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.
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.
By Jeremy Grossman
Recently, Pastor Tracey asked me to help steer Trinity’s Discipleship efforts as a member of the Governing Board. Before accepting, I had to first wrap my head around what “Discipleship” meant to me. After reading what many scholars had to say on the topic (okay, I admit it—I Googled it), I kept coming back to one idea that resonated with me: a disciple is a student, someone seeking wisdom or knowledge or skills. This pursuit, though, is not simply about acquisition—it’s about application. A disciple is actively seeking to transform his or her life.
Once I got a hold of this concept, it led me to revisit my days as a classroom teacher and my philosophy of education. Again, my inspiration is non-traditional: the animated Disney film, TARZAN. In the movie, a young Tarzan, desperate to be accepted by his adopted gorilla family, dedicates himself to becoming “the best ape ever.” Cue the montage of young Tarzan observing, growing, trying, learning by experience, and eventually applying what he learns to help his family, all to the tune of a Phil Collins song with the pivotal lyric, “…in learning you will teach, in teaching you will learn.”
This, to me, is key: discipleship is an ongoing, lifelong, two-way street process. We never stop being students. As we seek to grow ourselves, we are able to assist others, and then, in turn, be helped again ourselves. We learn, we teach, we learn some more. We don’t have to know all the answers or have ourselves all together (because who among us does?) to simply step in and BE THERE for others. In fact, often we find the best way to help ourselves is to stop and help someone else.
The idea of the IRON WORKS Discipleship Discussion group came to me as I contemplated one of the most famous verses about the importance of meaningful relationships, Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another” (NRSV). In other words, we can better ourselves through our relationships with others.
Considering the Trinity Vision Statement, we can grow in love and service through our relationships with God and Community, and I believe those two are intertwined through discipleship: we can grow with God as we seek meaningful relationships with our community, and we can grow with our community as we seek to improve our relationship with God.
The IRON WORKS Discipleship Discussion group will take place as a Sunday School class. Over six weeks, we will study and reflect on the following keystones as guides for personal and relational discipleship:
A DISCIPLE acts with:
· INTENT, living by purpose and decision, not passivity and default (Ephesians 5:15-16)
· RECOGNITION of his/her position as a servant leader, offering his/her talents and gifts to God and others (Romans 12:4-7)
· OBEDIENCE to Christ’s essential commandments (Matthew 22:37-39)
· NOBILITY, seeking to be a witness of God’s love in word and deed (Colossians 3:12-17)
· These principles culminate in WORKS, loving outreach to others as a fundamental application of faith (James 2:14-26).
The class starts September 10 at 9:15 in the Parlor Conference Room. Childcare and refreshments will be available. All are welcome.
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