My partner, Frank, recently spoke to the members of our church at Belmont UMC about his experience leading Disciple Bible Study. His words moved us all. Here is what he said:
My Journey Through Disciple 1
(September 2008 – June 2009)
Last September a small group of us got together for our first meeting of the Disciple I Bible Study. I remember being very nervous. My role was to make everyone feel comfortable in our study of the Bible and to facilitate conversation and learning. I’ve had Bible study with first graders and youth before, but never with other adults.
We began with Genesis and Exodus, reading those wonderful old stories. Then we moved on to Leviticus and Deuteronomy and I admit to sometimes feeling lost during my reading because the histories could be very dry. But then we would get together in class and share our thoughts and feelings and breathe life into the text.
As we moved through the Old Testament, I kept thinking “How do I create conversation on THIS?” “What is it about these Law or these Prophets or these Kings that I’m missing that leaves me feeling like I’m not getting it?” My friends and I met in class on Sunday evenings and we shared some of the same thoughts with each other, we discussed the context of the writings, the authors, the time periods. We attempted to discover what God would have us learn from these ancient writings. What we did learn was the value of perseverance. We learned that sometimes we must just hang on and be faithful.
We created a safe place to share our questions and not feel stupid. None of us felt out of place. Together, we made every question and concern valid. We lifted our hearts to God to bless us as we learned. We prayed that, like the Disciples, we would be filled with the Holy Spirit. And we were.
We found Jesus in the Word, right where he said he’d be, in the gospel, the New Testament. We found him in the nooks and crannies of our Bibles. We found him in the footnotes and the concordances, the commentaries, and even the atlases. Jesus was always there with us.
We read that we didn’t really need to do anything to be right with God, and it is true, we don’t have to do anything to obtain God’s grace. We found that to be of and with Christ, action is a personal imperative.
As we moved through the study, we found that we had become a small community that loved and shared and cared for one another, and we wanted to be a part of the larger church community and love and share and care.
We were needed and missed when one of us was gone. We prayed for each other and called and emailed often. We shared our concerns and prayed continually for our new family in Christ. I imagine we always will.
We made many realizations in our discussions of the scriptures. We found that it wasn’t all Eve’s fault, Adam could have said no, we saw that water is one of God’s favorite things, that fig trees are often abused, and that size really doesn’t matter, especially when it comes to mustard seeds and faith.
We were guided to consider our own spiritual gifts—things that would have never crossed our minds—and we helped each other to understand how they applied to our lives and how God could use us in our local and global communities.
We read, we prayed, we talked, we went down rabbit holes, we chatted, we hugged, we talked some more, we often got off topic and then amazingly got back on track. We cried, we laughed, and we grew into a family.
I would like to refer back to Hebrews 12:1-2. This verse was my epiphany moment when I first joined a Disciple Study five years ago. It reads:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
I stand here grateful and humbled for the opportunity to experience the love and grace of God with these amazing people. Thank you to Rebecca, Grace, Kimball, Laura, Mark, Jeff, and to my brother, Mike. May God bless each of you and all that you do.
Thank you to Lisa, and to you, the congregation of Belmont UMC for your support.
Let us always remember that God loves us. Now let us also love us.