The Pastor's Buzz

Pastor Buzz Trexler's blog for God's people in The Meadow.

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Name: Buzz Trexler
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

Journalist for 29 years; married to Donna for 28 years; parent of David, 27, and Elizabeth, 24; pastor of Green Meadow United Methodist Church in Alcoa since 2002.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

We nurture Christians in training ...

In the Trexler household, you ate one vegetable for every year you were alive — even when you tried to convince Mom and Dad that the veggies would be the death of you.

But veggies are your best friends.

Here's a list of the top 10 reasons, according to The American Institute for Cancer Research, why you should sign the treaty of leafy health and incorporate veggies into your diet:
  • Keep Trim
  • Prevent Heart Disease
  • Control Diabetes
  • Avoid Diverticulosis
  • Reduce the Risk of Certain Types of Cancer
  • Prevent Stroke and Other Diseases and Illnesses
  • Bring Blood Pressure Down
  • Lower Risk of Adult Blindness
  • Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
  • Pure Pleasure
But you know, and I know, that for some adults eating veggies goes entirely against their natures.

We know a man who will not eat anything green.

Despite the nurturing aspect of vegetables, it’s entirely against his nature.

Despite the nurture, it went against his nature.

Two of my favorite subjects in college were sociology and psychology.

One of the common debates among students of psychology and sociology is “nature vs. nurture.” The debate concerns the relative importance of a person’s innate qualities (their nature, which can have biological factors involved) versus their personal experiences (their nurture) in determining or causing individual differences in physical and behavioral traits.

On the nurture side is the view that humans acquire all, or almost all, of their behavioral traits from “nurture.” The extreme of this is we are all born with a “blank slate” and our environment forms our behavioral traits.

Many now agree with psychologist Donal Hebb that our behavioral patterns are molded by a mixture of nurture and nature.

The story goes that a journalist once asked Hebb which contributes more to our personality, nature or nurture. The psychologist is said to have replied, “Which contributes more to the area of a rectangle, its length or its width?”

While nature and nurture can and do work together to influence our behavior, in the Christian tradition we often speak of the “sin nature.”

The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church says this about Original or Birth Sin”:

Article VII: Of Original or Birth Sin
“Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.”

The Confession of Faith of The Evangelical United Brethren Church, which is the sister church we merged with in 1968, puts it this way:

Article VII: Sin and Free Will
“We believe man is fallen from righteousness and, apart from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, is destitute of holiness and inclined to evil. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. In his own strength, without divine grace, man cannot do good works pleasing and acceptable to God. We believe, however, man influenced and empowered by the Holy Spirit is responsible in freedom to exercise his will for good.”

In the Christian tradition, we refer to this as “The Fall,” which was the result of Adam’s disobedience.

In his book, "United Methodist Doctrine: The Extreme Center," Bishop Scott J. Jones (2002, Abingdon Press, Nashville; pp51-53) notes the doctrine of The Fall “is the foundation of the whole way of salvation.

“If humanity is not fallen, then there is no occasion for this work in the heart, this ‘renewal of the spirit of our mind.’”

He goes on to explain that John Wesley refers to the doctrine of original sin as the “general ground of the whole doctrine of justification,” of justifying grace. It is, Jones says, an essential doctrine of Christianity; it is understood as the loss of the image of God; and it is a disease that requires the healing of our soul.

Wesley says the atoning application of Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, is the therapy we need for our soul.

It is the nurture that cures the nature.

And this is important as it relates to community because God lives in community: The Community of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

We were made in the image of God, built for community, before The Fall, which created a nature that is counter to community. Our nature is self-centered.

Our nature is, “It’s all about me,” rather than, “It’s all about thee.”

But when we come to Christ, we are again in community with God.

And when we are in community with God, we become God-centered.

And when we are in community with one another, we become other centered.

We nurture one another and are, in turn, nurtured.

And this is an important aspect of what life is like here at Green Meadow United Methodist Church, a.k.a. “The Meadow.

Because, here once again, is our mission statement:

“Our mission is to be an open gathering place to nurture Christians in training who, equipped by the Holy Spirit, go into the world and share the light of Jesus Christ.”

Because I’m a word person and, more importantly, we need to be able to explain what we mean by the statement, we began dissecting it last week.

We started with:

“Our mission is to be an open gathering place …”

And here’s how we broke it down:

We gather and are open to Scripture.

We gather and are open to God.

We gather and are open to others.

Now, if you haven’t already picked up on it, we’re at that next chunk of text in this statement:
“To nurture Christians in training …”

We gather and we nurture.

We gather others into the Body of Christ, nurturing them and helping them -- and ourselves -- to become living, growing disciples of Jesus Christ.

We do this to equip the body for ministry and mission in the world so that through the transformed lives of this community of faith, our community would be transformed.

John Wesley knew the importance of community and accountability in the Methodist movement. He started a network of “class meetings, societies and bands” for spiritual formation, biblical reflection and care-giving.

We have one adult small group and are looking at starting another.

We do this to be a part of the nurturing community of faith. We do this, as Paul says in Ephesians 4:13, with the hopes of attaining to “the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. So we are no longer children, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, but rather we would grow up in every way into him who is the head, even Christ Jesus.”

But as important as it is — and it is of the utmost importance — biblical teaching isn’t all of what it means to nurture one another.

We nurture one another as we provide a space of healing.

We nurture one another with faith, hope and love.

We nurture one another as we help one another grow as the Body of Christ.

In preparing for this message, I sent out an e-mail to the church, asking for those who were willing to share with me the ways they have been “nurtured” during your time at Green Meadow United Methodist Church.

Here are some of the replies:

“Buzz, I have given your question a lot of thought and I have decided that the way I have been nurtured the most at Green Meadow is learning how to have fun as a Christian. I have found out that I did not have to give up my sense of humor or my zaniness to be part of the flock. I have also learned that the flock openly acknowledges their own imperfections and accepts others as they are. I think that is a rarity that should be celebrated.”

I think that is summed up with something called “unconditional love,” and it is indeed to be celebrated …

Here’s another:

“When I was tired, mentally, physically, emotionally, you took me in. You gave me room and time to rest. The first Sunday (and the second) when Elizabeth joined me so that I wouldn't have to sit alone, I was surprised. It was a warm comforting gesture and one that I would not have expected. Green Meadow was almost immediately “family.” I didn't have to want to be part of the family because you welcomed me in. I was never on the outside. I rested in your love until I was able to begin being a part of the work of the church. I want to be part of everything that you do, and I feel as if I can never ever do enough. The Meadow is the only place in my life I have ever tithed — it is the only place I have ever felt that God's work came first.”

And another …

“It is hard for me to express all the ways Green Meadow Church has influenced my life. I felt welcome from the first time I walked in the door. I have been in church some where since I was 5 years old, but never in a place where I felt so much at home. … (She goes on to say that when she was widowed) “I was left with learning how to manage my life without him and I needed an anchor that I found in the people at Green Meadow. I found strength to go on when things were difficult and knowledge in the selected Scripture that gave me direction. I have seen how willing everyone is to invite others to to be a part of the mission work that is so much a part of the church. … I know my life has become richer because of my association with these wonderful people I call my best ever friends.”

There were many other things that were said about this church, but I wanted you to get the sense of what is of great importance: This sense of community.

We nurture one another through the study of Scripture, being open to one another’s views and theologies.

We nurture one another through the breaking of bread — whether it be the sharing of someone’s herb gardens, or friendship bread, or breakfast, BBQ, or — of huge importance — the Lord’s Supper.

We nurture one another by the sharing of burdens, through prayer and visitation.

And there are times when we have to carry one another along, because the journey here at Green Meadow is not a solo journey.

Of all people, your pastor is most aware of that.

For you have often carried me in ways that a family carries one another:

In prayer, and through a year of chemotherapy.

Through the many ways in which you exhort me, and lift me up, just when I need it -- and I know you do it for each other.

Not too long ago Donna sort of watched a war movie with me. Most of the time I have to watch guy movies alone, but this time she went along — sort of. She worked on some other stuff while the movie was running. The movie was “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young.” It is based on a true story about the first time U.S. forces formally met the Vietnamese army on the battlefield.

What you are about to see is a deleted scene from the movie that takes place back in the states at the Protestant chapel on the base from which the 7th Infantry, First Division, had been deployed in November 1965 to Vietnam.

This scene depicts the families (mostly the wives) of the soldiers, who are in church days after their husbands have gone off to war.

One of the young wives is introduced by the pastor and is to sing the Offertory.

This, sisters and brothers, is a sign of community carrying each other along.

The woman who first picked up after the singer faltered is the wife of the commander of the division, and soon the other wives, and then the entire congregation are singing.

This is a wonderful illustration of how, when we are afraid, or unsure of our faith, or under some extreme trial, the faith community sustains us, and reminds us of the faith that we, by ourselves, may not be able to articulate or even access.

Sisters and brothers, we the Body of Christ are called to be the solid rock for one another, giving each other food for the faith … and strength for the journey.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Grace and peace ...



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