By Jeremy Grossman, Discipleship Chair
I always liked the Tin Man. Of all of Dorothy’s friends in Oz, I thought the Tin Woodsman as described in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and portrayed in the classic 1939 movie was the most fascinating. The Scarecrow, lacking both Brains and a Heart, valued Brains as his top priority. The Cowardly Lion, on the other hand, had both Brains and Heart but felt they were useless without the Courage to use them. But the Tin Man had it right—a Heart, the ability to Love, is what makes a Life worthwhile. The Tin Man himself says, “I shall take the Heart, for Brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.” Happiness—as the result of loving and being loved—IS the best thing in the world. Love is, in fact, the reason for which we were created.
Of course the irony of the journey to Oz is that the Tin Man proves again and again that not only does he have the capacity to love, he is instinctively the most loving of all his companions. In the original book, he is at constant risk of rusting because his great compassion for all living things causes him to tear up and cry over the smallest things (like accidentally stepping on a bug). When Dorothy and company finally reach Oz, defeat the Wicked Witch, and reveal the Great and Powerful Wizard as a humbug, the Tin Man receives his Heart as a token gesture. The only benefit in the Heart granted by the Wizard was to allow him to believe in the love he was already capable of. Put another way by the band America in 1974 (in a string of double negatives), “Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man/That he didn’t, didn’t already have.”
Isn’t that so much like us? We have the capacity for greatness but we don’t see it? We are created in Love to Love, and yet we struggle to recognize our capacity to do good. I’ll admit I’m not an Oz-ian scholar, so I’m not sure what happened in the sequel books once the Tin Man had his Heart…did it change him? Did he become even more loving now truly believing he could? Most of us perform acts of Love daily without even realizing it, which is a wonderful thing about human nature—but what if we DID recognize it? What if we learned to be much more intentional in how we love, in our relationships? How much greater could we do for God, our community, our families, and ourselves if we learned more about how to love?
Christ explains the Greatest Commandments in the Gospels as 1) Love God with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength; and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. Father Richard Rohr from the Center for Action and Contemplation explains, “The only way I know how to teach anyone to love God, and how I myself can love God, is to love what God loves, which is everything and everyone, including you and including me!” This is the goal of discipleship at Trinity United Methodist Church: our studies, our small groups, our classes all eventually point to learning to love.
As Discipleship Chair at Trinity UMC, I’ve chosen “Learning to Love” (or, in shorthand, “L2L”) as the motto of Discipleship ministry as we continue to move forward in growth as a congregation. More formally, I’ve worked with Pastor Tracey and the Governing Board to lay out a set of guiding tenets for this ministry along with the following precept: “A disciple of Jesus Christ at Trinity United Methodist Church seeks to grow and guide others in the Love of God and community through meaningful, intentional relationships and personal development.” The entirety of our goals and guidelines are published in this newsletter, intended to point us in the right direction as individuals and as a church. We recognize our failings, but we also recognize our potential. We recognize our weaknesses, but we also recognize our strengths. Like the Tin Man, we are learning to love.
By Jeremy Grossman, Discipleship Chair
One of my very favorite stories is a chapter from Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows in which the shy, somewhat backwards Mole is drawn to the home he abandoned months before when on a whim he visited The River and met his friend, the ever capable and confident Rat. Mole’s excitement at returning to his home quickly turns to dismay when he realizes he has nothing to offer his friend. “‘O Ratty!’ he cried dismally, ‘why ever did I do it? Why did I bring you to this poor, cold little place, on a night like this, when you might have been at River Bank by this time, toasting your toes before a blazing fire, with all your own nice things about you!” Of course, Rat, in his truly magnanimous way, pays no heed to these sentiments and quickly takes command of situation. Later, when carolers appear on Mole’s doorstep, Rat goes a step further to quietly ensure food and drink are purchased so that everyone is treated to a merry time.
The title of this chapter is “Dulce Domum”—Latin for “Sweet Home”—and it captures so well so many things about human nature (despite the use of animals as protagonists). The need for “Home” runs deep; we have a “longing for belonging.” Likewise, we often feel inadequate in our ability to share the thing that makes us feel like we belong, the piece of ourselves that is connected to a place or a group of people, our “Home” in whatever shape or form it may be, in order to invite others in. However, that is the most distinctive definition of hospitality that I can think of: making someone else feel welcome in the place or with the people we feel most comfortable and welcome ourselves. But we struggle. We become overprotective of what is “ours” or we are afraid that what is “ours” isn’t good enough for someone else. Sometimes we even have the audacity to believe that we ourselves are simply not good enough to invite others into our lives. Sometimes, like with the Mole, it takes a little reassurance to remind us that there are no meager offerings when we give in Love.
As we continue our paths of discipleship, a discussion of hospitality is essential. And not just any hospitality will do—we need radical hospitality to transform lives (our own as well as others).
Instead of stopping at a handshake or an invitation to the church potluck, what if we did more? UMC Bishop Robert Schnase proposed “imagine people offering the absolute utmost of themselves, their creativity, their abilities, and their energy to offer the gracious invitation and reception of Christ to others.” This concept will be the foundation for the next Sunday School discussion group in the Church Parlor Conference Room after Easter, “Heart & Hearth: Opening Up and Stepping Out in Radical Hospitality” beginning on April 15 (following a discussion of John Wesley and the foundations of the Methodist Church on April 8 led by Pastor Tracey). Over the course of five weeks, we will discuss the idea of radical hospitality, intentional invitation, and a continued focus on learning to love God and others. The class will meet at 9:15 AM. Beverages will be available from the coffee cart and other refreshments will be provided. Childcare is also available. Everyone is welcome—please join us!
More information about this study, and other adult Sunday morning studies can be found on our Adult Ministry page.
Following the Path of Christ Today
By Jeremy Grossman
In 1956, “I Walk the Line” became Johnny Cash’s first number one hit. With its signature Cash “freight train” rhythm, the song is catchy and has been covered numerous times and was also used as the title of the 2005 award-winning biopic of Cash. It’s easy to view the song as presenting a parable of Cash’s sudden rise to stardom: suddenly presented with fame and fortune (and the vices that go with them), Cash vows to his wife and family:
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine.
I keep my eyes wide open all the time.
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds.
Because you're mine, I walk the line.
I find it very, very easy to be true.
I find myself alone when each day is through.
Yes, I'll admit that I'm a fool for you.
Because you're mine, I walk the line.
Despite these promises and good intentions, we know that Cash failed in his fidelity. He strayed from the path—he was unable to walk the line he had set out to follow. How many of us have experienced something similar in our own lives—a promise broken, a commitment not met, or just a plain failure? How many times have we failed to be examples of the Living Love of Christ?
As Pastor Tracey prepares a sermon series on the “Protestant Stations of the Cross” for this upcoming season of Lent and Easter, I thought about both the physical and figurative lines walked by Christ. What markers did He leave us to follow his path? As we often stray from the Line during the year, Lent strikes me as a time to make our way back to Christ, to get back to walking the line. Therefore, starting on the first Sunday of Lent, February 18, we will begin a new series of discussion topics during the Sunday School hour aligned to Pastor Tracey’s sermon series. Each topic is meant to mirror Pastor Tracey’s sermon later in the morning by focusing on a virtue exemplified by Christ as a different “station”—a signpost instructing us how to follow Christ’s footsteps and “walk the line.” The schedule is as follows:
By Ruth Smith, Community Engagement Coach
Our community groups are going well – full of conversation and relationship building.
The community dinner and dialogue group brings together members of our congregation with community members –residents, service providers, public servants, interested citizens. We eat dinner together and then talk about issues related to an abundant community. There are seven elements of an abundant community, which a group of us documented during a community walk last week. These include care, raising children, health, safety and security, resilient economy, local food production, and environment. The foundation of an abundant community is recognizing and connecting the gifts of individuals in the neighborhood as well as offering hospitality.
Last month, our focus was on care and how we, as individuals do not just serve, but care, for the most vulnerable in our communities. The week after our conversation, I was waiting at the stop sign to turn outside the West Lafayette Payless and there was a mom and her young son on the corner, camped out with folding chairs and a sign asking for money for food and gas. The car in front of me took FOREVER to turn so I spent a lot of time watching them. The first thing I noticed is that the mom wore a headscarf. So, I was thinking about a conversation I had a few months ago with a friend of mine in the Muslim community who was talking about the divide between the professional families and those who need more financial assistance and the capacity of the mosque to provide for them. So it got me thinking about who I could call to offer community support. Then, I was thinking about what service providers I could refer them to. And then, whether or not I could grab some of the 4 boxes of Cheerios I just bought to give to them (especially considering I splurged on some really nice pieces of fish for dinner) and how I would get them out of the trunk with the kids in the car. And during all these unproductive thoughts, a young woman got out of a van parked in front of them and came over to give a hug to the mom. It looked like she either knew them or gave them something they needed. So, why couldn't I help? And at this point, it was time to make my turn. I'm still thinking about it. How could I have shown better care? Not just meeting needs, but care.
In both groups, I encourage everyone to continue to get to know their neighbors. In whatever part of the city we live in, we do not know our neighbors particularly well. Let's all be intentional about learning the names of our neighbors, talking with them, take them cookies, and check in on them if you haven't seen them in their normal routine in a while. These might be the people who live next door to us. Or, our neighbors could be the people we sit next to or who serve us at the coffee shop we go to 5 days a week. But just think about how these relationships have the power to transform our lives, the lives of the people around us, and our communities!
Join us for the next community small group on Monday, November 13 at 7 pm in the Church Parlor. This is a great opportunity to invite friends, neighbors, relatives, and co-workers. The focus is on community issues, and we seek to create a safe place for people to share their experiences. This month, we will be talking about supporting healthy lives. Individual behavior, social relationships, and physical environment are the major factors determining our health level. These factors are closely related to our local community ties. When we act together, we produce primary sources of health; but how does disconnect affect our health and the health of others? Caring for yourself and your health is important on a spiritual level as well. It glorifies God and is being a good witness. Plus, the healthier you are, the more energy you have to do what God has planned for you. What is one other reason that you think God wants us to be healthy? We will explore what healthy living means within a community context, and how we can better support our health and the health of others.
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