Baby it’s cold outside! We hope everyone stays warm and safe in the next few days as the winter weather makes its way to Eureka. Our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services will be held as scheduled, but your safety is the most important to us. Join us onsite or online at Facebook Live or on our new YouTube channel. The Christmas Eve Candlelight Service will begin at 8:00 p.m. Saturday evening, and our Christmas Day Festival Service begins at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday.
Is there a way I can say goodbye to my loved ones after I die – as I fear dying young?
I don’t presume to know exactly what happens when we die, but I have lost friends and family members I loved, and I can speak from those experiences. Even after my loved ones are gone, I sometimes have a strong sense of their presence. I think that what I feel in those moments is their love for me. Viktor Frankl also wrote of having a strong sense that his wife was present with him while he was imprisoned in a Nazi death camp even though he didn’t know whether his wife was still alive.
In Paul’s treatise on love in 1 Corinthians 13, he spoke of spiritual gifts and of end times. He was writing in response to a Corinthian congregation who was arguing about which spiritual gifts were the greatest. Paul wrote, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13, NRSV). Paul’s view was that even though faith and hope are important spiritual gifts, they are no longer needed after we die since we will be face to face with God. Love, however, endures, and that is what makes it the most desirable of the spiritual gifts.
I have offered you my Biblical and theological response, and now I would like to offer you a pastoral response. I suspect that your reason for wanting to tell your loved ones goodbye is to tell them you love them. If that is so, why is it necessary to wait? Tell them today and every chance you have how much they mean to you. You won’t regret it.
 Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2006), 111.
How can I help the dying or sick better?
If you can be with the person who is dying or sick, my suggestion is to learn how to listen empathically. That means learning how to listen deeply to what the suffering person is sharing with you simply for the purpose of fully understanding what they are experiencing. It is different from listening with the intent to think of something to say in response. Being heard and understood is often more validating and meaningful for someone who is suffering than just about anything we can say. And you need not be stoic in their presence; if you shed tears with them, it can be very empowering for them if they feel they have been heard.
I find it helpful to reflect on times when I have suffered. I can’t remember very many things that people said to me in those moments, but I can remember many of the people who showed up. The fact that you are present for someone who is sick and dying probably means more than you know. Finally, if you cannot be present, don’t underestimate the power of a card or a short note to let someone know you are thinking of them.
What does scripture and Jesus say about marriage/who can marry? Is marriage between a man and women only or can LGBTQ persons legally marry?
As you are probably aware, the issue of same-sex marriage is a controversial and potentially divisive issue in the church. My personal belief is that the Bible is silent regarding who can and cannot marry. The only time I can recall Jesus speaking about marriage is in Mt 22:30, but his comments are in response to Pharisees who are trying to trap Jesus, and are really more about resurrection than marriage. As is often the case, the context of what Jesus is saying is important.
The second part of your question asks if LGBTQ persons can legally marry. In the United States, the answer to that question is determined by individual states, and within Illinois, same-sex marriage is legal. However, I think you mean to ask what the Bible sanctions. Different people answer that question differently – and very passionately. I am providing links below that present opposing views, and you can find people with each of these views within the membership of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Why in Bible times was the role of pastor always filled by a man?
My understanding is that religious leaders were men rather than women because all of society was androcentric, or male focused. That fact was true not only for the people of Israel, but for the people throughout Mesopotamia. It may not be surprising to find that as Judaism and Christianity evolved in such an environment, they became androcentric, or patriarchal in nature as well. It simply reflected the water they were swimming in and the air they were breathing. And the fact that women had so few rights helps explain the concern the prophets and Jesus held for widows; they were among the poor and dispossessed without the men on whom society had made them dependent.
During the time of the Old Testament, only men who were descended from the tribe of Levi, the tribe of Moses and Aaron could be priests, and they had to be the first-born males in their families. Simply being male did not qualify a man to be a priest. Only specific males could be priests.
The situation changed for early Christians after the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Initially after the death and resurrection of Jesus, his followers thought of themselves as Jews and not as creators of a new religion. Worship was conducted in the homes of believers, and neither the roles such as deacons and bishops, nor the hierarchy that exists in the church today existed at first. Some prominent women participated in worship, but it doesn’t appear that they led worship as the church was evolving.
Disciples of Christ today are among the denominations who affirm the gifts that women have for ministry. Eureka Christian Church is blessed with such women, and our Regional Minister and our General Minister and President are capable and extraordinary women who faithfully serve us well.
Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis. Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders.
Eureka Christian Church will host an in-person training on Tuesday January 31, 2023 beginning at 8:30 am. The class will be facilitated by Social Worker Joanie Montoya from Carle Eureka Hospital. The cost is $12/person and lunch is provided. To register, click here or call the church office, 309-467-2369.
Have you ever wanted to read through the entire Bible but never quite made it happen? Now is your chance! In each edition of The Visitor throughout this year to come, we will include a list of daily Bible readings that will take you through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in this calendar year.
And stay tuned, because next year (2024), we will launch a congregation-wide program called “The Bible Year” which will incorporate these daily Bible readings plus related devotionals, a small-group study, and worship experiences.
Our invitation to you: As you read through the Bible this year, keep a journal of your thoughts and questions. Or if keeping a journal feels too overwhelming, you can jot these notes in the margins of your Bible. Then, when we begin our congregation-wide journey next year, you will not only have a deeper knowledge of the Bible, but you will also have a record of how your reflections have grown and changed from year to year.
January 1 Genesis 1:1-3:24
January 2 Genesis 4:1-5:32
January 3 Genesis 6:1-9:17
January 4 Genesis 9:18-11:32
January 5 Genesis 12:1-14:24
January 6 Genesis 15:1-17:27
January 7 Genesis 18:1-20:18
January 8 Genesis 21:1-23:20
January 9 Genesis 24:1-25:18
January 10 Genesis 25:19-28: 9
January 11 Genesis 28:10-30:43
January 12 Genesis 31:1-36:43
Why did God send Satan to test Job even though he was already following God’s desires?
While the Book of Job can be interpreted in several ways, it is probably best understood as a narrative (not literal) exploration of the age-old question: why is there suffering? Or, more personally: “Why am I suffering? After all, I’ve tried to do the right thing most of the time. Oh sure, I’ve messed up a time or two, but overall, I’ve tried to live a Godly life. So why has this tragedy happened to me? Is God punishing me?” Many of us could put ourselves in Job’s shoes. It is a timeless, universal tale addressing a timeless, universal struggle.
A quick recap in case Job (pronounced with a long o) is unfamiliar to you. When we meet Job, he is very well off. He has “seven sons and three daughters, seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and very many servants” (Job 1:2-3). We also learn that Job is faithful—“blameless and upright” is the way he’s introduced. But then the scene shifts to the heavenly court. Ha-Satan (literally, “The Accuser”—think prosecuting attorney, not red pointy-tailed creature) points out that Job is so faithful precisely because God has given him everything. “Take away Job’s blessings,” Ha-Satan argues, “and then he will curse you, God.” So God gives permission. In one tragic day, Job’s oxen, donkeys, and camels are stolen, his sheep are burned up, his servants are murdered, and his children are all killed. But still Job does not curse God. So Ha-Satan asks for and receives permission to harm Job himself. Soon Job’s entire body is covered with sores, and we find him sitting on an ash heap scratching his sores with a pottery shard. That’s a pretty miserable scene. Job’s wife bluntly says, “Oh, just curse God and die.”
All of this happens in the first two chapters. But the Book of Job is long—forty-two chapters in all. So what’s the rest of the book about? Well, the rest of the book (apart from the last eleven verses when Job’s fortunes are restored) is about the struggle to understand in the midst of the pain.
The structure of Job is what I like to call a “sandwich.” The beginning and the end are a prose folktale, most likely much older than the rest of the book. In between—the middle of the “sandwich”—is a long poem that explores this question of suffering. The familiar folktale at the beginning and end proclaims a simple lesson, too-simple really: “If you are patient in spite of your sufferings, it will all pay off in the end.” But the middle of Job, by far the bulk of the book, proclaims something else: “When you are suffering, when you are in pain, when you are going through the absolute worst time in your life, you will question everything. You will question your faith. You will question all that you have ever learned or known about life. You will even question God. And that’s OK because God is big enough to take it.” In adapting an old folktale for his own narrative and theological purposes, the author of the Book of Job accepts the framework that God is testing Job, but that isn’t his focus. The question our author really wants to wrestle with is this: How do we continue to relate to God when we feel like we have been abandoned? And the answer is: we just keep at it. We argue. We complain. We whine. We shout. We question. We pray. In the end, what matters is that we stay in there and keep wrestling because it is the conversation with God that is key. It is the relationship with God that ultimately will lead us back to wholeness and life.
What does confidence look like biblically?
There are several ways to understand the word “confidence.”
One can have confidence in self—knowing that you have the gifts within you to do what needs to be done. I think of young David standing before the Philistine champion Goliath (1 Samuel 17). Goliath had terrified the army of the Israelites. But there David was, wearing no armor or protection of any kind and armed only with five stones and a slingshot. He stood there bravely because he knew that he had the skill within him to prevail. That is confidence. Or I think of the woman who came to Jesus asking for him to heal her daughter (Mark 7:24-30). Strangely, it seems at first like Jesus is going to deny her desperate plea, but she is firm. She will not rest or keep silent until Jesus acts. Can you imagine the courage it took for her to advocate for her daughter like that—before Jesus himself?! Now that is confidence!
One can have confidence in God—this is more along the lines of trust. Trusting in God’s guidance for our lives; trusting that God will see us through any trial. The Bible is filled with stories of people who put their confidence in God. Abraham and Sarah left their country and their family to move to a new home, to go out into the great unknown because they understood that is what God wanted them to do (Genesis 12:1-9). They put their confidence in God to see them through the wilderness. When the angel came to Mary and said, “You will conceive and bear a son,” Mary said, “Let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:26-38). She said this even though she knew that once people found out she was with child, she would be the target of much gossip and deep public shaming. Mary trusted that God would see her through all that heartache. The Psalms are also a good place to turn for examples of confidence in God. (Read Psalms 13, 23, 27, 62, 91, and 121, for example.)
One can have confidence in others—recognizing that others have important contributions to make and that we never have to go it alone. It is worth noting that even Jesus himself didn’t go it alone. One of the first things he did in his ministry was to call others to work with him (Matthew 4:18-22). He knew that his disciples had wonderful gifts to share; he had confidence in their abilities. The Apostle Paul, who started many of the earliest churches, did not insist on doing everything himself either. Instead, he knew that everyone has a different gift or skill to share. Paul compared the church to a body: “As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Corinthians 12:20-21). The vision is for everyone to feel free to do their part. This is what makes us complete together.
One final thought: Perhaps this question is asking about when confidence shifts from being something that is healthy to something that is harmful. (This is one of the challenges of our Questions ministry; it’s hard to know if we are responding to the actual question!) Sometimes we talk about the “sin of pride.” Pride (confidence) by itself is not a bad thing. In fact, I believe that God delights when we feel good about ourselves and the gifts we have to share. After all, in the moment of creation, God looks around and sees that it is all “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Things take a turn, however, when pride begins to consume us—when we become boastful, arrogant, or rude (1 Corinthians 13:4-5) or when we begin to think of ourselves as better than another (Romans 12:3). This is neither confidence nor pride; it is self-centeredness.
What is my purpose when I am old?
This has been questioned as long as people have entered old age. In my ministry the elderly have consistently complained “I can’t do the things I once did.” I know firsthand what they meant. The other day I went to wash the car windshield. Easy? Hardly. I was exhausted and didn’t do a very good job. The first thing is to accept what getting old means. You have been blessed a lifetime and there is yet purpose.
Is your spouse still living? If so, tell them every day you love them. If not you can still talk to them and tell them how you have loved them and still do. Do you have grandchildren? Rejoice and tell them again and again how special they are. Do you have son or daughter who makes sure you are o.k.? Thank them, love them, and know how blessed you are. Your purpose is to multiply, to love your family, and thank God for them.
What was one purpose, no longer is. Your purpose is to live. And if you are single consider the special people who have been and still are so very important to you. To care about them is a purpose. Write to them, call them, and be a special friend.
Read and write, putting your thoughts and feelings on paper. You never know who will read it and be inspired. That is a huge purpose.
What is our duty to Christ at our advanced ages?
Do we have a duty to Christ or is it a relationship in which we desire to belong to Christ. Each of us have our own ways of coming to Christ. Some things in keeping the relationship strong and viable are prayer, reading the Bible, caring for people around you, even people a long way away. Ex: The people of Ukraine. Don’t make it a duty. That makes it law and Jesus was not about law. It was more about the New Covenant in which goodness is something in the heart. See Jeremiah 31:31. God no longer commanded or demanded. God put goodness in our hearts. It has become a part of us. As Christians we are motivated by God’s love and grace. It is no longer a duty but a blessing in loving relationships with our God.