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* 2 Chronicles 29:30: 
(mostly articles from the monthly editions of "The Staff")
An Op-Ed by David Beebe
October, 2013
I have not said much here in these columns about one of the pressing issues in America: guns and violence.  I have not done so partly because I do not think pastors should become involved in partisan politics.  But I do think they should provide the undergirding of our moral decisions.  It is hard to walk along that narrow rail .But after so many deadly mass killings, even of our children, something needs to be said.
So I have decided that I need to help us understand not the solutions but the roots of our problem.  They are basically three:
Root Number One: The American Revolution
The “Glorious Cause,” as it was called, began in response to oppressive measures by a government outside the colonies.  This government imposed laws and economic restrictions not in the colonial interest, billeted soldiers in people’s homes, and confiscated weapons – which on the frontier were needed for survival.  The first “Colonial regiments” were basically citizen soldiers.  They became the militia and they saw the right to keep and bear arms as the defense against tyranny.  So they put it into the Bill of Rights.
Root Number Two: The American Frontier                                                                                   
Because the West was settled often before legal forms of government were established, order was often kept by what were called posse cometatis, or just “posses.”  These were the gathering of individuals together to maintain order – maybe (in a much more major way) for the same purpose as neighborhood watch.  So, by necessity, people “took the law into their own hands.”  This developed a kind of individualism – perhaps one might call it a “cowboy mentality” which emphasized the individual’s rights over community responsibility.  We still have our cowboys.
Root Number Three: The Loss of the Safety Net
Several decades ago I was on the governing board of Fortwood Center in Chattanooga.  This was a community-based mental health program.  We were aware that mental health care was moving away from housing mental patients in large institutions and attempting to put these patients in community-based housing with community-based programs.  Large state hospitals began to close, expecting that their clients would be relocated to halfway houses.  But that was the time when government subsidies for mental health were drastically cut.  The result was that many people in need of mental health care became the homeless on the street.  This was aggravated by the lack of sympathy for returning Viet Nam veterans and the lack of mental health care or even any support for many of them.  So America had a homeless problem, which was really largely a mental health problem.  We still have it.  Its results are clear in the number of violent outbreaks which have come from the lack of good mental health care.
A Recipe: I will at least give you a suggested recipe for recovery: 1.  We need to find a responsible balance of gun ownership, 2. We need to find a balance between individualism and community responsibility, and 3. We need to do something about improving our mental health care.  It’s a recipe: stir, allow to simmer, and turn up the heat!
Closing the Circles
When I was a young boy, lying on the lawn on a summer day in southern Arkansas, I looked up at the flight lane above me and watched the planes go over.  I dreamed of the day when I would be in one of those planes looking down on a little boy on the Arkansas grass.  I even wrote some verses about it. (I do that, you know.)
Years later, as I was flying back by way of Dallas from San Francisco to Atlanta, having just received my “sheepskin,” my doctoral diploma, I realized that I was just then flying over that same spot.  It was like closing the circle.
Now, in a strange way, I have just closed another circle.  When I was fourteen years old I came down with an auto-immune deficiency in blood platelets.  I almost died, and in the process at a very early age had to discover what life is really all about.  Now, in early August, I went into the hospital for a serious recurrence of that very same deficiency.  It feels as though it is another circle closing.  It has caused me to look again at the meaning of my life and at the love of God.
But just as I knew, when I got off the plane in Atlanta, that another chapter in my life story was opening, so I know now that the new chapter is beginning and I have much to write.
I hope my story helps you to look carefully at your life and close a few circles.
Grace and peace,
David Beebe
 Interim Pastor
AUGUST, 2013
Both Sides Now
Back in the Twentieth Century there was a popular song with that title.  It included the words: “I’ve looked at life from both sides now.”  While the song was wistfully downbeat, the idea is a good one: to see things from more than one side.
My life experience has schooled me in doing that.  I was born in the Southern United States, the child of parents from the Northeast.  I learned at home that the “Civil War” was about civil rights.  I learned in school that the “War Between the States” was about states’ rights.  Then I learned in college that the North had turned to the West for raw materials while the South had turned to England. It was, in fact, in order to keep England (strongly anti-slavery in sentiment) from entering the war on the side of the South that Lincoln issued the “Emancipation Proclamation” when he did.
I came to realize that they were all right.  In the process it dawned on me that most people have a part of the truth, just not all of it, and that we can listen to one another and learn.  To know that is to know that I can hear others and take them seriously, even if we stand on “both sides.”
I have also learned that trusting God to guide us means always listening to see if God is saying something from the Other Side.
Grace and peace,
David Beebe
 Interim Pastor
MAY, 2013
Is God Good?
A recent issue of the Christian Century (a major national ecumenical church journal) has an editorial asking questions about the sometimes violent God depicted in the History Channel’s series on The Bible. The editor, John Buchanan, quotes a very wise spiritual writer, Richard Rohr: "If you see God operating at a lesser level than the best person you know, then the text is not authentic revelation."
I agree. Not every idea that the people had who wrote the Bible came from God. When people were told to destroy their enemies, those words have to be measured against the words of Jesus in Matthew, chapter 5: "43 You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you 45 so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven."
In other words, the measure of the truth in the Bible is the measure of the words and life of Jesus Christ. It was he, after all, who taught us that God is better than the best of us, and certainly better than the worst of us,when he said in Matthew’s gospel what I call the "7 11 passage": "11 Even though you are bad, you know how to give good gifts to your children. How much more your heavenly Father will give good things to those who ask him!"
Is God good? Ask Jesus.
David Beebe, May 6, 2013
MARCH, 2013
“Easter would come
when Christmas is done
if Lent didn’t fall between-o
(Excerpt from an old English carol)
We are just getting into Lent and here comes the March issue of the Staff.  March actually ends at the end of Lent.  This year the last day of March is Easter Day.
So, what to say for a Pastor’s article that will cover both the solemn days of Lent and the joyful Eastertide?
I guess the problem of Palm/Passion Sunday may be a good place to begin.
When, following Vatican II, the Catholic Church joined with major Protestant churches to revise the Common Lectionary (the choice of scripture readings for the Christian year), it was decided to move “Passion Sunday” to the Sunday before Easter.  (It used to be the Sunday before that.)  I think the idea was that people were moving from the triumph of Palm Sunday to the triumph of Easter, and so avoiding the costly love of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
The idea was that the Palm liturgy would just be an opening procession and then the emphasis would be on the Passion of Jesus.  But most people prefer the palms to the passion, so it hasn’t caught on.
It is like that carol quotation at the top: “Easter would come when Christmas is done, if Lent didn’t fall between-o.”  But the fact is, that if Lent didn’t fall between we would hardly know the Easter joy.  That is, it takes the discipline and costly love of the way of the cross to show the incredible love of God which  leads to Easter joy.
As the wise poet, Edwin Markham, wrote:
Only the soul that knows the mighty grief
can know the mighty rapture.
Sorrows come to stretch out spaces in the heart for joy.
So, through the growth of our spirits in the practice of discipleship, we will come with practiced hearts to the knowledge of the triumph of Jesus over the cross and to the glory of Easter morning.
Grace and peace,
David Beebe, interim pastor
December, 2012
Listen for the Rush of Wings
Some of you have heard of my “Beebe Bits.”  Years ago, as I sat in a host’s home in Tacoma, having coffee after a workshop, I mentioned a couple of my quips.  He said I should write them down.  I thought I would have a dozen or so.  Turns out I am now up to 239!
This is one of them (number 123):
The question of spiritual perception is not whether we believe in angels but whether or not we hear the rush of angels' wings..”
Perhaps it is partly because we have lost the moments when we are silent in the midst of God’s world, but people have come to live flat lives, without the wonder of the depths and heights.  We mask our despair.  We run past our joys and, to that extent, fail really to notice life.  This Advent and Christmas season, take time to open your eyes, notice the gift of each moment, and hear the rush of angel’s wings.
Life is a gift.  It is precious.  Within that life there is our knowledge of the gift of love: As Christina Rossetti wrote:
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.
One of my very wise daughters once said to me: “Dad, listen to the whispers.”   Do that this season.  You may hear the rush of angels’ wings.
Grace and peace,
David Beebe, interim pastor
November, 2012
(Republished from the Missouri Mid-South Conference E-Courier).
When the people of Israel, going through the desert, were fed with manna from heaven, they got tired of the same thing everyday and began to wish they were back in Egypt, where – among other delicacies– they used to eat cucumbers (See Numbers 11:4-6).
When the Pilgrims, after that first, deadly cold winter, finally in the spring saw the Mayflower returning to England, many thought of going back on the ship.  But they remembered the words from Hebrews which had given them the name of “Pilgrim”:
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city
—Hebrews 11:13-16 KJV
We cannot go back to Egypt and cucumbers or to England and the old ways.  We are looking for the City of God.     
 –  David Beebe, October, 2012
October, 2012
(Republished from the Missouri Mid-South Conference E-Courier).
So who is “Our Church”?
In my days on the former UCC Stewardship Council, when I arrived at a gathering of our people I would often wear a name tag which said:
David Beebe
Brought to You by
Our Church’s Wider Mission.
Because, of course, it was funds that came from the churches’ giving that made possible my work.
But notice that it didn’t say “Brought to you by our churches’ wider mission.”  Though it is true that we are a denomination of “churches,” we are also a part of the greater Christian Church, which is the one body of Christ in all the world.  All together, in the United Church of Christ, we are a part of that larger Church.  Often in the New Testament the word “church” applies to local congregations.  But just as often it means that glorious vision of “the Church” as the people of God going about the challenge of preparing our world to be the Kingdom, the Reign of God. 
We are all in this together!  No congregation exists alone, but as a part of the larger “Jesus Nation” (well, if there can be a “Cardinal nation,” or a “Royals nation,”  why not?)  So it is as we reach out that we live.
I learned as a child in a pastor’s home that if the people aren’t coming to church the pastor goes to them, and if the people aren’t giving, the pastor would be well advised to “preach missions!”
“Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen.  (Ephesians 3:20-21 CEB)
Grace and peace,
David Beebe
Interim pastor
May, 2012
Happy Birthday, Good Shepherd!
On the last Sunday of April we celebrated the first regular worship service of this church, which would later be known as Good Shepherd United Church of Christ.  Fifty years to the day after that service on April 29, 1962, we returned to the chapel of Emmaus Home to remember and relive that day.  Throughout the rest of this year, we will be remembering our beginnings, including in the summer the naming, and in the fall the “sending forth as pioneers,” the organizing, the welcome into the Conference, and the calling of our first pastor, Paul Stock.
Early in June our delegates at the Conference Annual Gathering in Springfield will share the honor of our semi-centennial, along with the celebration of the Conference’s first fifty years and that of our sister congregation on the edge of O’Fallon and St. Peters, Grace United Church of Christ.
On the last Sunday of May we will celebrate an even older church birthday, the birthday of the Christian Church on Pentecost.  That was the day the Spirit came and sent the apostles forth as pioneers to the ends of the earth.  The flame is still being passed!  Like the Olympic runners, we have the torch and we are asked to pass it on.
What is the task of Good Shepherd Church here in our Jubilee?  I often try to get profound questions down to their simplest level.  For instance, to say that Christ will be present where we gather in his name practically means that Christ will be present when we gather open to his Spirit and open to hear one another.
In the same way, to ask the question, “What is our task at the age of fifty?” is practically to ask, “What is it that God wants Good Shepherd to do that others aren’t doing?”  Or even to ask the daring question,  “What difference would it make if our church were not here on Elm Street?”
That’s how to really find out what our mission is.
Grace and peace,
David Beebe, interim pastor
April, 2012
God Raised Jesus!
When Paul was on his first missionary journey, he entered a synagogue in Psidia and there was invited to preach.  In his sermon, he told of the events of holy week and Easter.  He said:
After they had done everything that the Scriptures say about [Jesus], they took him down from the cross and placed him in a tomb. But God raised him from death.,  -- Acts 13:29-30, Good News Translation.
It is these events which we remember each year at the end of Lent as we recall the cost and the joy of our redemption. 
Often I hear people speak of new life in the Spring and the New Life of Easter.  But the New Life is here even in the southern hemisphere, where it is autumn now.
Often I hear people speak of Easter as the promise of life after death.  But almost everyone in Jesus’ day believed in some kind of life after death.  It was the promise of a glorious life after death!  It was this that gave the early Christians the courage to face fire and sword. 
But there is something else:  The message of the Gospel is not only that Jesus is alive, but that “God raised him from death.”  This means that in all the universe, the One who is approved by God and whose message and promise are attested by God and represent the power of God is this One, this Jesus of Nazareth, who is the world’s salvation.
Grace and peace,  
David Beebe
March, 2012
Not What We Give, But What We Share
Many years ago, when I drafted for the Stewardship Council and the UCC General Synod a Pronouncement on stewardship, I called it “Christian Faith, Personal Stewardship, and Economic Sharing.” Since it followed on a Pronouncement on  “ Ëconomic Justice,” there were some who asked why I used the word, “Sharing.”
The answer is in the conclusion of a poem by James Russell Lowell, “The Vision of Sir Launfal.” It tells the tale of one of King Arthur’s knights, who vainly searches for the “Holy Grail,” the cup from the Last Supper.  Discouraged and tattered, he comes home, where at his castle gate he gives a crust of bread and a cup of water to a beggar.  The “beggar” turns out to be our Savior and the wooden cup becomes the Holy Grail.
Then, these words:
`The voice that was calmer than silence said:
"Lo, it is I, be not afraid!
In many climes, without avail,
Thou hast spent thy life for the Holy Grail;
Behold it is here, — this cup which thou
Didst fill at the streamlet for me but now;
This crust is my body broken for thee,
This water His blood that died on the tree;
The Holy Supper is kept, indeed,
In whatso we share with another's need;
Not what we give, but what we share,
For the gift without the giver is bare;
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three, —
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and me." ‘
Grace and Peace,
David Beebe
Interim Pastor
February, 2012
“Pride comes before disaster,
and arrogance before a fall.”
So the Book of Proverbs says (Common English Bible) in chapter 16, verse 18.  I think often about that, since I see many who have grown part way spiritually and imagine they are now mature.  I also see in myself how easy it is to think I have arrived when I really know I have a long way to go.  As the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13, “Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me.”
I have a saying which I keep telling myself to remember: “We are all of us climbing a ladder and each is on the first rung.  Those who think they are on the second rung just fell off the ladder.”
As we prepare in February for the season of Lent a little humility may be good for all of us. In that connection, as a pastor, I often find it helpful to read the words of a medieval village priest’s prayer:
“Lord, thou seest well that many there be which trust in my prayer for grace, that thou showest to me more than I am worthy. Thou knowest well, Lord, that I am not such as they deem, but though my prayer be unworthy, take regard to their lowliness and their devotion, and what they desire to thy worship, grant them of thy goodness.”
Grace and peace,  
David Beebe
Interim Pastor
(February “Staff” newsletter)
September, 2011
(a newspaper religion column)
Grace is free – and costly
When I was a boy back home in Arkansas, I got a lot of mixed messages from the local churches.  I was told that grace is free, that all I have to do is accept it in faith.  I was also told that I couldn’t find this faith, it had to come as a gift.  I later learned that faith is trust, and the gift is that I discover Jesus to be trustworthy.
As I say, I was told that grace is free.  Then I noticed all the people working hard, attending church three times a week, tithing, and doing other works of righteousness.  They said they were doing it to get to heaven.  They never noticed the contradiction.  So I studied the Bible and discovered that grace really is free, but costly.  You can have it for the asking, but it can’t get into a hard heart.  Jesus made it very clear that God’s forgiveness won’t come unless you are willing to forgive. (Matthew 6:15) That is costly!   Besides, when you accept the grace of God, it’s likely to change your life.  Before you can fill your purse with the coins of grace, you have to empty it, so there is room. Grace is free – and costly!
David Beebe, Interim Pastor
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