First Central Church of the Brethren

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Brethren Moments Archive                                                                                                                                                    By Nancy Kurtz

     What is peace? What are the different kinds of peace?
     The Old Testament word for peace is shalom. It means more than just serenity or the absence of war. It means well-being, health, unity, abundance, wholeness, and fullness of life. It refers to the beautiful harmony of creation intended by God.
     The New Testament word for peace, in most places, refers back to the same meaning as shalom. Through the new covenant established by Jesus Christ there is again peace, a restored relationship between God and those who enter into that covenant.

           Matthew 5: 28-38 (NRSV)

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.

           Matthew 26: 52 (NRSV)

Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.

     From the beginning of the Church of the Brethren, we have rejected all participation in violence and warfare. It has not always been easy, especially when the country we lived in called for all able-bodied men to serve in their armed forces. Many did serve, but many were imprisoned or persecuted for refusing to fight. Those who did serve were not drummed out of the church, but the denomination has always condemned war and violence. In this we have joined with the Quakers, Friends and Mennonites, and together we are known as the "Historic Peace Churches."
     We have not only been anti-war, but have also tried to work actively for justice, to bring shalom to the world.
                                                                                                                    ~ Originally shared on May 26,  2019

Pure Service

     How many of you enjoy having people do something for you, especially if it's something you really need to have done? the pleasure you get from that is really something, isn't it? But it's an even greater pleasure when you can be the one who helps somebody else!

     Jesus talked a lot about us doing things for others. Think of what we call The Golden Rule. Think about the second greatest commandment. There are many other examples of serving others from Jesus life and teachings. But the Brethren mostly point to Matthew 25. Let me remind you of what it says:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  (NRSV)

     Brethren believe that, if you are a Christian, you should always be looking for ways to help others. it should become natural to you to offer to help in every circumstance, so natural that you never need to be thanked. It should become so natural to help others that you may never forget about the face that you have done it.

     Service to others have become one of the greatest and most important marks of being Brethren. Out denomination even created the Brethren Volunteer Service, or BVS, because of the importance of service to us. This is an organization in our denomination that allows anyone to volunteer to serve in various ways and places around the world. But you don't have to travel to other places or do enormous tasks. Service to others can be in the simplest things, like carrying something for somebody, or getting a chair for somebody, or drying dishes, or taking out the trash, or just noticing that something needs to be done and stepping up to do it. We all can do that!

                                                                                                                    ~ Originally shared on March 24,  2019

Counting the cost

     How many of you have something you'd like to buy? How much does it cost? Do you have enough money to buy it? If you really, really, really want it, are you saving up for it? Are you avoiding spending on other things until you have enough? Are you counting up what you have and what you need until you can afford it?

     In the long run, what is the most important thing for you and me as Christians? Isn't it following Christ? What does it cost to follow Him?

     Here's what Jesus said about it: 

"Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions." (NRSV)

     This is a hard teaching. Can any of us give up all that we have, even the people we love, to follow Jesus? But many people have done just that, from the disciples that knew the man Jesus, to martyrs over the centuries, including those who started the Church of the Brethren.

     We may not have to face death to follow Jesus, but there can still be times when we have to thing about giving up something we are used to doing, or something we think will give us pleasure, because in the long run, it would be too costly for our spirit's sake.

     Alexander Mack, the leader of the first Brethren in Germany, wrote a poem about it. You can find it set to music in your Hymnal as #437. That is one of the founding principles of our denomination.

                                                                                                                   Originally shared on March 10,  2019