Bethany Renew
Midweek Email Devotion
  23 June 2016   

I welcome you to Bethany Renew! This is our church's weekly online spiritual connection.
Every midweek, you will receive a devotion, a prayer, or an essay that are intended to stir up conversations and ideas of how we will proceed on the path of renewal. Feel free to forward this email to anyone who you think will be interested in receiving these readings.  You are welcome to respond or make com ments, or otherwise just sit back and enjoy your weekly readings and reflections!  
I will NOT be in church this weekend (Saturday and Sunday). I will be attending our Annual Conference. Rev. Barbrara Brown will cover for me and lead the worship.I will just be in Puyallup, so if there is any pastoral emergency, please call me on my cell: 908-884-0023.

There is NO meeting this Friday (24th)
Will resume on July 1.  (6:30pm)

Emphasis on stewardship. Coming soon. More details to follow.
June 24-26
Puyallup, WA
Please pray for all conference participants, especially our church delegates: Pastor Ferdie and Fred Hanson 
May God's wisdom be upon Bishop Grant. God's spiritual blessing to all agenda.

Do you have a hymn that you want to sing during worship? Please email me back. I want to hear from you. We go by the lectionary, so I will find a Sunday where your hymn will fit the text's topic. Thanks!

sermon nuggets
I see 3 sides of this story of spiritual restoration: the restorer, the restoree, and the spectators. And in different occasions, we all play these 3 roles. And here are 3 differences between restorers and spectators.
From the town's perspective, this demoniac is a menace: inflicting fear, and distress among the residents. He's a freak show, a horror movie that they don't want to see.
Local businesses are going down. Their children can't sleep at night. So when they see him, they see him as the town's creepy troublemaker.
But when Jesus saw him, he saw beyond all those labels. He saw a troubled, tormented soul. When the demons spoke, Jesus also heard the faint cry of a captive soul inside--pleading for help.
As spectators, when we look at someone, sometimes we read the external labels first. But I think the invitation is this: every now and then, we should pass those social characterizations and stereotypes. See the soul from the lens of a restorer.  That maybe beyond someone's antagonism, there is a soul who just needed to be heard. Or beyond someone's whining or grumpiness, there is an injured person who needed healing. And maybe instead of judgment, we can give sympathy. Instead of being a spectator we can respond as restorers.
Quick fixes are fine in certain situations. But in a society where people are secretly carrying deep wounds, or hidden emotional trauma, it may be wise to not respond with quick unplanned opinions or insensitive unsolicited suggestions.
The town folks in our story probably huddled up and said to one another one day: "You know, this guy, since he likes to hang out in graveyards, why don't we just chain him down there, away from our residential houses. Out of sight; out of mind."
But Jesus, when he came, he confronted the problem. He identified the cause and he confidently addressed it. But not with a band-aid and external patches, but with a power that truly breaks the chain of internal torment.
You have a God who doesn't dismiss you with shallow answers and external patches, when you come needing a spiritual surgery. We have a God that knows us inside out: our darkness, shadows, and demons. And we don't need to feel afraid that we will be condemned and rejected.  But we do need to be open to God's way of healing us deeply, internally, and genuinely.
And this healing that we receive from God, may we extend it to others--not by dismissing someone's burden as petty, but by validating someone's pain by our understanding, by our undivided presence, by our prayers. 
v. 35-When the people went out to see what happened, they saw Jesus, then the man from whom the demons had gone out-sitting at Jesus' feet, dressed, and in his right mind.  Because that is what restorers do:
They see the suffering soul,
They helped the restoree overcome their demons,
And then they help them dressed up again (restoration).
And we don't need to be a therapist or exorcist to do that. Sometimes a simple prayer; a word of sympathy; a genuine act of kindness can go a long way in restoring someone's life.
But the town people in our story, they were overcome with fear. Maybe fear of the unfamiliar or the unknown. Or maybe it is fear for their economy. Because this healing-episode led to one of their piggery-business to literally went down the water. So instead of being happy for the healed man, they became suspicious, uncertain, and distrustful. Or instead of welcoming Jesus, they asked him to leave.
You know what's hard? It's not the unanswered prayers, but its prayers that are answered in ways that we don't expect. It is when God says, "Yes, but, I'll do it my way." It is when God says, Yes, I'll give healing, but it is for the soul, and not the body."  Or "Yes, I'll give provision. But provision for inner strength while you go through hardship."  Or it is when Jesus healed a man, at the cost of having their local business go down.
When we look for answers, and we find one, great!  But when we can't understand why something is changing/transforming/ restoring in ways that we don't expect, may we learn to be open, may be to let go, and at times, may we learn to let it be.

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Pastor Ferdie Llenado
Bethany United Methodist Church
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