Hope and Prayer

By: Board of General Superintendents 27 Mar, 2020

Even though these are challenging times, this past weekend was a blessing in the Church of the Nazarene, as worship services from around the world were broadcast through live stream or by video. Many churches reported reaching more people than ever before with the hope of Jesus Christ. People who would not normally feel comfortable entering a church building entered into digital space and encountered grace and peace. We give thanks to the Lord for this!

We are also deeply appreciative of the efforts so many of our churches are making to serve the needs around them in creative ways. We have seen so many examples of creative responses, from a congregation in Maine, USA, stepping up to fill the gap for food deliveries to the elderly to the Cape Verdean Nazarene pastors who were invited to bring a worship service to the country via a national television station, to Sunday school classes meeting by video conferencing, to a drive-in church where people drove to a parking lot and worshiped in their cars as the pastor and worship leaders led from an outdoor platform to a youth group in Ohio, USA, who decided to bring joy to people living in a senior care center through a drama program (from an appropriate distance outside, of course). These are just a few of the many stories we could share. All these are testaments to the faithfulness of God and the creativity of our people. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary means.

Some have asked for suggestions of how to pray during this season of COVID-19. Here are a few ways to focus your intercession:

1. Pray for wisdom for the leaders of your countries, states or provinces, and cities. Ask God to give them good counsel and wise discernment to know what is needed to protect their citizens. Pray for other countries besides your own that may be faced with difficult and complex situations unlike what you are experiencing. Every region of the world is seeking to weather the pandemic.

2. Pray for the protection of medical professionals and health care workers laboring to care for the sickest and those most needy. Pray for divine understanding and supernatural strength from God for their daily tasks. Many are facing a shortage of the most basic medical supplies. Pray for researchers, scientists, and manufacturers who are working to find cures and produce treatment equipment.

3. Pray for healing and comfort for those who are sick, lonely, and afraid, particularly the most vulnerable and endangered. This includes the elderly, those with chronic pre-existing health conditions, those without adequate health care, and those who are isolated due to quarantines.

4. Pray for those most at risk economically. The entire world is confronted with enormous financial implications, but for those who are single-income families, those caring for children and older parents at home, those who are self-employed, those who are in the service industry, and many others, this is an especially devastating time.

5. Pray for your pastors and church board leaders to know how to navigate the ministries and mission of the local church with a balance of caution, courage, and compassion. Pastors are front-line caregivers and “shepherds” of the people of God. If you are able, remember to support your church financially during a time when public meetings are not possible.

6. Pray for the Church around the world, including those of other traditions and denominations. While we ask God to bring an end to the pandemic, we also pray that the Church will find ways to serve, comfort, and love our neighbors for the sake of Christ and the healing of the world.

Phineas Bresee dreamed of a worldwide church when he said, “The sun never sets on the Church of the Nazarene.” Today that dream is a reality. We can literally cover the earth in our prayers, 24 hours a day. Let’s be faithful to that calling.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Grace and peace to you all,

The Board of General Superintendents

Website Church of the Nazarene

Show me Your Hands

By Leonard Sweet
(European Nazarene College, January 18, 2011)

I was reading Psalm 51:10 to my mother when she died: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a right spirit within me.”

Now the key to the holiness movement is a clean heart.  So give me an image for a clean heart.  What does a clean heart go with? Now the holiest person that has ever lived is named Jesus.  Pure holiness.

And what happens here with Jesus is that God comes down to earth.  How far down? How far down does the Incarnation go? Well, from the very beginning how far down does it go?  Where was Jesus born? In a royal palace? In a bassinet? How far down does the Incarnation go? Where does the Incarnation happen? It happens in a smelly stable, where the first thing Jesus experiences as an infant is what? Straw ticks. Little lice that live in straw. They bite your flesh.  And the smell of dung and animals.

But Jesus in the Incarnation went further than that because it not only went down to the very lowest of the human, but Jesus did something that no other Rabbi in history had done or allowed to happen.  In fact, it really bothered the disciples that he did this.  How far down did the Incarnation go? Jesus was the first Rabbi in history to do what? Wash his disciples feet.  That’s how far Jesus went.  All the way down.

And let me tell you, sisters and brothers, you don’t wash anybody’s feet without getting your hands dirty and wet.

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This is holiness!  You want an image of holiness? You have a clean heart? OK, here’s what goes with a clean heart – dirty hands.  You say you have a clean heart? I say, “What? Show me your hands.”

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Leonard Sweet

You are keeping your hands clean? “Oh, I wouldn’t want to get dirty.  We are supposed to be in the world and not of it…” What?! So your hands are too clean to get in the dirt? Oh, we need cleansing rituals all the time to clean us up.  But the whole purpose of cleaning us up is so that we can get dirty…

…Matthew 25 tells us what the question at judgment day will be.  “In as much as you did it to the least of these…”  In other words, here is the question at judgment day – Show me your hands.  You got clean hands? Go someplace else.  Because a clean heart means dirty hands.  Now this is an image of holiness.

Chains Shall He Break

 

*A reflection by Julie Clawson in her book, Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices

 

The nineteenth-century hymn “O Holy Night” is one of my favorite Christmas carols, but for years I sang it (off-key and with gusto) without really considering the lyrics.  I thought it was just a pretty song about the night Jesus was born.  Yet shortly after the release of the original French version in 1847, a French bishop denounced the song for its “lack of musical taste and total absence of the spirit of religion.” Apparently its author, Placide Cappeau, faced opposition for his extreme political views, namely his opposition to inequality, slavery, injustice and other kinds of oppression. The bishop didn’t consider such stances to represent proper religious values.  Fortunately for us, the minister who (loosely) translated the song into English shared Cappeau’s values as well.  The themes of justice and opposition to slavery appear in the lines.

            “Truly He taught us to love one another;

            His law is love and His gospel is peace.

            Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother;

            And in His name all oppression shall cease”.

 

This song captures Paul’s message to Philemon, a message seemingly forgotten in most of the church by the nineteenth century.  Yet a few brave people were willing to adopt the unpopular, “extreme” views because they recognized those views in the Bible.  They grasped the revolutionary nature of the call to embrace the slave as our brother, and thus they took on the challenge of ending slavery in their own day.  This wasn’t just a social movement; this was a spiritual commitment to seek justice and love their neighbor.  And despite opposition, they succeeded.

You can listen to it by following this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSU1hOdydxo

Three Missionary Events Impact the Dominican Republic

During the past three months, various districts in the Dominican Republic organized events that ended up impacting the churches and communities where they were held.

Having observed how many local congregations have recently atrophied in their work of disciple-making, sponsored missionary Sugey Barrón, together with her leadership team, organized a Maximum Mission entitled “NO LIMITS” in Bella Vista, Santiago September 6-7.  The objective was to mobilize the churches of the city and share the message of salvation in creative ways.

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38 participants from the entire country joined the work of the local “New Life” church, a congregation with a deep desire to be on fire and reflect Jesus.  The workers took on the challenge together of impacting a neighborhood called Papatín Hill, known in the city for its poverty and crime.

 

According to the theme, participants were not limited by normal setbacks.  They planned with faith and ended up ministering to the community through artistic events, evangelism in homes and small businesses, sports, workshops, street clean-up, children’s activities, and sharing food.  They sowed seeds of the Word of God in over 200 people, they visited 50 houses, and after all was said and done, through the various activities 70 people had come to know the Lord.

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Sugey shared that God surpassed all of her team’s expectations and that each participant left Santiago believing and declaring the event’s motto: NO LIMITS!

Three weeks later, 500 Nazarenes from the East District of Dominican Republic celebrated a combined service that was entitled “Committed to the Mission.”  Pastor Ramón Joseph explains that this event has been held every year since 2010, with the purpose of motivating the Church to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ and the Church of the Nazarene: “Making Christlike disciples in the nations.” On September 29, the entire district joined together to reaffirm their commitment to play an integral part of that mission.

During the service a mass baptism was held, dozens of new members were received, and the Lord’s Supper was administered.  Those present also had the privilege of praying for and sending out for the first time their own missionary, Elba Isabel Duson, who currently is serving with GENESIS in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.  Everyone rejoiced at the end of the day when the activity closed with a concert led by the Revelation Maranatha orchestra.

A little over a month afterwards, November 1-4, the South District held their first ever Maximum Mission, entitled “REBUILD.” The primary goal of this mission’s trip was to reopen a church and church building that had been closed for a long time in the 2C sector of the city of Azua.  27 participants traveled from all five districts of the D.R., and they were hosted and assisted by the District Superintendent, Luis Daniel Pérez, the District Presidents of NYI, NMI, and SDMI, as well as the District Treasurer.

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Wendy Carolina Rivera, National Coordinator of Global Missions, noted that 75 families were reached through house-to-house evangelism.  44 additional families received food baskets, and 31 received basic hygiene kits.  During the four days, workshops were also offered to young women and single mothers teaching physical and emotional care, and the missions team offered them facials, manicures, and much more.

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The men and boys of the community received free haircuts, snacks, and participated in sports tournaments organized by the Nazarene youth.

Another group of tireless workers invested their time in the children of the neighborhood through Vacation Bible Schools, washing hair, cutting fingernails, playing, and crafts.

During the four days, the team managed to paint two entire houses in the community as well!

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By the end of the weekend, approximately 25 people had received Christ as their personal Savior, and 14 people had begun discipleship classes.  Rivera beamed as she shared that the community was very receptive to the gospel, and upon hearing that the church was reopening they were overjoyed, and many said they would like to come to services!

It is astonishing to see how God is mobilizing his Church in the Dominican Republic.  Please continue praying that more and more people would decide to involve themselves in the Lord’s mission in this nation!

David’s Promise

The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons (3 December) was proclaimed in 1992, by an United Nations General Assembly resolution. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

On this day it’s a joy to know that in our Nazarene Church we have a place for everyone!

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At JaxNaz Church in Jackson, Michigan, USA, adults with special needs have found a new way to serve through a unique day program. From tying blankets for children in foster care to creating recipes for a community cookbook, the members of David’s Promise are making a difference and gaining fulfillment.

Watch the video below to know more about this awesome ministry:

 

Help for Migrants in Mexico

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In October more than 7,000 children, women, men and older adults from Honduras started a journey that has taken several weeks.  Recently people from other countries have also joined them as they have traversed from the south border of Mexico to the north in order to eventually arrive in the United States. They have left their countries because of the reality of violence and poverty that confronted them there. 

The Church of the Nazarene has responded to a variety of the caravan’s different needs through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, and have fulfilled the call of God to freely give what we have freely received. 

Click on the video below to see how the Church has mobilized to help in the past  month:

Ministry to and with the Poor

By David A. Busic

John Wesley’s emphasis on ministry to the poor is well-documented. However, it is important to stress that Wesley believed working with and among the poor is not merely an act of compassion; it is a necessary aspect of the spiritual formation of every Christian. Thus, Wesley maintained that living with the poor is a work of mercy and a work of piety.

Wesley believed the gospel was good news to the poor. He made a practice of visiting the poor as a spiritual discipline, and encouraged—indeed, insisted—that his Methodists do the same. Even as an elderly man, Wesley risked his own health and well-being in the cold of winter, trudging through ankle-deep snow, to go publicly begging for funds on behalf of the suffering. Theodore Jennings suggests “[E]very aspect of Methodism was subjected to the criterion, how will this benefit the poor?” However, as Jennings points out, it was more than concern for the comfort of the poor that motivated Wesley; it was vitally important to him because he saw no other way to understand or identify with the poor than to be among them. For that reason, Wesley believed it was far better “to carry relief to the poor, than to send it,” because of the spiritual impact that it would have on the one bringing the help.

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Thus, Wesley’s understanding of ministry to and with the marginalized poor, sick, and imprisoned was more than compassion; as a means of grace for the Christian, it is indispensable to Wesleyan spirituality. These acts of mercy become the ways by which God works to establish the character of holiness in God’s people and to give growth in grace toward the recovery of the divine image.

Emphasis on the poor as a means of grace began to wane after Wesley’s death and as American Methodism matured. The Methodists were no longer the newcomers or a marginalized sect. Methodists had become successful in business, banking, politics, education, etc. Methodist church buildings began to change to accommodate the newly acquired affluence. Pipe organs and stained glass windows were installed in Methodist sanctuaries, soon followed by the practice of pew rentals as a way to raise congregational funds to pay for elaborate facilities, which further segregated the more prestigious Methodist members from other church members. Even the teaching of the doctrine of entire sanctification began to diminish to make room for more progressive ethical concerns.

The changing atmosphere was noticed. Prominent Methodists began to speak out against the injustice. In an effort not to lose this vital connection with the poor, outspoken leaders like Phineas Bresee began to call for a recapturing of the original vision for the poor. Bresee left a distinguished ecclesiastical career to return to his passion of ministry to and with the poor. Nazarene church buildings and formal dress were intentionally less pretentious and more simplified so that the poor would feel welcome and comfortable. Bresee’s passion for the poor was felt so keenly that he wrote to the first Nazarenes, “The evidence of the presence of Jesus in our midst is that we bear the gospel, particularly to the poor.”

Compassionate acts that serve the poor and oppressed are an important part of engaging in Christ’s incarnational ministry and advancing the kingdom of God. Additionally, what God will accomplish in these interactions is a means of grace for every believer. Discipleship in Wesleyan-Holiness ecclesiology depends on the pursuit of Christlikeness and ministry to and with the marginalized.