Category: People of Uncommon Character (page 1 of 3)

Knowing the depth, height, and breadth of the love of Christ


For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Exploring the Text: In Ephesians, Paul envisions the mainly non-Jewish believers as a “dwelling place” for God. Today’s text is connected to the end of chapter 2 linguistically. Paul prays, for God to “fill” this new “dwelling place” that is the church (3:14). The mysterious language of “breadth, length, height, and depth” echoes OT texts that instruct about temple proportions. 

Verse 18: “height and depth”: Paul uses these words in Romans 8:39. In the context of Ephesians, these words describe God’s plan of salvation or, more likely, the love of Christ.

Verse 17: “Christ may dwell”: Usually Paul refers to the Holy Spirit as dwelling in people, but to him, the Risen Christ and the Holy Spirit are interchangeable (see Romans 8:9-11) because the Risen Jesus is the source of the Spirit (Acts 2:23).

Verse 21: “the church” and “Christ Jesus” are connected and inseparable.

The apostle prays for a church filled in every dimension by God, with and for the glory of God. Paul talks about the depth of our commitment, our breadth of vision, our vision put into action, that people (and we ourselves) may come to grasp how deep the love of Christ is.

Going Deeper: Both grace and mercy are in deficit in the world we live in. In our world, we’re much more comfortable with posting a sign like “No strangers allowed” that reflects the suspicion and fear of our time. But perhaps it is time for us to acknowledge our fear, confront it, and turn that very slogan on its head. We recognize that God loves and accepts all persons through Jesus the Christ, and therefore we do too. In the Kingdom of God nobody is a stranger, therefore in this congregation, nobody is a stranger. The result of such a depth of experience of God’s relating to us in love in Christ is that we may find ourselves called to tasks we had not dreamed of facing. How can we broaden and deepen our ability to love? How can we help others to experience God more fully and deeply? There again, it does always start and end with relationships, doesn’t it?

Prayer: Teach us the economics of kingdom living: a shirt-sharing, extra-mile-walking, have-my-lunch way of life. For then many shall be the richer. And we shall be among them. Amen.

The Best-Kept Secret in Town


Catch on Fire

Our multigenerational group “Room 7” continues meeting during the summer. Mike Perry leads the study.  

The Steep Path

Our first year together was a bliss! We worshipped, ate, cried, and had fun together. I count my blessings every day. I am so happy to be reappointed at Francis Street First!
Having said this, I also want to share a story about a girl whose brother took her to a nearby hilltop where he enjoyed playing alone. The girl was excited that her brother wanted to share his secret place with her. But when she came within sight of the steep path she drew back in dismay. “How do you climb to the top? Those rocks look so rough. There isn’t a smooth spot anywhere. It’s all bumpy and stony!”  
“Yes,” said her older brother, “but how else would we ever climb to the top if it wasn’t? The stones and bumps are what we step on to get there.” 
Often we think of the Church as a mountaintop. It feels safe to stay there with the people we know. But as soon as we decide to invite new people to the “hilltop,” we might notice that the way up is not that easy. Yes, the life of a Christian is not easy, and many of our members know that. God gives us the wisdom of an older brother/sister to say honestly to people, whom we disciple, that our lives and the life of the church are like the hill climbed by this little girl. There will be rocks and rough places. What gives us the courage to continue inviting the new people instead of enjoying the safety of the mountaintop? How can we know that we have the strength to teach and encourage others that they can do it too? If we believe that God gave us the vision of the future, we will complete the journey because God never leaves us alone.
Is there another way to avoid a steep path? Is there an easier and a smoother road to the mountaintop? I don’t know one. Do you?
Let’s step on our new path together. Helping each other and supporting each other, we will not end on the mountaintop alone but with many new brothers and sisters. The more the merrier! As for the rough spots, how else would we ever climb to the top if it wasn’t for the rough path? The “stones” and “bumps” are what we step on to get there.
Pastor Lydia

A World of Pain and Despair

by Mike Perry

There is so much pain in this world.  So much despair.  Why is that?  Why does a loving God allow all this violence and evil to happen?  Could God stop it if he wanted to?  I have to think that he could.  So why doesn’t he?  Well, first we should know that the calamities of this world are man’s doing, not God’s.  That man’s inhumanity to man is our fault, not God’s.  Our greed and desire to possess and take from others what is not ours has been a stain on humanity since our ancestors first left the trees, perhaps before.  So why does God permit this in a world he created?  Well, I certainly do not presumed to know the mind of God, but perhaps it is so we will learn.  For how can we know the good if we don’t experience the bad?  Perhaps the day is coming when God will wipe away the bad forever.  Until then God calls us each and every day to love each other just as he loves us, without conditions.  We need only have ears to listen.  Maybe that’s the answer!  In the meantime bring your questions to Francis Street First Methodist Church in downtown Saint Joseph.  Because we have questions too.  Let us explore them together.   #NewPlacesforNewPeople

Can One Size Fit All?

Visiting megachurches, I can’t help thinking how well people know each other in a large church. I attended a few with the loud music and large screens, and couldn’t connect to other people. Everybody has different tastes when it comes to music and worship styles. The church was like a big theater. People worshiped and then went home. I am sure that megachurches have effective ways to connect members through small groups, but there are too many examples how even the most successful church crumbles under the pressure of erecting new sanctuaries and then having to move to another site because the congregation overgrew the size of the building again. Then, the congregation ends in debt, the stress starts eroding the relationships within the church and the church cries for help. We all know that all size churches are important as long as they teach and preach authentic faith and approach growth gradually. Raising disciples requires patience and time. That’s why I got amused when I saw a robe with the label, “One size fits all.” People are not of the same size! That is why we have sizes S, M, L, XL and even 5XL. That label reminded me a story of a crocodile.

A man in Moscow liked to have things that his friends didn’t. In Russia, we call people like him “ORIGINAL,” with the stress on “A.” He decided to get a new pet, so a little crocodile found a new home in the man’s one-bedroom apartment on the fifteenth floor. The man was thrilled and couldn’t put down the shoe box with the crocodile in it. The cute little baby crocodile tried to bite the finger with his tiny teeth. The friendship had begun.
In a few weeks, the man discovered that the box became too tight for the pet. It was time for an upgrade. The crocodile stretched in his new home but, in a few days, he hardly fit into it. The owner found a larger box, not knowing that crocodiles grow as large as space allows. It is like their bodies are programmed to fit and to expand into the size of the box whatever the size is.

Soon, the man realized that he ran out of possible upgrades and released the crocodile into the bathtub. In a few weeks, a mature animal reached the length of the bathtub and got out on the floor. The man heard pounding steps directed toward his bedroom, locked himself in, opened the window and began shouting, “Help, Help!!!”
Luckily, someone noticed him, after he had to throw a few things out of the window, and the crocodile was taken to the Zoo by a team of trained professionals.

It is exciting when the church grows. But growth requires patience, attention, and wisdom to connect people to each other and build strong relationships based on love and compassion. Francis Street First future depends on many people who keep our church growth at heart. Today, because of the Mother’s Day, I will mention only women: Jane Sachs, who brings guests to our church every Sunday; Lynette Barr, who nurtures her Serendipity Class for decades; Candy Sheehan, Jennifer Tanguay and Cindy Allen, who nurture our children and youth; Karen Gibson, who restarted the Upper Room Class and took courage to meet outside to invite the community; Mary Buckler, who connects our congregation with Cardin Park Elementary School; Susan Gentry, who takes care of all finances; Carlene Makawski, who unites us all to feed the poor; Luetta Silvey, who coordinates Holy Communion with all our Communion Stewards; and finally Sherril Lewis, who coordinates all our relationships to make them last for years. Sherril connects people of all ages to make us feel at home that when the church starts growing fast, we will not be lost.

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