True treasure

"They rejoiced in what came alive in them as they worshiped in this place." Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“They rejoiced in what came alive in them as they worshiped in this place.”
Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

by Duane Grady

“Therefore every scribe of heaven is like the master of the household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old”
(Matthew 13:52).

Jesus discourages us from thinking of heaven and its joys as a thing to be obtained. Instead, Jesus points to what heaven is like rather than what it is. If we reduce Jesus’ teachings to a pearl or a field or a net full of fish we will despair, because the chase is over, the celebration has ended. True treasure eludes us; there is always more to discover.

The newly married couple was looking for a church in the town where they had just moved. The town provided numerous options, and they were surprised by how drawn they were to a small congregation—a church that had none of the bells and whistles their college church had provided. There was something illogical yet so right in their attraction to this church. They hungered to know more.

By worshiping there the couple discovered people who blessed them with holy conversations. Their hearts were warmed by the love that embraced them, and their minds were guided by the Holy Spirit to consider new treasures of biblical wisdom. This place looked timid and shabby at first, but now felt strong and vibrant. It was hard for them to explain, but they rejoiced in what came alive in them as they worshiped in this place. They saw the face of Jesus in the ministry that surrounded them. Soon, they began contributing themselves by sharing their ideas and enthusiasm. For the very first time, they gave without worry and received a hundred blessings.

It was like finding the best Christmas gift still under the tree. After opening it once, they realized the gift kept on giving and surprising them along the way. The joy of discovering it sustained them.

This excerpt is from this year’s Lenten devotional Real Rest produced by Brethren Press. Order it at today.

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

Brethren Voice: A Litany for Worship

A sunset over the snow at the Church of the Brethren General Offices

A sunset over the snow at the Church of the Brethren General Offices

by Mandy Garcia

Written for the Church of the Brethren staff gathering, February 2014

Reader 1: God of the Bible:

Reader 2: We come to you this day asking that Christ will be at the center of all we do–the very heartbeat of our work, our conversation, and our thinking. We ask that we would be able to discern your yearnings for our ministries–your ministries–as we gather around your Word.

Reader 3: We ask that your Word be our word, and that we would speak with a voice that is grounded in scripture.

All: For your Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. (Psalm 119:105)

Reader 1: Creator, our Great Physician:

Reader 2: We ask that you would inspire us to creatively imagine and live out your vision for reconciliation and healing.

Reader 3: We pray that our Anabaptist values would be strengthened, and that you would use them to heal hurts in our world.

All: Fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Reader 1: Holy One:

Reader 2: We ask that you will guide us as we help Brethren express their faith through humble service, simple words, and courageous proclamation.

Reader 3: Be in our words as we inform church members about the activities and values of the Church of the Brethren.

All: Let no evil talk come out of our mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that our words may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

Reader 1: God of the Nations:

Reader 2: We pray that you will bind us together into a community that more fully reflects all your people.

Reader 3: Cultivate diversity among us, yet give us the boldness to maintain our distinct Brethren voice.

All: For there is one body and one Spirit, just as we were called to the one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. (Ephesians 4:4-5)

Reader 1: Divine Servant:

Reader 2: We ask that you would help us to embody you example of servant leadership,

Reader 3: Even as we ask that you would give us courage to communicate broadly and amplify our public voice.

All: May you, the God of steadfastness and encouragement, grant us to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together we may with one voice glorify you, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)

Reader 1: Sovereign God

Reader 2: We ask that you would show us how to provide opportunities for Brethren to be involved in hands-on ministry, so that your transforming energy is released.

Reader 3: We pray that you would equip up as we equip congregations to speak publicly with their Brethren voice, through word and action.

All: Renew us in the spirit of our minds, and clothe us with the new self, which was created according to your likeness in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:23-24)

Reader 1: Prince of Peace

Reader 2: We pray that our dedication to peace, simplicity, and community will undergird all aspects of our life and work.

Reader 3: And we ask that you would show us new ways of witnessing to Christ’s peace.

All: To give light to those who sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:79).

(Light a candle.)

Reader 1: Holy Spirit:

Reader 2: Empower us as we do our best to respond to God’s yearning.

Reader 3: In the name of Jesus Christ, the Holy One, our Lord, Savior, and Friend,

All: Amen

Top Brethren things to do on a snow day

snowy day from a window6. Watch a video recording of a webinar or event you missed. It’s free! What could be more Brethren than that?

5. Sew on buttons. Sure, your winter coat still works with one button and a belt (speaking from personal experience), but maybe you will be warmer being able to close all those holes.

4. Plan your garden. Order seeds or plants after you make a few decisions. Will you clear a new spot? Rotate what grows where? Create raised beds? Put in a rain barrel or drip hose? (How did simple living get so complicated?!)

3. Lay out a small four square court with masking tape on a countertop. If you can’t find a little rubber bouncy ball, try making a ball. You had to be saving those rubber bands from the newspaper—and the broccoli—for something!

2. Make snow ice cream:  canned milk, vanilla and sugar mixed with a bowl of the cleanest snow you can find. Yes, we Brethren believe in a land flowing with milk and honey… it’s just that the milk and honey have to be below the freezing point.

1. Shovel for a neighbor… or a stranger… or even your dog. You know, whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Jesus!

What would you add to this list?

–Jan Fischer Bachman

Not alone

"Being together is reason enough to be together." Photos by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“Being together is reason enough to be together.”
Photos by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

By Dana Cassell

Being a pastor is a lonely gig. Just ask your own pastor, if you dare. It’s a big job to be present for so many people’s every spiritual and emotional need, and at the same time, be unable to share openly with them about your own.

So it was refreshing to gather with 43 others at last month’s Church of the Brethren Clergy Women’s Retreat. We laughed, prayed, played in the Pacific, and thought intentionally about friendship, fellowship… and the lack thereof.

But pastors aren’t alone in loneliness. Melissa Wiginton guided our conversation about togetherness, and she shared a study by UCLA that says 30 percent of Americans self-identify as lonely at any given moment. Even more striking? Three out of every five American adults over the age of 45 feel consistently lonely.

What does this mean for ministry, for the church, for our own discipleship?

A couple of things. First, as I watch my own congregation delight in simple fellowship—sharing a meal, or conversation after worship—I am convinced that the church’s mission is, at base, to provide space and invitation for people to enter into deep, Christ-centered relationship.

And second, I’m struck by how restorative it was to spend time with other clergy women. The opportunity to simply be with others who are also out there, doing this lonely, beautiful work of ministry was a blessing.

Part of the gift of our Brethren tradition is the assumption that being together is reason enough to be together. This is a gift that we can share, a ministry in itself.

So next time you go to church, take a minute to thank your pastor or another leader in your congregation. And then take a step further and bring that blessing to the streets. Sometimes all it takes is eye contact and a smile for the cashier across the counter, or a classmate in the hall, to feel less alone. Imagine the blessing that a church on this kind of mission could be to a culture so filled with lonely people.

Dana Cassell is minister for Youth Formation at Manassas Church of the Brethren in Virginia. She was one of several participants in the Clergy Women’s Retreat last month, which was sponsored by the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Ministry. To support this and other uplifting denominational ministries, visit .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)