with his troupe and develop an improvisational comedy act mocking Christians and their rites. He expected that this would convince the Emperor to smile upon him and earn him the rewards of the Empire and so he cast himself in the role of the main character with the intention of viciously satirizing Christian practice.

Using his skills as an actor, Genesius was able to become involved in Christian circlesto perform the research necessary to do the act well. He was taking significant risk to do so–Christians were being persecuted and arrested–but he knew that he could always offer sacrifice quickly if captured and keep his freedom. Genesius convinced the Christian leaders that he was sincere and began to be educated by them about what it was they believed and trusted.While a catechumen of the Church, he learned about the Church’s mysteries and rites–including baptism. The idea of sacramental rebirth by water intrigued Genesius who decided to focus the act upon this rite in particular. After he had received enough information to do the show, he stopped attending the meetings and classes of the people he had duped.

On the day of the show, the troupe was excited because Diocletian was present for the performance. Knowing that he loved comedy, the troupe knew that Diocletian’s amusement meant their success and benefit. They took the stage and the mockery commenced much to Diocletian’s delight. Genesius played a Christian in the catechumenate and his fellow actors played the stereotypes and comedic parts to the hilt. Subtle and not-so-subtle satire of the Christians pleased Diocletian as the actors must have been aware as they performed. Genesius–in character–requested baptism and an actor playing a priest came out from the wings of the stage area. Much laughter accompanied the baptism of Genesius but something changed as the water left the priest’s bowl and poured over Genesius’ head. Genesius saw a vision and all of his catechumenate came to bear upon his soul. He found himself painfully aware that he was mocking something that had taken seen in his heart and that he found himself truly to believe. He was being converted even as he mocked his newfound Lord and Savior. He had professed his faith in mockery but now it was made real as he found that the seed of faith planted by his time with the Christians had bloomed within him.

Actors playing soldiers came forward and gripped Genesius by the shoulders. They noticed that something had changed about Genesius’ demeanor who had stopped delivering lines and, instead, was staring into space at some unseen vision. They continued on with the play likely thinking that Genesius was planning some particular gag or, perhaps, in accordance with the maxim: “the show must go on.” They dragged him before the feet of Diocletian in the audience and presented him to the Emperor. Thinking it hilarious and excited to have a part in the show, Diocletian demanded the same of Genesius as he had demanded of so many Christians–denial of their faith and sacrifice to the Roman gods. Genesius looked up into the face of Diocletian and said, “I can deny neither my faith nor my Lord Jesus Christ.” Nervous laughter stole through the crowd and Diocletian looked to his aides with confusion in his eyes–he didn’t get it. The other actors froze knowing that Genesius had left the script–he was supposed to have agreed to the Emperor’s demands and make a mockery of all that had preceded and been said.

Diocletian did not like that he thought a joke was being played on him and so he had soldiers–real soldiers–come out and bind Genesius before the crowd. It may not be funny but he refused to allow some actor to rob him of his dignity and aura of fear and adoration. He demanded Genesius’ denial under threat of torture as audience and acting troupe looked on. Genesius responded: “There’s nothing you can do or threaten to remove Jesus Christ from my heart and my mouth. Once I mocked his holy name and now I detest and regret that time. I came so late to the Kingdom and cannot leave it now.” On Diocletian’s order, Genesius was beheaded and made a martyr. He had not received the rewards of Rome but he had received the rewards of the Kingdom of God. He had earned the Martyr’s Crown.

Anne Hutchinson, Dissident Teacher

The following was written by Joshua for his collection of stories, Telling the Stories that Matter.

Anne Hutchinson was born Anne Marbury to a family that was well known for its dissent and disagreement. Her father had been jailed and persecuted for his dissent with ecclesial officials in England. He had insisted that so many of them were unprepared, untrained, and incompetent. For this, he suffered. In this, he taught his daughter the value of dissent and the likely outcome. Though, it would seem that Anne needed little help finding room for dissent and challenging the Church to be what it is called to be instead of what it is comfortable being.

Surely, she thought back to her father’s punishment as she stood in the courtroom in Massachusetts undergoing trial for dissenting from the popular opinion of the Puritan officials. Anne had taken to teaching bible studies in her home. She started by inviting her female neighbors and friends but there was something very different about Anne’s approach to the scripture. She wasn’t teaching the same interpretations that the Puritan preachers repeated in the pulpit. She welcomed questions and confusion and did not label them as marks of a lack of faith. Instead, she encouraged the participants to question things like the enslavement of the native peoples and the subordination of women.

She spoke and taught as a minister and authority on the scripture and Christian teaching. She invited the listeners to imagine a radically equal and welcoming Church. She suggested, upon occasion, that the clergy were inappropriately expressing their authority by confining and repressing her brothers and sisters. She suggested that the clergy were using moral and legal codes to insure their own place of power and influenceby stripping others of their capacity for action and thought. This would, eventually, cause her great suffering but not before it started to catch among the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Eventually, her home bible-studies were full and being attended by men in addition to women. She had to move the meeting into the local church because her home could no longer accommodate the large crowds. The clergy opposed her teachings under the pretense that she wasn’t qualified to teach and might misinform them but this pretense gave way when they realized that their power over the people was waning and they were choosing to listen to Anne, anyway. They decried her teaching because of her sex and she responded from scripture that her actions were acceptable and in line with orthodox teaching. They were losing their power over those whom they drew it from and they began to get nervous. As is the case with most who oppose the status quo in favor of divine calling, she was attacked and vilified by the powers-that-be.

Governor Vane–one of Anne’s supporters–lost his position to John Winthrop who had Anne arrested, charged, and tried. They resented that she was teaching that women were equal with men and worth equal treatment and consideration. They suggested that she was inciting rebellion and sedition. Further, they were enraged that she would criticize the clergy–the professional religious–even though she was a woman. They forced her–even though she was pregnant–to stand for days and answer the interrogations and accusations of the male board. She responded to all of their charges and accusations and stood firm in her right to say and do what she had done. She is quoted as saying to them, “You have no power over my body, neither can you do me any harm. I fear none but the great Jehovah, which hath foretold me of these things, and I do verily believe that he will deliver me out of your hands…” In desperation, they found her guilty and banished her from the colony “as being a woman not fit for our society.” They were correct but it was by far more of a charge against their society than it was against Anne. Before her exile, she was made to suffer the indignity of a religious trial on the basis of a charge of blasphemy. Further, they felt it was inappropriate that she had allowed men to be present at her house studies and she was also condemned for this. Of these charges, she was also found guilty and excommunicated from the Puritan communion.

Before she was exiled, many of her followers (includingRoger Williams) voluntarily left the colony and started a new one in Rhode Island. Due to the abuses of the Puritan judges and officials, Anne suffered a miscarriage. Regrettably, she was mocked for this and informed that this was the judgment of God upon her for her sins. A follower of hers suffered the same fate. She was exiled and found a home with her husband and followers in Rhode Island where she helped lead and manage the colony for many years before her death at the hands of Native Americans while traveling.

In many ways, Anne’s life was proof that dissenting from the powers-that-be can cause suffering and persecution but, yet, it is still worth doing when the powers cannot see the Kingdom. Anne taught Christian doctrine freely and without regard for how it would be received by those who stood against her. Anne dared to profess the radical notion of the dignity and equality of women against a people who stood to gain by repressing women. Consequently, she was crushed in the gears of a system made for maintaining power for those who have it. But in being crushed, she bore a powerful witness to the sin and corruption within the system.

G+M Worship – August 19, 2012

The following was written by Joshua for the service of worship and prayers held at Grace and Main Fellowship on August 19, 2012.

Worship on the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost – August 19, 2012

Preparing and Setting the Altar

Lighting of the Christ Candle

Lord Jesus, we welcome you into this place and ask you to teach us your way so that we may truly live.
Be present among us, Lord. Fill this place with your Spirit.

 

Sharing our Stories

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us—sinners that we are—and hear these ours prayers:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

As we learn from our Lord who lived, died, and was raised for us, let us sing.

Singing

Lord, you who have fulfilled the Law, have mercy on us who fail and fall.

Psalm 112:6-10
For the righteous will never be moved; they will be remembered forever.
They are not afraid of evil tidings; their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord.
Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor; their righteousness endures forever; their horn is exalted in honor.
The wicked see it and are angry; they gnash their teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.

Lord, you who have fulfilled the Law, have mercy on us who fail and fall.
1 Corinthians 2:1-12
Lord, you who have fulfilled the Law, have mercy on us who fail and fall.
Mat. 5:1-2, 17-20
Lord, you who have fulfilled the Law, have mercy on us who fail and fall.

We Listen and Interpret Together

Our brother, Fred Craddock, the 20th century Disciples of Christ preacher and professor considered by many to be one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century, once wrote concerning our passage from Matthew: “Anyone who appeals to faith and freedom in Christ to do less, be less, give less, serve less and love less than our forebears has grossly misunderstood Jesus’ message.”

Prayers for OthersThe Lord’s Prayer

Singing

Our Lord calls each of us seriously and reverently to remember the vows we have made in our baptism when we submitted and committed ourselves to Him and His Way. Having set yourself upon Jesus’ path, don’t turn back now. Your works cannot save you, but your trust in the God who has fulfilled the law you will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Each time you fail and fall, know that our Lord waits for you to depend on Him again. Go in peace.


May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you.
May he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm.
May he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you.
May he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.
Amen.

Maximillian Kolbe, Prisoner #16670

The following was written by Joshua for his collection of stories, Telling the Stories that Matter.

Maximillian Kolbe was born Rajmund Kolbe in part of Poland that was, at the time, part of the Russian empire. His father–Julius–and mother–Maria–moved the family around in an attempt to find both freedom and a measure of stability. They worked a variety of jobs before Julius enlisted in a Polish force that hoped to fight and gain the independence of Poland from Russia. Rajmund and one of his brothers decided to become priests and did so by sneaking across the border into Austria-Hungary. There, they studied in seminary in preparation. When Rajmund took the vows that began his process of becoming a priest, he changed his name to Maximillian. This was, in a way, a new birth into life that was free of Rajmund’s fear of the Empire and the oppression it so easily dealt in. It was a turning point for Maximillian.

Eventually, Maximillian would be ordained a priest and he would return to Poland. However, now Poland was a free nation andMaximillian was a spiritual leader who knew how best to resist an Empire. This would come in handy when, years later, the Third Reich began to sweep into Poland bringing death and destruction to Jews, outcasts, and those who resisted the Empire. Maximillian used the radio station he had founded and supervised to vilify the encroaching Nazis. Further, he used the resources and buildings at his disposal to provide shelter and sanctuary to more than 2,000 Jewish refugees. He refused to submit to an Empire that demanded submission or torturous death. This kind of resistance to the Empire was, is, and will always be noticed by the powers. Consequently, the Gestapo came–hiding behind their titles and uniforms that were supposed to make their evil actions legitimate–and arrested Maximillian. He was shipped to prison and, then, to Auschwitz.

They tried to strip him of his identity. They did not call him Maximillian–his chosen Christian name. They did not call him Rajmund–the name his family had given him. They called him prisoner #16670. They hoped that they could quell this resistance by crushing the spirit of one who refused to submit. Whereas they could have used their power and simply killed him, they hoped to crush his will and make an example of him. In the case of Maximillian, they failed.

Eventually, one of the men in Maximillian’s block was found missing. The Nazis were enraged at the idea of a person escaping their exquisitely crafted hell and their rage flowed out in a series of commands: ten random people from that block would forfeit their lives as punishment–by starvation in a locked bunker. They rounded up ten men and paraded these condemned ones before the inhabitants of Auschwitz. They proclaimed the cause of their death–the “missing” man who would later be found dead in a latrine–and hoped to spread fear through the people like a poison to destroy their hope and capacity for cooperation with each other. The Empire dealt in terms of death and was skilled at wielding it willfully.

One of the men–Franciszek Gajowniczek–cried out in fear and desperation for his wife and children that he would leave behind. The hearts of the Nazis were not moved but the heart of Maximillian was. Maximillian stepped forward and volunteered to die in the man’s place. Maximillian–lover of life that he was–hoped to purchase the life and future of another man with his own excruciating death. The Nazis agreed to this for whatever reason and led the ten men into a bunker, locked the door, and gave the men over to death and desperation. Maximillian led the condemned in songs and prayers while they slowly died from starvation and dehydration. After three weeks of torturous death, Maximillilan and three others were still alive and still singing and praying. They were weak and they were, most assuredly, dying and yet they were offering love to their executioners. The guards removed them from the bunker and injected them with carbolic acid. They died there on August 14th, 1941. Though the Nazis dealt in death and believed themselves powerful, Maximillian dealt in love and life and knew the true power of a redeemed heart willing to make sacrifice for another.Maximillian died that day but he resisted and defeated an Empire that couldn’t begin to comprehend the redemption and conversion at work in Maximillian.

G+M Worship – August 12, 2012

The following was written by Joshua for the service of worship and prayers held at Grace and Main Fellowship on August 12, 2012.

Worship on the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost – August 12, 2012

Preparing and Setting the Altar

Lighting of the Christ Candle

Lord Jesus, we welcome you into this place and ask you to teach us your way so that we may truly live.
Be present among us, Lord. Fill this place with your Spirit.

Sharing our Stories

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us—sinners that we are—and hear these ours prayers:

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

As we learn from our Lord who lived, died, and was raised for us, let us sing.

Singing

True Light that gives light to everyone, shine on us and fill us with your light.

Psalm 112:1-5
Praise the Lord! Happy are those who fear the  Lord, who greatly delight in his commandments.
Their descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever.
They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright; they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.
It is well with those who deal generously and lend, who conduct their affairs with justice.

True Light that gives light to everyone, shine on us and fill us with your light.
Isaiah 58:1-12
True Light that gives light to everyone, shine on us and fill us with your light.
Mat. 5:1-2, 13-16
True Light that gives light to everyone, shine on us and fill us with your light.

We Listen and Interpret Together

Our brother, Hilary of Poitiers, the 4th century Bishop, theologian, and teacher, wrote the following: “Jesus calls the faithful the ‘salt of the earth.’ He warns them to persist in the strength of the power handed over to them. Otherwise, losing their own taste, they are unable to make anything else tasty. Deprived of salt’s taste, they are unable to make what is rotten edible. He warns them lest, cast forth from the church storerooms, they be trampled underfoot by the feet of passersby—the very feet of those they should have served with salt.”

Prayers for OthersThe Lord’s Prayer

Singing

You have heard our Lord proclaim that all who are his followers are the salt and light of our world. If you have been changed by God’s deep and abiding love, then go forth now to reflect that love to a world that desperately yearns for it. If you have not yet decided to follow our Lord, or if you need to decide once again to submit yourself to our crucified Lord, maybe tonight is the right time to do so. After all, the world needs more light and salt and God has promised that “your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly…” Go in peace.


May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you : wherever he may send you.
May he guide you through the wilderness : protect you through the storm.
May he bring you home rejoicing : at the wonders he has shown you.
May he bring you home rejoicing : once again into our doors.
Amen.