Follow Me

Unpopular opinion: I think requiring adults to attend church membership classes before they are allowed to join is antithetical to the Gospel. Fortunately, I have always worked in churches that supported my position and I have been able to invite and receive people into the life of the church without requiring the typical four-to-six week indoctrination class.

My position is this: Jesus recruited his “membership” with two words: Follow Me. He didn’t require a six-week class, so why should we? Mind you, we have always had an “orientation” meeting, so that new members could be introduced to the aspects of the church. But that is more about me getting to know them than them getting to know the church. We provide new members with literature about the denomination and encourage them to take Bible studies. But in regard to “joining” the church, I believe that if the Holy Spirit has called you to join, the church shouldn’t put a process in the way of the promise.

Today’s lectionary is one of many examples of Jesus inviting someone to simply follow him.

John 1 (Common English Bible)

43 The next day Jesus wanted to go into Galilee, and he found Philip. Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter.

Watch what happens next. Philip was invited to follow Jesus. He immediately turned around and brought someone else in. See how that works?

45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law and the Prophets: Jesus, Joseph’s son, from Nazareth.”

46 Nathanael responded, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?”

Remember that Jesus was rejected in his own hometown. There was a pervasive attitude that Nazareth, a little podunk place, was an unlikely location for God’s son, the King of Israel, to grow up. Kind of like being from New Jersey. (I can say that…I’m from Jersey.)

Philip said, “Come and see.”

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said about him, “Here is a genuine Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

48 Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?”

Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”

49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are God’s Son. You are the king of Israel.”

50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these! 51 I assure you that you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up to heaven and down to earth on the Human One.”

You see, when the church encourages people to simply follow Jesus, the people see heaven open up in their lives. They encounter the Son of God for themselves. They invite him to be the king of their hearts, with no membership class required of him before they welcome him in.

Where is Jesus calling you to follow him today? Is he calling you to a new path? Is he asking you to put your feet on a road of righteousness that you are not currently walking? Is he inviting you to follow him into a sincere way of repentance and cleansing, leaving the old things behind so that you can follow him in a new direction?

Jesus invites us to follow him. No pre-registration required.

Just say yes.

Follow Me by Michelle Robertson

Being Slaves to our Whims

Raise your hand if you ate and/or drank too much over the holidays.

Mid-January always seems to be the time to confess our sins of overindulgence. One friend shared that she couldn’t stop eating the Christmas candy and her scale is confirming it. Another claims to have grown an evil eating-machine-twin that she is now trying to shed. Most of us can truthfully say that we experienced a departure from healthy eating over the holidays. Diets have been abandoned, our exercise bikes are being used as clothes racks, and all of our good intentions fled along with the Thanksgiving turkey.

You can put your hand down now.

In addition, the pandemic’s stay-at-home guidance was coupled with the attack on the nation’s Capitol last week, leaving us welded to our couches. Our days find us mindlessly engaging in anxiety-eating as we consume endless hours of news, sweets, and tweets. No wonder we feel out of sorts and bloated of mind, body, and soul.

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians reminds us that we need to take care of our bodies because they are a gift from God. The Master honors us with our bodies, and Paul calls us to honor God with how we use our bodies. He warns us against becoming a slave to our whims.

1 Corinthians 6 (The Message)

12 Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims.

Paul goes on to caution us about stuffing our body with food. I think if he were alive today, he might also warn against stuffing our minds with too much news and social media. None of this is good for us in large quantities.

13 You know the old saying, “First you eat to live, and then you live to eat”? Well, it may be true that the body is only a temporary thing, but that’s no excuse for stuffing your body with food, or indulging it with sex. Since the Master honors you with a body, honor him with your body!

Your body is God’s temple. What you fill it with matters to God. You see, he has a plan to treat your body with the same resurrection power that Jesus received.

14-15 God honored the Master’s body by raising it from the grave. He’ll treat yours with the same resurrection power. Until that time, remember that your bodies are created with the same dignity as the Master’s body.

You were created with dignity. God gave you a body to honor, as he honors you. What are you indulging in right now that needs to change? What are you putting in your mind, your heart, or your mouth that does not honor God? Is it time to put down the beer and turn off the TV?

Where is God calling you to make changes?

As Paul says, we can’t become slaves to our whims. Yes, things are incredibly difficult right now. But Paul reminds us that’s no excuse. Taking a 30 minute walk will clear things up significantly, or at least get you away from the candy bowl and the television for half an hour. Get up and get moving, and you will feel so much better.

Your body is created with dignity. Treat it as such.

Get Moving by Kathy Schumacher

Fearfully and Wonderfully

A few years ago I was driving past the Kitty Hawk Police Department as the community was gearing up for our annual OBX Marathon Weekend. I passed their information sign, which usually carries messages about changing your smoke detector batteries or remembering to buckle your seatbelt. I chucked when I saw the Marathon Weekend message: “You can run, but you can’t hide! Good luck from the Kitty Hawk Police Dept.” Haha!

We continue our journey into Psalm 139 today, delving farther into how much we are known by God. In the first half of this incredibly beautiful writing, the Psalmist assures us that God knows our going out, our coming in, our rising up, our sitting down, and that his hand is upon us in every moment of every day. We join with the Psalmist in his wonder and awe of God’s love for us. To be known by the creator of the universe is mind-blowing, indeed.

But how well does he know us? When did his knowing begin?

The second half of the psalm dives deeper. Here we learn that God himself was the one who formed us and knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. Ponder that for a second. This tells us that God has been a present in our lives from our very inception. He not only created the universe, he created us and all living things that move in the wombs of their mothers:

Psalm 139 (New Revised Standard Version)

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.

God’s work is wonderful. I think that is something important to remember when we encounter people (also formed in the wombs of their mothers) who do not look, vote, or think like us. God is with each one of us in our unborn state, and he loves and cherishes us all equally.

15  My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.

It is a profound thing to realize that God beheld you with his own eyes when you were unformed and made in secret. There are no secrets from God. Nothing can be hidden from his light or his love.

In your book were written
    all the days that were formed for me,
    when none of them as yet existed.

God has planned to love you and be with you all the days of your life, even before you took your first breath. And hallelujah, when you come to the end, he is still with you, and you are still with him.

17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
    I come to the end—I am still with you.

What does this say to you today about your importance to God? What is God teaching you about the sanctity of life and his activity in bringing you about? Can you find comfort in knowing that not only was he with you before your very beginning, but he will be with you when you come to the end?

This Psalm is sometimes labeled “The Inescapable God.” It is a reminder to us that we may run, but we can never hide. God is in every moment of our every moment. Thanks be to God!

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Nathan Dixon, Age 7

You Know Me

Recently I had the opportunity to spend time with my 14-month-old grandson. He is in the active/touching everything/put stuff in his mouth/try-to-climb-the-unclimbable stage of toddlerhood, so I purchased a large, sturdy play fence. We established one area as a kid-friendly zone, and put the 100 lb. Labrador Retriever on the other. It proved to be a good purchase, as we could sit in the kid zone and enjoy him playing without worrying for his safety. The dog wasn’t thrilled, but she got over it.

Today’s reading is the 139th Psalm. I have to tell you how excited I was that this is in this week’s lectionary, as it is one of my favorite psalms. It introduces the incredible notion that God knows us. Not just “knows” us as a people, or a nation, but really KNOWS us. Intimately. Personally. Closely. Familiarly.

Psalm 139 (New Revised Standard Version)

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from far away.

How can the creator of the universe know us in such detail? How can the One who told the moon when to set and the stars where to spin know our very thoughts from far away? Why would he bother?

You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    O Lord, you know it completely.

It almost amuses me to think that God knows the word that is about to be on our tongues even before we say it. How it must dismay him when we actually say it! He knows us this well AND HE LOVES US ANYWAY.

You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.

Like a child inside a play fence, we are safely hemmed in by the One who made us. He desires to protect us, to surround us with grace, and to heal us with his mercy. Again I ask, why?

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is so high that I cannot attain it.

The psalmist speaks of the awe we feel in knowing how perfectly God knows us. He loves us so much that he is present in our every waking and sleeping moment.

What does it mean to you to know that God searches you and knows you to the very depth of your soul? Does it bring you comfort to know that you can never be alone? Is it a balm in your loneliness? Does it help you to realize that there is no sin you could ever commit that is beyond the reach of his understanding and forgiveness? Does it strengthen you to realize that with such a God, who is so close within you, nothing from the outside can harm you or separate you from his love?

Such knowledge is too wonderful. Such knowledge is so high, we cannot attain it. But we’ll take it anyway.

Rejoice, and be glad.

You Search Out My Path by Wende Pritchard

Speaking Truth to Power

The chaos of what happened last week in America’s Capitol is foremost on our minds today. How could this hallowed institution be breached by violent insurrectionists? How could a mob of thugs get inside the very tangible and visible symbol of our country’s democracy? Where did it all go wrong?

I don’t think it started to go wrong last Wednesday. I don’t think it started in November. I don’t even think it started to fall apart four years ago. Our deep and polarizing issues have been dividing us since the inception of our country, and our continued failure to address the issues that divide us brought us straight up the capitol steps last week in the form of blood and insurrection. Until we confront our national racism, the abuse of power, the advantage of privilege, the entitlement of the wealthy, widespread inequity, oppression, and injustice, we will continue to experience hurtful and damaging division.

Where we go wrong is when we fail to speak truth to power.

In this passage from 1 Samuel 3, we see a similar conundrum. Samuel is a young man serving in the household of Eli, who was the judge and high priest. God’s word was not heard much in those days, but the presence of God was still in the temple, where Samuel served. Eli’s sons had committed many sins against God, using their privilege and entitlement as “sons of the high priest” as their cover. Eli had been warned that his household was about to fall apart due to their rebellion. Finally God spoke directly to young Samuel:

1 Samuel 3 (Common English Bible)

11 The Lord said to Samuel, “I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of all who hear it tingle! 12 On that day, I will bring to pass against Eli everything I said about his household—every last bit of it! 13 I told him that I would punish his family forever because of the wrongdoing he knew about—how his sons were cursing God, but he wouldn’t stop them. 14 Because of that I swore about Eli’s household that his family’s wrongdoing will never be reconciled by sacrifice or by offering.”

15 Samuel lay there until morning, then opened the doors of the Lord’s house. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel, saying: “Samuel, my son!”

“I’m here,” Samuel said.

17 “What did he say to you?” Eli asked. “Don’t hide anything from me. May God deal harshly with you and worse still if you hide from me a single word from everything he said to you.”18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him.

“He is the Lord, ” Eli said. “He will do as he pleases.”

19 So Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not allowing any of his words to fail. 20 All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was trustworthy as the Lord’s prophet.

When we find ourselves in a situation where God is calling us to speak truth to power, we must remember Samuel. His obedience to say the harsh word to someone who had authority over him was blessed by God. For the rest of his days, the Lord was with him and did not allow any of his words to fail.

Where is God calling you to speak out? Is there a situation in your family that needs resolution? Are you suffering in your workplace because of unfair policies or discrimination? Is your marriage or relationship off-kilter because your partner is too controlling and causing you harm? Is it time to email your Congressional leadership and demand change?

Samuel teaches us that being trustworthy to the Lord’s message is more important than anything else. When you speak for God, he will be with you, always.

It’s time to speak up.

Purple Mountains Majesty by Kathy Schumacher

Remember, and Be Thankful

Do you remember your baptism? Like many people, I was baptized as an infant, so I have no recollection of mine. My baptism took place at the Huntingdon Methodist Church in Huntingdon, PA. My parents met in the choir at that church and were married there, so it was fitting, if not memorable. In my career I have participated in hundreds of baptisms, and the sacrament is one that is joyful and bathed in hope every single time.

Methodists mark the baptism of Jesus with a special service where we invite people to remember their own baptisms. This is an invitation to remember not so much the when of your baptism, but the why. Why do Christians baptize? What happens in baptism?

First, it is important to remember who the agent is in a baptism, and here is a hint: it’s not you. Even if you were an adult and took your own vows, you are not the star of the show. God is the focus, and we acknowledge that he is the one who has called you to that moment. In my denomination, we do not re-baptize. We understand that a baptism is a result of the power of God in a person’s life and thus does not need to be repeated, regardless of whether or not the person stayed on a righteous path. People may falter, but God doesn’t make mistakes. There is no need to re-do what he has already done.

And so the vows renouncing the spiritual forces of wickedness; repenting of sins; accepting God’s freedom and power to resist evil, injustice, and oppression; putting your whole trust in Christ’s saving grace; pledging to serve him and his people, etc. all come together in that holy moment. Water is used symbolically to signify a new beginning….a cleansing, as it were….and an acknowledgement of God’s mighty acts of salvation through water and the Spirit. We are named, and claimed.

Take a look at what happened at Jesus’ baptism:

Mark 1 (Common English Bible)

John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals.I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10 While he was coming up out of the water, Jesus saw heaven splitting open and the Spirit, like a dove, coming down on him. 11 And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”

I think God says the same thing with every baby, confirmand, squirming teenager, and wide-eyed adult whom we baptize. I think heaven opens up every time and God looks at that person and says, “You are my child, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”

Ponder your baptism today, and remember why you were baptized. As you remember, be thankful. And if you’ve never been baptized and you’re ready, find a preacher with a pitcher. It’s never too late.

God Claims You

Unsearchable Riches

I became fascinated with Mel Fisher’s discovery of the Atocha a few decades ago after reading about it in a National Geographic magazine. The Atocha was a 400-year-old Spanish Galleon that sunk somewhere in the waters outside of Key West. Fisher spend the majority of his life looking for it. Along the way he and his team experienced much hardship, poverty, illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and fights with the Florida state government and the US government over keeper‘s rights. Worst of all, he suffered the deaths of his son, daughter-in-law, and a diver when one of their search boats sank in the middle of the night.

When the treasure was finally discovered, it contained almost 1,000 silver ingots weighing 32 tons, 114,000 silver coins, huge masses of coins still fused in the shape of treasure chests, silver and gold artifacts, gold bars, discs, coins, and chains, and 3,000 emeralds weighing up to 77 carats. A few years ago I visited the museum in Key West that houses a good portion of the treasure, and it is overwhelming.

The world would look at such a haul and think that Fisher had hit the mother lode of riches. How do you define riches?

Paul speaks of the unsearchable riches of Christ in the third chapter of Ephesians. Let’s explore what he defines as “riches.”

Ephesians 3 (English Standard Version)

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 

Paul clearly identifies the unsearchable riches of Christ as the plan for the salvation of not just the Hebrew nation, but of all nations. This was a radical teaching for the Jews of the time. Their anticipation of a Messiah who would come to conquer the warring nations around them did not match the gentle shepherd from Nazareth. Paul’s task was to convince not only the Jews, but the Gentiles, who had no expectation of being included in the redemption plan that was offered to them.

It was indeed a mystery hidden for ages in God from the very beginning, and it was up to the church to explain it to everyone:

10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Mel Fisher’s riches cost him everything. The good news for us today is that the unsearchable riches that are offered in Christ cost nothing. The price has already been paid. When we search for him we will find him, and the manifold wisdom of God is made known in the process.

I believe the church itself is one of those riches. If you don’t have a church home, I pray you will find one. The church is the vehicle God uses to make his riches known. If you’ve been burned by a church, find another one. The online options are endless.

Paul invites us to come before God with boldness and confidence. Christ is the access. The church is the door. It’s time to discover his riches. Today’s the day!

From the Mel Fischer Museum in Key West

Honest and Fair

If you could pray one thing today for the leaders of our country, what would it be? On this official day of Epiphany, when we celebrate the three kings who followed a star to Bethlehem to pay homage to the Messiah-king, our thoughts turn to those who rule and govern over us. It is no accident that we find ourselves in Psalm 72, which is designated as a “Psalm of Solomon.” Some scholars believe that this was a prayer for Solomon written by his father, King David, at the beginning of Solomon’s reign. Others say that Solomon wrote this for himself as a prayer when he was about to take the throne.

Lutherans pray this prayer every January 6th to mark Epiphany. You will see in verse 5 that the language changes from an earthly king to a heavenly one, who will live forever and bring a reign of peace and justice.

With everything that is happening in our country today, it is a perfect prayer for us to pray together. We must especially pray for peace in our land.

Psalm 72 (Contemporary English Version)

Please help the king
to be honest and fair
    just like you, our God.
Let him be honest and fair
with all your people,
    especially the poor.
Let peace and justice rule
    every mountain and hill.
Let the king defend the poor,
rescue the homeless,
    and crush
    everyone who hurts them.

It is the job of every king, president, senator, mayor, and local dog catcher to be honest and fair in all of their doings. It is the job of every king, president, senator, mayor, and local dog catcher to defend the poor, rescue the homeless, enforce peace, and provide justice. Earthly leaders are entrusted to judge fairly and rule compassionately on behalf of, and FOR the people until the King of Kings returns and brings HIS peace…a peace that will last until the moon falls from the sky.

Let the king live forever
    like the sun and the moon.
Let him be as helpful as rain
    that refreshes the meadows
    and the ground.
Let the king be fair
    with everyone,
and let there be peace
    until the moon
    falls from the sky.

Today is a critical day in American politics. May justice and peace rule every hill, and may all who lead be honest and fair.

I hope you will join me in praying this psalm as our fervent prayer for our “kings” today.

May Peace Rule Every Mountain by Becca Ziegler

Arise and Shine

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? And the follow-up question is, did you choose something realistic? I would love to be 5’ 10” tall and have long, silky, naturally blond hair. But God gave me brown curls, my hairdresser provides my blond highlights, and no matter how hard I try, I will never be 4 inches taller. Wider, sure, but taller? Nope.

The new year causes us to pause and reconsider. We are reconsidering our lifestyles, our habits, our choices, and our daily routines. “Choose a goal and change” is the message of early January. Every new year brings a chance for a do-over.

Whatever you set your mind on this week, I hope daily scripture reading is a part of your makeover. This truly is one thing you CAN change. At Water’s Edge was developed to help you in this quest. It is in your inbox every morning and will always offer you a lectionary scripture and some musings. You can take or leave the musings, but the scripture is guaranteed to speak into your life every day.

Today’s passage encourages us to arise and shine. Think about that for a moment. God is trying to free you from whatever imprisonment has you locked up. Most of the time what imprisons us is of our own making. What are you currently doing that has you feeling trapped and hopeless?

Isaiah 60 (New Revised Standard Version)

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

When we read this proclamation of the Lord “rising upon us,“ we know it refers to his healing mercies, his power to overcome all oppression, and his unconditional love for his people. We are invited to tap into the ONE force that can truly obliterate the darkness we are all fighting.

For darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will appear over you.

When Isaiah wrote this, he was forecasting the return of the Israelites to their homeland and their place of worship. They had lived in darkness long enough. A savior was on the way to deliver them. We are still in the process of seeing this come to full fruition, but in faith we know that every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess him as Lord when the fullness of time has come at his second coming. Then nations will all live in light, and kings will bow down as well.

Nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn

So while we wait, let’s get better. Let’s do better. Let’s live better, love better, give better, speak better, wait better, and study God’s Word together.

Let us arise and shine in 2021.

Arise and Shine by Michelle Robertson

By Another Route

I suppose it’s time to talk about New Year’s resolutions. First, let me state that I hate New Year’s resolutions. Psychologists tell us it takes at least six weeks of sustained discipline to either make a new habit or break an old habit. They also tell us that six weeks is the average length of time that it takes most of us to abandon a well-intentioned New Year’s resolution. So why bother?

On the other hand, resolutions are like mini-Lents. We analyze our behavior, feel God leading us to change, and make a good effort to follow his guidance. So maybe what I hate is my inability to make a New Year’s resolution stick longer than Lent.

OK, so let’s give it a try. After all, New Year’s resolutions are biblical. Think about it! A resolution is based on:

1. Acknowledgment of a harmful behavior.

2. A confrontation of that behavior.

3. A repenting of the behavior.

4. A conscious decision to turn away from the behavior.

5. A change in direction.

One of the most poignant parts of the story of the three Magi who follow the star to see Jesus is what happens at the very end of the passage:

Matthew 2 (The Message)

9-10 Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!

11 They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.

12 In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.

“They worked out another route.”

Having experienced the Messiah and encountering him PERSONALLY, they changed direction.

I suppose that is a New Year’s Resolution in a nutshell. Encountering Jesus in a personal, life-changing way…and then never going back to the old things. And by personal, I mean the on your knees, heart open wide, spilling your guts, and pleading for mercy kind of personal. Followed by accepting him as Savior and changing direction so that you commit to following him for the rest of your days.

Where is God calling you to work out another route? Where do YOU need to change direction in your life?

Christmas was all about encountering the Christ child. New Year‘s is all about finding different routes in your behavior.

And so we begin.

New Routes by Michelle Robertson