The Billings Gazette from Billings, Montana on May 26, 2012 · 27
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The Billings Gazette from Billings, Montana · 27

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Saturday, May 26, 2012
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27
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fiiUiitge (fkzrttc FAITH & VALUES 1 Saturday, May 26, 2012 D1 PERSPECTIVE Many churches today work to improve image of organized religion By SUSAN OTEY For The Gazette There is a picture going around on Facebook that says, "Morality is doing what is right regardless of what you are told! Reli-OTEY gion is doing what you are told regardless of what is right! While I disagree with this statement, I know that this is many peoples understanding of the church. They see the church as a place you are taught not to think, but to believe regardless of the fact that information is scientifically unfounded or hurts other people. Certainly, the church deserves this reputation. For many years we focused on correct belief and worked to mold people to a certain image. Some of us are seeing that the church has made mistakes. We have not lived as Jesus calls us to live. Jesus was all about action. Jesus pointed toward Gods kingdom, showing people how to live in order to make the kingdom of God a reality. Jesus was more about day-to-day practice than he was about belief. He didnt advocate changing the beliefs of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus advocated changing their practices to match the belief that as Gods people they were called to create Gods kingdom. The church seems to have wandered away from living a life of faith. It is no wonder that many Americans believe that religion is doing what you are told, regardless of what is right. When 1 hear that statement I realize the extent of the struggle that churches are facing. Most people in America consider the church an institution which has outlived its usefulness. The majority of Americans have no need for the church, preferring to develop their own spirituality. It makes me wonder what I can do as a pastor to help people understand that while their experience of church may have been seriously lacking or even awful and hurtful, there are good things happening in churches today that will give depth and meaning to their lives. Yes, the church has been judgmental and intolerant and it has clung too tightly to beliefs rather than living as Jesus called us to live. Yes, some churches are still like that; still, there are many other churches that are working to listen for the divine in and among themselves and their community. There are churches that are working to live faithfully into Jesus' commandment to "love God with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. These churches understand that loving our neighbor as ourselves is not always easy, yet at the same time is always worthwhile. There are churches that are willing to examine Scripture and work to understand the different faces of God and who Jesus calls us to be. As a pastor I believe Jesus makes a difference. I believe God desires all to work toward a world where justice rolls down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. I believe people need to know that churches exist that dont want you to believe a certain way, that welcome questions and that dont presuppose to have the one right answer. If your image of the church is one that teaches you do what you are told regardless of what is right, I invite you to check out a couple of churches and see that even an institution like the church can change. The Rev, Susan Otey is pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Billings. The Faith dr Values column appears Saturdays in The Billings Gazette. Pastors, ethicists, educators or others who would like to write a column about faith, ethics or values for the section, should contact: Susan Olp; Billings Gazette; 401 N. Broadway; Billings, MT 59101. Or call her at 6 57-1281; fax to her attention at 657-1208; or email to solpbillingsgazette.com. Christianity was launched on day of Pentecost By ELIZABETH MCNAMER For The Gazette Along with Pass-over and the feast of Tabernacles, Pentecost was one of the great pilgrim feasts of ancient Judaism, when all were called to Jerusalem. Indeed, the Acts of the Apostles tell us that there were Jews from Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phyrygia, Ph-amphylia, Egypt, Libya, Rome and Crete, as well as Parthians, Medes and Elamites. It was a joyous time of celebration. The first fruits of the harvest were brought to the temple. Bread made from the new wheat was eaten. New wine from last years grapes was drunk. The receiving of the law at Sinai was commemorated and the covenant was renewed. But it was a moveable feast. It occurred 50 days after Passover, counting from the day after the sabbath of Passover. In counting, however, the various religious groups, Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes differed. The Pharisees used the Omer counting from Leviticus 23:15. They regarded the Passover itself as a sab bath and they counted 50 days from the day after Passover. The Sadducees, on the contrary, counted from the Saturday after Passover. The Essenes counted 50 days after the whole week of unleavened bread. They celebrated eight days of Passover and then counted from the Sabbath that came after the eight days. Their Pentecost was therefore the last to be observed. We know from the Dead Sea Scrolls that the whole Essene community was required to come together in a general assembly once a year to renew the covenant. Pentecost was their day. Acts 2:5 tells us that staying together in Jerusalem were devout men. There was no official name for the Essenes. They were known variously as Eulabeis, (the devout people), or the Hebrew equivalent Hasideans (the Pious Ones). It seems that the group of Jesus followers also celebrated according to the Essene calendar. But what happened on that particular Pentecost morning to change the small group of followers from a frightened, bewildered people into emboldened, powerful, self-assured speakers, so enthusiastic that they were accused of having drunk too much new wine? They had prayed together for nine days, and on the morning of Pente cost, Suddenly from up in the sky there came a noise like driving wind, which was heard all through the house where they were seated. Tongues of fire appeared which parted and came to rest on each of them. All were filled with the I loly Spirit (Acts 2: 2-4). They made bold proclamations as the Spirit prompted them, the book of Acts conveys. Amazed and "astonished crowds, already crammed into Jerusalem for the feast, circled around them to listen: Jesus the Nazorean was a man whom God sent to you with miracles, wonders, and signs as his credentials. These God worked through him in your midst ... he was delivered up by the set purpose and plan of God: You even made use of pagans to crucify and kill him. God freed him from death's bitter pangs and raised him up again, for it was impossible that death should keep its hold over him (Acts 2: 22-24). Their passion caught fire. Many were baptized by Peter and the others. Acts tells us 3,000 believers were added in one day. The message that would change the world was being delivered. Pentecost was the day of the launching of Christianity. Dr. Elizabeth McNamer is assistant professor and Zerek chair, religious thought, at Rocky Mountain College. Goodyear Wrangler adial May Special :$1fTB00 ROTATE BALANCE 4 TIRES HUmmY OPMH NO MAY 31 3013 Tires for Trailers, ATVs, Trucks & More. ALL TIRE PRICES INCLUDE K?S Spree Mounting! BateirfiSfiSS I'OO'Hft" AYWri V" B m 3112 King Ave. West ::: 658-5770 m m" '' Montana, Wyoming ELCA members to meet in Billings Gazette Staff year term as president of the National Council of Ecumenism - My the Churches of Christ in ! Neighbor's Faith - and the USA. Sheistheyoung-j Mine will be the theme est woman and the first when Lutherans repre- Lutheran to serve in this senting Evangelical Lu- role, theran Church in America The Montana Synod congregations from across Assembly meets annually Montana and Northern to worship, learn, and plan Wyoming meet Friday the future mission of the through Sunday at the synods 133 congregations Crown Plaza Hotel in Bill- and 12 additional minisings. tries. Kathryn Lohre, direc- While there will be tor for Ecumenical and some important business Inter-religious Relations to attend to this year, our of the ELCA, will be the members will spend much keynote speaker. I ler talks of their time hearing from will focus on "No City or our keynote speaker and House Divided Against It- attending workshops on self will Stand" and The a variety of subjects cen-Whole Inhabited Earth tering on ecumenism, a Shrinking Neighbor- said the Rev. Jessica Crist, hood. bishop of the Montana Lohre is serving a two- Synod. ..jrw o ;s of golf at .ii r nurse. O L t MORE GREAT DEALS Wild West Rafting S41 for $70 cLissic V7 day whitcwatcr rafting trip! A Head Of Our Time VI 0 for $20 men's hairrut & straight-edge shave! Billings Chl-Tu-Do $199 for $99 9 weeks of instruction & traininu! G3S3 If your business is interested in participating in Today's Deal, call (40i) 657-1340 READJATiEIOME ONiTHELGQ sgas,i STARTING AT Si PER DAY j go to billingsgazette.comsubscription for details BILLINGSGAZETTE COM THE EVOLUTION OF LOCAL NEWS AND INFORMATION --j- Q t3Q

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