Category Archives: Pastor’s Page

Welcome 2022!

Pastor Stan has announced that he will retire next June after 5 years at Bethel Wesley and 43 years of active ministry. We want to keep him in our prayers as he prepares for this life-changing event. The Bishop of Illinois Great Rivers Conference will be meeting to review pastoral assignments with the cabinet (all the District Superintendents) starting in March, and Bethel Wesley will be informed of their recommendations, probably in late April. The new Pastor will begin serving the church July 1st.  <!–split–>

Methodists have what are called itinerant pastors, pastors assigned and re-assigned by the Bishop and the cabinet. The duration of a pastor’s assignment to a congregation is usually 5 years.

We look forward to our last 6 months of Pastor Stan’s leadership, and hope to increase activities after 2 years of pandemic. While the pandemic is still not behind us, we need to increase our efforts to make disciples for Christ for the transformation of the world. We also need to pray for the Bishop and cabinet to find us a new pastor who will continue to help us in our mission.

–Staff Parish Committee

From the desk of Pastor Stan ……

A CHRISTMAS JOURNEY

You are invited to join with the entire Bethel Wesley congregation on a Christmas Journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. This Advent season, each family will receive a book and share a daily devotion. In The Journey, A Season of Reflections, Adam Hamilton takes a fascinating look at the birth of Jesus Christ. Using historical information, archaeological data, and a personal look at some of the stories surrounding the birth, the history will become come more real and heartfelt as you walk along this road. You will find short, reflective devotions combined with Scripture readings and prayers. Each daily devotional is designed to draw you into a closer fellowship with God as you reflect and respond to this Christmas season. Pick up your book at the worship service before December 1. Phone the office if you are homebound and need a book delivered to you.

 

From the Desk of Pastor Stan …..

Bethel Wesley United Methodist Church is pleased to announce its Annual Stewardship Month, October 1 through October 31.  SHARING GOD’S GOODNESS.

Please join us as we celebrate this momentous occasion.

During the month of October we will be providing messages and photos of our members “Sharing God’s Goodness”. In mid-October be on the lookout in your mail for your Stewardship Letter and Pledge Card.

Please prayerfully consider how you will help Bethel Wesley share God’s goodness in 2022.

Honoring Bishop Frank J. Beard (A Prayer Guide): Week of September 19th

Two weeks ago, we prayed for the physical needs of Our Kids, last week we focused on the soul, and this week, our focus is on the spiritual well-being of the children and their families. Through one of the chaplains or spiritual life programs, they can be embraced by the love of God and connect with Christ. <!–split–>

For Bishop Beard—Lord, we know that Jesus saw willing spirits in even the tired bodies of the disciples. As we support Bishop Beard in prayer today, we lift his willing spirit into Your holy presence. We pray for his spirit to be held near to Your own and for that nearness to be a joy and a delight for him and for You both.

Prayer for Us—Lord, we lift our hearts to You in gratitude that we are known by You, that someone brought us to the place where we could be found by You. Let our hearts break for those who have never felt Your love or experienced Your grace.

Prayer for Our Kids—Lord, we want to pass on Your gift of salvation to others. We want every child to know they are accepted by You, loved by You, guided by You. God, we pray for the children and families who are seeking peace, and do not know that You are the Prince of Peace. Make us true disciples who support these ministries that introduce Jesus to the children.

Honoring Bishop Frank J. Beard (A Prayer Guide): Week of September 12th

Last week we prayed for the physical needs of Our Conference Our Kids. This week we will focus on the soul, and next week, the spiritual well-being of the children and their families. We all have soul needs to be met. Whether we are praying for our Bishop, Our Kids, or ourselves, we must include the wellness of the mind and heart.  <!–split–>

For Bishop Beard—Lord, we give You thanks and praise for Bishop Beard’s dedication to You and to living out his call in the United Methodist Church. Today we pray that rest comes to his heart and mind. May this season bring Bishop Beard renewal in his heart and mind as both have borne the weight of the work among us he has so faithfully engaged through denominational upheaval and a pandemic besides.

Prayer for Us—Lord, we lift our hearts to You and express our gratitude for the healthy relationship that we enjoy and the comfort of family and friends. Thank You that we feel safe in our homes and places of business. We are grateful for the supports we have that allow us to have the opportunity to make sound decisions and to plan for the future.

Prayer for Our Kids—Lord, we lift our hearts to You and pray for those who live with chronic stress due to poverty, loneliness, fear, and trauma. Living like that makes it so hard to think beyond current needs. Thank you for the ministries that show them how to stabilize and develop the ability to make wise decisions for their families and their future.

Honoring Bishop Frank J. Beard: A Prayer Guide, Week of September 5

As we gather in prayer today, we will be praying for Bishop Beard and for Our Conference Our Kids. We know that the prayers of the righteous are effective and good. (James 5:16). In order for the children to experience real change in their lives, they need to be supported in body, soul, and spirit. Help comes from the outside in, healing comes from the inside out. We must address the physical and soul needs before we can successfully address the deep healing that happens when a family is introduced to the transforming power of Jesus’ love. <!–split–>

Week of September 5

We are people who are bodies, souls (hearts and minds), and spirits so as we pray for Bishop Beard and for Our Kids we will begin today by praying for physical needs. Next week we will focus on the soul, and finally, the spiritual well-being of the children and their families.

For Bishop Beard—Lord, we know that Bishop Beard is on medical leave and we pray for the journey of healing he is on. May the same Spirit who moved through Jesus’ hands and the mud of the earth for the man who wanted to see, move through today’s healers who reach out to touch his eyes. Even as healing might be incremental, slow, or incomplete, may there be as much as possible and peace on the journey.

Prayer for Us—Lord, we lift our hearts to You and express our gratitude for all of the blessings we enjoy, and too often take for granted. We are sheltered, we are fed, and do not often need to think about how to meet our basic needs. Forgive us when we feel dissatisfied or compare ourselves to others.

Prayer for Our Kids—Lord, we pray for the parents, who worry every day about how they will pay their bills, feed their children and keep them safe. Give them the strength to persevere through hardship and not give up hope. Thank you for the ministries who come alongside them to connect them with community resources.

— Pastor Stan

It’s Not Your Table, It’s God’s Table!

Pastor Stan wanted to share this article . . .

Max came to church about once a quarter. Even that was too much for some of the more “dignified” church members. A few of them scolded me for not barring Max from attending, especially on the first service of the month, Communion Sunday. They suggested that if he were allowed to attend, the ushers should have a seat for him at the back of the balcony. They also said that Max should not be allowed to participate in the service of Holy Communion, because “everybody knows the kind of life he lives.” <!–split–>

One of the hallmarks of Methodist theology is the clear understanding and teaching that, “it is not your table or my table, it’s a table of grace, offered by a loving and gracious God.” Everyone is welcome to participate or to abstain from participation in a United Methodist service of Holy Communion. It is no accident that the opening words of our communion liturgy states: “The response is a recognition of our desire to not only receive grace but to offer grace to others. And also, with you.

Max was an alcoholic bum who was often homeless. He was often unkempt, dirty, and smelly. His clothes were worn-out, he needed a bath, a haircut, and a shave. Whenever he came to church, he would teeter and totter his way to the front row and be seated. Max always responded to any invitation to pray or to receive Holy Communion.

He was never disruptive unless the ushers bypassed him during the offering. Max always had a few coins to put into the plate and he would get agitated when the ushers would ignore him. I wonder if any of those blessed saints calling for his head recognized his faithful insistence in giving from his meager resources. His stewardship challenged me.

I remember one Communion Sunday after church, while standing at the back door shaking hands, Max came through the line. He was right at the end and only two or three people remained at the church. One well meaning “saint” spoke up after Max left the building, “why do you let him ruin our communion service?” Before I could answer, another church member said, “hold on a minute, you need to know something about this man.” We all gathered around, and this is a summary of what we heard:

“Max was an 8th grader and was one of the best athletes in the city. He could play any sport with proficiency and skill. One day he came home to find his mom and dad engaged in a physical fight. He intervened and his father left the room, only to return with a shotgun. He watched helplessly as his mother was brutally murdered in front of him. Max’s life was never the same.”

The story of Max Bell (yes that is his real name) never improved and it did not have a storybook ending. Max was found one winter huddled in the corner of a garage frozen to death. I often wonder what additional things we could have done to help Max. We got him in contact with social services, we provided him with places to stay, we tried to get him therapeutic help, we gave him money for food, but nothing seemed to work.

One of the comforting memories that I have is knowing that Max was never turned away from the Lord’s Table. He was never discouraged from receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion. Perhaps Max found comfort in the invitation, “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.”

I’m not sure that Max ever found the peace that was needed to stem the tide of turmoil turning within. I’m not sure that he was able to ever defeat the demons that haunted him day and night with the painful image of his mother being savagely brutalized as he stood powerless to defend her.

I am confident that Max, despite a few looks and an occasionally misguided comment from well-intentional “saints”, could recognize that Jesus was sitting with him on the front row, inviting him to partake of a meal where Max was the guest of honor.

I fully expect to see Max when I get to heaven. I hope he will say to me, “Pastor Frank, thanks for recognizing that the Lord’s Table was a welcoming place for all.”

God Bless Bishop Beard Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, maker of all things, judge of all people: We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine majesty. We do earnestly repent, and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; the remembrance of them is grievous unto us. Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, most merciful Father. For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, forgive us all that is past; and grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please thee in newness of life, to the honor and glory of thy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From the desk of Pastor Stan ….. Forgiveness

What is involved in the practice of forgiving someone—or indeed, being forgiven ourselves? Almost all of us sense the importance of forgiveness, aware as we are of situations and relationships where there has been a breach, or where unresolved conflicts cause harm year after year. Knowing these, we yearn for resolution, for ways of moving toward a future that is free of brokenness. But thinking about forgiveness, – to say nothing of finding the courage to practice it—can be difficult. <!–split–>

The very notion of forgiveness conjures up many painful images in our minds. Merely to consider this practice causes us to think about horrifying evil: slavery in the United States, or the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, or individual acts of rape, child abuse, and domestic violence. It is difficult even to comprehend the depths of pain and suffering in such situations. No wonder, then, that we are unsure whether forgiveness can make a difference—and if so, how.

Thinking about forgiveness also causes us to consider the smaller, day–to-day struggles involved in living with others at home, in church, or in the workplace. These struggles involve annoyances that seem petty but that nonetheless can sow the seeds of bitterness, as well as specific conflicts that sometimes fester into large and painful wounds. In these situations, it may be easier to understand that forgiveness is the right response than to be able to give or receive forgiveness, or even to want to do so.

Most of us would admit that sometimes we just don’t want to forgive someone or ask them for forgiveness, even when we know we should. The “should” may be based in our deepest beliefs; whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer, after all, we ask God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Or the “should” may arise from our wish for peace, from our yearning for relationship restored. Even so, we just don’t feel able to forgive, or to ask for forgiveness; the

wounds are too raw, or we sense that the other person is unwilling to repent or to grant us the forgiveness we seek. And sometimes we simply prefer to let the conflict fester. Church council records from 16th-century Switzerland tell of a man who pretended that he could not remember the Lord’s Prayer because he knew that if he said it he would have to forgive the merchant who had cheated him. This was something he had no intention of doing!

Many of us believe in the importance of forgiveness and long to find ways of making it more central to our life together. Yet we wonder whether and how this can happen. On paper, forgiveness is great. The problem comes when we try to take it off the page and live it in our actual relations with one another. Can we do this?

Part of the problem is that we are often less sure of what and whom we love than we are of what and whom we hate. Indeed, we too often stake our identity on being against some person or group. We define ourselves against those who are strange to us, hoping perhaps to overcome our own uncertainty and vulnerability by defining them as less than human. Or we define ourselves against those from whom we have become estranged, whom we perhaps once loved by now see as enemies or threats to our well-being.

As a result, we allow feelings of hatred or bitterness to define and consume our lives, even to our own destruction. The story of two shopkeepers illustrates this. Their shops were across the street from each other, and whatever one did, the other would try to match and, if possible, exceed. One night, an angel of the Lord came to the first shopkeeper and said, “The Lord has sent me to you with the promise that you may have one wish that, no matter how extravagant, will be granted to you. There is only one catch: whatever you receive, your rival shopkeeper will receive twofold. What is your wish?” The first shopkeeper, thinking of his rival, responded: “My wish is that you would strike me blind in one eye.”

 Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity. By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power.

– Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love

From the desk of Pastor Stan ….

For the past month, I’ve been reading a book written by Dorothy Bass entitled Practicing Our Faith a way of life for a searching people. I was also thinking about a song we used to sing when I was a member of the Miles College Gospel choir in Birmingham AL. The words were simple but loaded with some very impactful words. The race isn’t given to the swift or the strong but to the one who endured to the end. <!–split–>

The Christian life is like an athletic competition, the apostle Paul once wrote. A great prize awaits those who run their race well, but the running requires great exertion. “Athletes exercise self-control in all things” in order to win their contests, even though their prize is only a laurel wreath that will soon wither. Christians ought to run their race with just as much exertion and self-control, Paul urged, for they pursue a prize that is “imperishable.”  (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

Many of us long to grow stronger in the Christian life. But we are really ready to exert ourselves? Being spectators comes much more easily. We prize the football player’s skill and strength; we admire the dancer’s trim, toned body; we applaud the pianist’s dexterity. But when it comes time to actualize our own plans for physical exercise or for rehearsals, too often we prove half-hearted and fickle. The slogan “no pain, no gain” cuts close to the bone. We are conditioned by our modern culture to count on immediate results; we want the gain, but we shrink from the pain. If we find it difficult to respond to the demand of athletic training, then it is not surprising that we find it difficult to engage in the Christian practices so sorely needed for the development and growth of the interior or spiritual life.

Throughout Christian history, it has been clear that spirituality is not a spectator activity. Tough decisions and persistent effort are required of those who seek lives that are whole and holy. If we are to grow in faithful living, we need to renounce the things that choke off the fullness of life that God intended for us, and we must follow through on our commitments to pray, to be conscientious, and to be in mutually supportive relations with other faithful persons. These acts take self-discipline. We must learn the practice of saying no to that which crowds God out and yes to a way of life that makes space for God.

Training For Faithful Living

“I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air,” Paul wrote, continuing the athletic image (1 Corinthians 9:26). It was the apostle’s passionate concern to nurture women and men in living worthy and holy lives in expectation of the Lord’s return. That, he knew, would require them to be deliberate and purposeful, for saying yes to life in Christ would mean saying no to that which harms. Christians who wish to inherit the kingdom of God must curb their appetites and passions, he told the young church in Galatia; they must renounce “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.” (Galatians 5:19-21).

Irrespective of social status or wealth or cultural attainment, they shared a communal life centered on uncompromising faith in Jesus as Lord. They gathered to remember Jesus, and they zealously met the needs of strangers, the infirm, the imprisoned, and the poor. The way these women and men lived gave rise to a distinctive Christian way of being in the world, or Christian spirituality.

Spirituality: Choosing Life

Our spirituality is our capacity to relate to God, to other human beings, and to the natural world. Through these relationships, we give meaning to our experience and attune our hearts and minds to the deepest dimensions of reality. Thus spirituality is integral to the ways in which we live our lives. It is about the kinds of persons we are and the kinds of persons we hope to become.

Far too often, however, our attention to these deeper questions wanders, and our spirituality stagnates. We find ourselves merely drifting along. But then some painful event or demand for decision jolts us. We look up and find ourselves on a path that mocks our deepest longing, a road to joy that suddenly takes a treacherous curve. And it is no longer possible merely to drift along. At such times, we find out that only we ourselves can decide that we, by our choices and commitments, are to make of ourselves. We are compelled to acknowledge the persistent yearning, the subtle pull toward a new and different way of living. We are drawn on by questions: What is most necessary in our lives? For what are we living? What does it mean to be a human person?

From the desk of Pastor Stan . . .

Most people define love as an emotion – affection, passion, or tender. The Bible however describes love in terms of sacrificial actions. Jesus said, Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friend, in this case it describes love in terms of sacrificial actions. What Jesus did for us! <!–split–>

While it’s rarely necessary to die for the sake of another, true genuine love usually involves some sacrifice. As Christians, we are to show unconditional, selfless love to others just as Jesus did for us. What a pattern Christ set.

Jesus gave his followers a new challenge to love one based on obedience to Him and commitment to follow believers. John 13:34. Our story is a love story. A love story based on love. A story of followers who would be lost were it not for a Savior who was willing to pay the ultimate price for our sins. Jesus paid the price so that we could be free. Free to dream, free to hope. For this I believe that there is “no greater love.” What the savior did for us followers gives me hope, joy, peace and reminds me that Jesus loves us so much that he would lay down his life for his followers.

Some years ago I sang with the Miles College Gospel Choir and we sang a song, “He keeps doing great things for me.” I’ve thought about this song a lot lately. A sacrifice so great that He would give his life for my sin and all He asks for repayment is a devoted life to Him and His followers.

What a love—NO GREATER LOVE.