Story Teller

Our back-to-school worship series at Northside Church is entitled Story Teller. During August and September, we are exploring eight parables told by Jesus in Luke’s Gospel.

ParablesParable comes from the Greek word parabole which means to cast alongside or to place beside. Parables are stories that include comparisons, contrasts, exaggerations, illustrations, analogies, similes, and metaphors.

One classic definition declares: A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Jesus’ parables give human insight into God’s kingdom.These ordinary stories reveal extraordinary truths.

The Gospel parables are also insidious. They seem plain enough. After listening Jesus’ words, the listener concludes: “Oh, well, the moral of the story is                        .”

Yet it’s not that simple. Parables are multilayered and multidimensional. There are always new depths to plumb. They cast fishhooks into our minds, tugging at our thoughts and catching our imaginations. We wake up in the middle of the night, exclaiming: “OH, THAT’S what Jesus meant!”

However, there is a richness to Christ’s parables that cannot be plumbed. We read the same story years later and discover new and unexpected truths.

Parables are also dangerous. They slip past our defenses and through the backdoor of our minds, inviting us to change and challenging us to act.

So we’re invited on Sundays to sit at the feet of the Master Storyteller and ask: “Jesus, will you tell us a story?”

Three Simple Rules: By Attending upon All the Ordinances of God

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, crafted three simple guides for Christian living. In Methodism, they became known as The General Rules.

The Third Rule states: “By Attending upon All the Ordinances of God.” Wesley understood the ordinances of God to be spiritual disciplines that all disciples should keep—practices that keep the relationship between God and humans vital, alive, and growing.

These “means of grace” enable us to grow in the Christian faith. Wesley mentioned six ordinances specifically, including:

  • The public worship of God.
  • The ministry of the Word, either read or expounded.
  • The Supper of the Lord.
  • Family and private prayer.
  • Searching the Scriptures.
  • Fasting or abstinence.

The six ordinances listed by Wesley are NOT exhaustive; however, these spiritual practices are vital to our spiritual health.

Stay in love with God

In his book entitled Three Simple Rules, Bishop Reuben Job offered a contemporary paraphrase of the Third Rule: “Stay in love with God.” These means of grace enable us to nurture a lifelong relationship with the one who loves us first and loves us best.

Attend upon all the ordinances of God so that your love of the Lord survives and thrives.

Three Simple Rules: Do Good

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, crafted three simple guides for Christian living. In Methodism, they became known as The General Rules.

The second rule simply states: “Do good.”Do Good

A two-word directive seems easy enough, but how much is ENOUGH? I mean, this doing good thing could quickly get out of hand! I’m willing to do my part, but I want to know exactly what my part should be.

The good news is that Jesus DID define how much we had to do. The Lord said: “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” My guess is none of us is done yet!

John Wesley defined the scope of the Second General Rule in this way:

Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.

ALL, y’all—that’s a lot of good! So we need to get our “cans” to work!

Next week we consider the Third Simple Rule: “Attend upon all the ordinances of God.”

Three Simple Rules: Do No Harm

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, crafted three simple guides for Christian living. In Methodism, they became known as The General Rules.

Blank Chalkboard-horizontalThe first rule simply states: “Do no harm.” This is the Christian ethic in the negative—we are told what NOT to do. The Silver Rule states: “Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you.”

In the Hippocratic Oath, doctors swear to practice this principle: “First, do no harm.” Sometimes doing nothing is a creative act—or at least not a destructive one.

Centuries later a Methodist evangelist named Sam Jones paraphrased Wesley’s First Rule to simple say: “Quit your meanness!”

How would our lives change if we followed this simple rule? What would it look like to “do no harm” and “quit our meanness?”

So here’s your homework. This week make the First Rule your mantra. Repeat it time and again to yourself. Find ways to do no harm to yourself and others around you.

Next week we consider Wesley’s second rule: “Do good.”

Three Simple Rules

In 1739, a small group approached John Wesley in London, England. They asked the Anglican minister to help them grow in the Christian faith.

Wesley agreed to meet with the group weekly. These meetings eventually evolved into a church group called The United Society. It was:

A company of men having the form and seeking the power of godliness, united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their salvation.

Wesley put the “Method” into “Methodism!” He arranged new believers into classes of twelve people that met weekly. During the meeting, the leader would ask each member: “How is it with your soul?”  They held one another accountable and grew together in faith.

In order to help the believers in their pursuit of holiness, Wesley formulated three simple rules for Christian living. In Methodism, these guidelines later became known as The General Rules. The three simple rules are:

  • Do no harm.
  • Do good.
  • Attend upon all the ordinances of God.

Over the next weeks, we will explore these simple but profound rules for Christian living. Next week we consider Wesley’s first rule: Do no harm.

Three simple rules

America the Beautiful

Fourth of JulyOn July 4, 1776, our nation’s founders signed the Declaration of Independence. The Philadelphia document formalized the American rebellion against British rule. This week we celebrate over two centuries of freedom with parades, flags, picnics, and fireworks.

Many will also ATTEMPT to sing our National Anthem. Every school child knows the story behind The Star Spangled Banner. Francis Scott Key was a gifted poet who found himself unexpectedly detained on a British frigate. He witnessed firsthand the English attack Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. After the night’s artillery bombardment, Key peered through the dawn’s early light to see the American flag still flying proudly.

Inspired by the sight, Key scribbled some notes on the back of an envelope. His musings evolved into a four stanza poem. On September 15, 1814, a Baltimore newspaper first published The Star Spangled Banner.

Ironically, Key suggested the poem be sung to a popular BRITISH tune entitled To Anacreon in Heaven. The melody was originally composed for a gentlemen’s music club in London. The song quickly became popular across America. However, Congress did not actually make The Star Spangled Banner our National Anthem until 1931.

Although our national anthem is inspiring, the tune is somewhat, uh, challenging to sing. Amateur and professional vocalists alike struggle to do the tune justice.

In recent years, some have suggested changing the National Anthem to America the Beautiful.  It is a powerful hymn with moving imagery; AND it is much easier to sing!

Katherine Lee Bates wrote America the Beautiful in the nineteenth century. Dr. Bates, the daughter of a minister, became a professor of English Literature at Wellesley College. In 1893, she stopped in Chicago during a trip to Colorado Springs. Both the natural beauty of Colorado’s “fruited plains” and the “alabaster city” of the Chicago World Fair inspired her to write the well-known hymn.

Regardless of one’s national origin, all of God’s people can sing some of the lines together:

God shed his grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood,

From sea to shining sea.

 May God thy gold refine,

till all success be nobleness,

and every gain divine.

On July 4th, we pause to give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy. Our liberty is a precious gift dearly obtained. The star spangled banner still waves over America the beautiful. May God continue to bless our nation—land that we love.

Happy Independence Day!