1 John 4:7-21
Thank God, there were wonderful things going on at Bethel on Sunday morning and also across the Massanutten Mountain at Camp Overlook !
While many of you were learning and worshiping in the church building, I was among a crowd of men taking part in the Walk to Emmaus.
The Walk to Emmaus is a program for spiritual renewal for Christians which is designed to prepare them to go home to their churches and use their God-given abilities for His glory. Nancy B and I have been participating in the Walk to Emmaus since the early or mid-1990s. We have found it to be a growing, refreshing experience which has inspired us to stretch our spiritual “muscles” and serve God in a variety of ways. If you imagine that such a revival might be part of God’s plan for your life, please talk to me or Nancy B about it. We may be able to sponsor you, or find a sponsor for you, to make your Walk to Emmaus. Please note: this is about a spiritual journey, not a physical hike !!
Coming home to Bethel, I rejoiced to find the CD recording of Sunday’s worship service.
Please keep in the back of your mind that CDs and tapes of our services are available to share with anyone, whether they are “shut in” or simply want to listen back to something they missed. It is cheap and easy to make copies, once the recording has been processed (to make plain the things that were said “off microphone” and cut out some of the annoying THUMPs and *CLICK*s that crop up).
This week, for example, I was able to hear all of the names and situations that the congregation raised-in prayer. Cynthia’s piano-playing always sounds crystal-clear and bold in these recordings. Janice’s Scripture reading was clear and strong. I was delighted to hear the interplay between Jr. and the children and Dianne and Pam S and Cynthia about Miracle the calf— God works in mysterious ways !! The choir anthem came through strong and true, as did Rev. Murphy Terry’s sermon on Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?” and his challenge to “Follow me!” (John 21)
So, even if you missed it, you can still hear it and share it. Just ask.
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Our guest speaker, Rev. Terry, preached on the story in John’s gospel about the risen Christ talking with Peter and the other disciples on the shore of Galilee. This coming Sunday, when I resume the regular lectionary readings, we will again be in John’s gospel.
This church year is “Year B,” when we read much of the Gospel according to St. Mark. (In Year A, we mostly read from Matthew; in Year C, we mostly read in Luke) The trouble with reading the Gospel of Mark is, Mark is a very short book! The good thing about this year is, we get to cover many of the distinctive stories and sayings that are only found in John’s gospel, in addition to Mark’s.
Jesus’ parable of the vine and its branches is one item which comes to us only from John. You remember: “I am the vine, you are the branches.” (John 8:5).
Of course, this parable is not all soft and romantic, with tender, curling tendrils and juicy grapes: a major part of Jesus’ message is cutting:
“... [M]y Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes/ cleanses to make it bear more fruit.... “ [A]part from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (vss. 1-2, 5-6)
This lesson reminds me of an afternoon I spent with our Vada Hensley in her garden. She was feeling frustrated, because she herself could no longer prune her grape-vines. I offered to do the cutting, if she would watch and tell me where and how she wanted the cuts made. She sat and supervised me closely until the job was done!
I remember thinking, “Gee! I doubt if I could do it by myself, even after this hands-on instruction.”
Gary Gao, an Associate Professor with The Ohio State University, provided the following grape-vine pruning diagrams