Roanoke Church of Christ

Month: January 2013


I was about a third of the way though an article I was struggling with when a small, thin, woman opened the office door. It just so happened I was sitting with my eyes closed, trying to figure out which way the article should go, and hoping no one would bother me. But there she was. And of course, she had a story. Was it true? Sometimes I can tell better than others. This time it seemed true, even though it had all the same earmarks of others I’d heard. Those earmarks do not make the story untrue, they are just the similar plight of the poor and the needy.

She was out of work, not well, about to be divorced by a man she’d “carried” for years and had a hearing coming up to be approved for disability. She needed food and money for gas and the things that go with food that pantries like ours can’t stock. So I (we) helped her with both food and money.

The day before a man came in saying he was about out of gas and would be fine by Friday, but he was working in Martinsville.

This endless line of needing people can wear on you, especially when you have been conned in the past. You begin to look at them as irritants and as dishonest. And to tell the truth, most of them are. I don’t mean they are out and out liars. I mean they shade and tell their problems in such a way that never puts any of the blame on them. But then, that beam is in our eye as well, isn’t it?

There are times when I’ve even thought of parking in the handicapped area and walking to the annex, just so I won’t be so visible to those who drive around looking for evidence that someone is at a church. That would mean I’d have to go back in my office and close the door, rather than sitting at what used to be the secretary’s desk out front. I’m not going to do that. Neither am I going to try to hide from those I’d rather not see or be bothered with, no matter how tempting.

You see, I struggle with the hardest teaching Jesus gave us; that doing to the least of these human beings is doing it to him. How far do I have to go with that? How can I know when the need is real, and that I’m not being conned? I’ve been told that even checks written to Kroger, or some other food store, can be sold at half price for cash and then used to buy drugs or alcohol. It would be so easy just to say no to every request. There are other churches that do.

Beyond those I see at the door are those whose faces are in the news. Those who steal, beat, kill and otherwise harm others. Are these “the least of these”? Are they the “enemy” I am to love? Dare I say part of that answer is yes and no? At some point it has to become personal. To say Iran is an enemy of America is one thing. To say every Iranian is an enemy is another. So those I meet and interact with are the ones who are the “least” and the “enemy”, not the ones I don’t know or with whom I have no contact. But neither can I harbor hatred and prejudice against those I don’t know.

You may remember the film, Dead Man Walking, a true story about a nun named Helen Prejean who visited a condemned rapist and murderer named Matthew Poncelet. In the course of their relationship she learned to care for him as a person. For her, Matthew became one of the “least of these”.

The dilemma in all this is that on one hand we have the love and compassion of Jesus, and on the other we have what looks to us like the reality of life; that there are humans who are worse than animals.

I’m not saying I have it worse than anyone else. Each of us may daily come in contact with those we would rather not. The issue is if we see them as worthy of our compassion and care. I suppose that’s what Jesus was talking about when he told the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man saw, but did not want to see the beggar at his gate. He refused to see beyond the irritant of having him there. He refused to hear his story, to get to know him.

Jesus never said we had to like recognizing that caring about the “least of these” was caring for him. He just said we would never love without doing it.

CONCERNS: Philip Pierce’s mother is receiving after surgery cancer treatment. Sheila Robertson’s mother is now under the care of hospice. Sheila will be going to and from California during this time. Ruby Stahl, the mother of Alan Beach’s sister-in-law is being treated for cancer. Regan is a ten year old boy with brain cancer. His aunt works with Erma Williams. Jenni Cullum is back in her apartment at Pheasant Ridge after hip surgery. Others dealing with cancer are Deanna McRoy, Leena Bolin’s brother, Nick, Jim Hunter, Joni Beach’s mother and Sharon and Billy, friends of Del Bolin. Seeking work are Melissa and Sam. Remember Marta Foy’s parents, Ray Reiss, Alma Martin, Betty Billings, Keith’s sister, Ron Matney and Tim Elder.

Monday: Matthew 7:7-11
Tuesday: Romans 3:21-31
Wednesday: James 2:14-26
Thursday: Mark 2:1-12
Friday: I Peter 1:3-12
Saturday: psalm 105:1-45
Monday: Acts 17:16-34
Tuesday: Colossians 3:1-17
Wednesday: John 11:17-44
Thursday: Romans 4:1-8; 5:1-11
Friday: I Thessalonians 5:12-28
Saturday: Psalm 118:1-29

We have received a card from Shirley Wagner, thanking us for the flowers sent to Keith’s brother, Doc’s funeral. It is on the downstairs bulletin board.

Over the years several of you have run in the local Relay For Life. The “kick off” was January 29. The actual race will be announced later. If you are interested in forming a team go to

If you were not here when the 2013 budget was presented, there are copies available in the foyer.

This Wednesday, February 6, the teenagers, aided by a few adults, will be preparing the evening meal at the Ronald McDonald House. Also: don’t forget to save the pull tops from all aluminum cans. They can be placed in the boxes in the basement.

Wayne Phlegar will begin a new study on forgiveness on Wednesday evening. The material is by Max Lacado.

Wayne was supposed to start last week but the severe weather that was to arrive at the time we meet, caused the class to be canceled.

The notes from the two children we support at the Health Talents ABC program in Guatemala will be read today. There is also an annual report available concerning the work of Health Talents at the Ezell Clinic.

There is the need for more room in the handicap parking area. We need to take a look at how that area can be expanded so those needing it do not have to park on the street, especially since the street is somewhat steep.


The reaction and answer to that question, if there is one, would be varied. On one hand, if Jesus is seen only as a necessary sacrifice for the world’s sins, then the answer would be yes. Jesus died so we could have eternal life. But is that all? Couldn’t that have been done without him teaching about God for three years? What about all his talk about “The kingdom of God is like…”? What about “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? What about the “Unless you do this you will not see the kingdom of heaven”?
On a Wednesday evening the class talked a little about how proper names in the Bible often carry with them a meaning. Since there are no capital letters in Greek, was Onesimus the slave’s name, or nickname, since the name means “useful”? In other words, when we hear or read what was written, do we hear and understand the same as they did? If the letter to the Galatians was read in every church in America on the same Sunday, and then “taught”, would it all be taught and understood the same? No.
When Jesus said he would build his church upon what Peter had said; did he get what he wanted? Did they hear “church” and then set out to develop the ecclesiastical structure we have? Is that what they heard Jesus say?
First of all, the meaning of the word “church” is not the meaning of the word Jesus used. The Greek word “ekklesia” means “the called out” or “the assembly” or “the congregation”, meaning in each form those who have come to assemble. Would it be safe to say the assembly was those who followed Jesus and what he taught?
The question is: Why would they assemble and why would Jesus say he would build his following on Peter’s statement that he was God’s Christ? It is obvious that what Peter and the others heard and thought was not what Jesus meant. What did Jesus mean? What is the kingdom of God? What did Jesus want to build?
If the foundation for the “building” was that he was God’s Christ, then he was more than a sacrifice for sin. Nowhere was the Messiah (Christ) seen only as a sacrifice. The Messiah was the one who would restore God’s will and way upon the earth. If Jesus is the Christ, then he will do what the Christ (Messiah) was to do, to bring God’s kingdom to reality on the earth. He did not start a new sect of Jews. He said he came to fulfill the law and to bring abundant life. He over and over taught the way God’s will could and should be done. Take a look at how many times he said, “The kingdom of God is like…” and then see what he taught it should be like. These were not lessons so we could all get to heaven. These are lessons that teach how God wants people to live and act.
There is also the idea of the coming judgment of God to finally bring total restoration to the earth; the “new heaven and new earth”. Those who were “called out” were to prepare others for that day and time, which is one of the meanings of “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”. This “waiting” caused some stress on those who had followed Jesus’ teaching. When will it come?
I am not a church historian, so don’t be upset if what I’m about to say has its rough spots. But it seems that in time, when the Messiah did not return as they had hoped, they were left with how to continue; how to be more permanent. More structure for permanence was seen as necessary. Remember, this was before the printing press. For centuries information was oral, and what was written was then read by someone who could read and write, sometimes called a scribe. The one who read out loud would then, when called for, add their own oral commentary. So the hearer was subject not only to the emphasis placed on the words by the reader, but also the reader’s understanding of what the writer meant.
This “waiting” for Christ’s return turned the thinking from temporary, to a more permanent view about Christianity. Structure became important, both in buildings, organization and hierarchy. The organized church was born. Was it supposed to happen that way? Was it the natural evolution of any group of people? Regardless, it happened.
For about fifty years or so there has been a movement toward the rejection of what is called “organized religion”. I’m not always sure what that means, but if I were asked I would say it’s the feeling that the organization has replaced the Christ. That the organization is more about doctrinal structure than people; that what Jesus wanted has been replaced with a self-interested, competitive, corporate business organization where profit is more important than people.
Is this true? Yes and no. Yes the “church” became more organized and structured, but that did not mean it lost all interest in doing and caring as Jesus had. Is the corruption and love of power what we focus on historically? Yes. But the real question is would the world have been better off if Christianity had faded away? Despite all the vivid spots and blemishes, in every age there were those who just wanted to be followers of Jesus, not church members.
The search for Christianity that is unencumbered with historical and ecclesiastical baggage is perhaps greater now than ever. But in some cases it seems novelty has become the new doctrine. In other cases it is the serious attempt to find the Christian life, not the Christian church as a sectarian organization.
Will such efforts fall in to the “this too shall pass”? Probably. But the process shows the hunger the “called out” have to find and be what Jesus wanted; followers and doers of what he taught rather than just “church” members.
It should be possible to look like a traditional church on the outside, but be an open, inclusive, caring, giving of oneself group of followers on the inside. If I can push a scripture a little, it is not what goes into a church that condemns it, but what comes out.

CONCERNS: Philip Pierce’s mother is having after surgery cancer treatment. Keith’s sister, Betty Billings is having some residual health problems. Sheila Robertson’s mother is in hospice care. Sheila will be traveling back and fourth during this time. Jenni Cullum was to be released from the hospital on Thursday. She may need to be in nursing care for awhile. Ruby Stahl, the mother of Alan Beach’s sister-in-law, is being treated for cancer. Remember to pray for Regan, a ten year old boy with brain cancer. Those dealing with cancer are Deana McRoy, Leena Bolin’s brother, Nick, Jim Hunter, Joni Beach’s mother, Connie Crites’ brother and Sharon and Billy. Remember also Ray Reiss, Alma Martin, Helen Nicklas, Ron Matney and Tim Elder.

Monday: Exodus 1:15-2:10
Tuesday: Mark 1:16-34
Wednesday: Genesis 17:1-12
Thursday: Job 42:1-17
Friday: Luke 4:1-13
Saturday: Psalm 63:1-11
Monday: John 10:1-18
Tuesday: Matthew 13:24-43
Wednesday: Psalm 90:1-17
Thursday: Luke 14:15-24
Friday: Amos 5:18-6:1
Saturday: Psalm 71:1-24

Today, January 20th is Super Sunday. This is a time of fellowship and food. Come and enjoy it!

There will be a steering committee meeting in the library after the Super Sunday meal. The new budget is ready for review.

Several of our adults are fixing the evening meal at the Ronald McDonald House this evening. The next will be Wednesday evening, February 6. The teenagers, along with an adult or two will be cooking that night.

Wayne Phlegar is speaking today in Keith’s absence. Keith and Jo had to go to Alabama to take care of some important matters for his sister due to her health. They will be back next Friday evening.

Wayne Phlegar will start a new Wednesday evening study on forgiveness, developed and written by Max Lacado. The books may be available by next Wednesday. The Wednesday evening class has grown in the last year or so. Come, eat and study.

We have received the notes from two of our ABC students. These will be read publicly soon. We also have received the Health Talents Annual Report which always has interesting facts and good success stories about the work at the Ezell Clinic. There is also a picture of a young girl who had eye surgery that reminds us of how important our support is to this work and well as the work of Bread For A Hungry world.

The suggestion has been made that we place a membership directory on our website. It would be password protected .Not only would this be convenient for those with an internet connection on their cell phones, but it would allow us to upgrade and change the directory online, as well as in the bulletin. There would also be new hard copies. printed in a timely fashion as well.


The above words are those which have appeared on billboards around Roanoke, and I assume other areas as well. They have been placed there by atheists who are inviting other non-believers to join them in sharing their ideas about life. As you can imagine, this has caused no little stir among some Christians. Two of the signs have been vandalized by either blotting out the “Don’t” or just the “n’t”. I would imagine this was done by teenagers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were adults. Either way, they are not Christians, and any Christian who would try to justify such destruction of property is not a Christian.

I’m always frustrated at how easily Christians feel the need to defend God, as if God needed to be defended. Note that I said “God”. I did not say the nature or the fundamental ethic of God. Loving ones neighbor, which comes from a higher form of love which we see as the Divine, i.e., God, are things to be defended. The defense of those who are abused and mistreated is a distinct human characteristic attributed by believers to our being created in the image of God. The basic tenants of the Ten Commandments are part of every human society, in one form or another. Those practices are what separate humans from animals. Now, I also know that there is evil and cruelty among humans that goes beyond that of animals. For the most part, it seems animals operate from a survival instinct. Humans can plan evil for no other reason than the satisfaction of causing pain, violence and destruction. However, the fear of a sign or a negative comment about believing in God that would cause destruction of property or violence is not Christian. It is reminiscent of the actions of those who murder teachers and female children in countries where the Taliban fears the education of females. That is an offence to God, among others, that should be opposed.

It is much easier to defend the idea of God than God’s ideas, meaning compassion, love, self-sacrifice, etc. While for some the existence of God is not to be questioned, we have a dickens of a time agreeing on what God wants from humans.

There is an interesting irony in discussing the place of warfare or dealing with conflict in view of God. Some feel there should be no involvement by the Christian. There are atheists who feel the same way. Of course, there are both Christians and atheists who feel differently. The irony is in those men and women, (human beings) believers and atheists alike, who will give their lives for complete strangers, in conflicts ranging from war, to fire and police men and women, or teachers who die trying to shield children not their own from a crazed gunman. We can include in that any time one human being gives up their own life to save, or attempting to save, another. What is it that makes human beings ready to do that? Social evolution? Or something higher commonly believed to be “God”?

This is not about whether God exists or not. This is about how those who believe in God live, and if they are more passionate about defending God, or defending fundamental human freedom, equality, and treating all other human beings as we would want them to treat us, as much as is humanly possible. Such things are the bedrock of humanity and are believed by theists (believers in a deity) to be the proof of a divine power whose nature makes humans distinct from all other living things. Does that prove God exists? Not to everyone. The problem is many atheists have been conditioned by the abuses and denials of those who claim to be Christians. On the other hand, Christians see atheists as those people who believe in nothing, therefore they are to be feared as evil and violent. Believe it or not, there are believers in a deity who are violent as well as those who are kind and loving. The same is true of atheists, and, I should add, agnostics; meaning those who are not sure either way. Being a caring, ethical person is not limited to the Christian. In fact, a relevant question for the Christian is why they are trying to be a person who lives the teachings of Jesus? Is it so they can go to heaven and escape hell, or is it because it is the way they believe God-given life should be lived?

CONCERNS: Keith Wagner’s sister, Betty Billings, is in the hospital in Fairhope, Ala. with blood clots due to a fall and surgery. Jenni Cullum is still in Lewis Gale Med Center, room 625. She will start therapy soon and will then be on the forth floor. Judy McWhorter’s sister, Jan, has been told her heart condition is not as bad as first thought. Erma Williams has a co-worker who has asked our prayers for her 10 year old nephew, Regan, who has been diagnosed with stage 2 brain cancer. They hope to get him into St. Jude’s. The outlook is not good. In this cold and flu season we have several who are shut-in due to such illnesses. Among them are Martha Foy. Those being treated for cancer are Deana McRoy, Leena Bolin’s brother, Nick, Connie Crites brother, Jim Hunter, Joni Beach’s mother, Sharon & Billy, friends of Del Bolin. Remember Martha Foy’s mother and father, Ray Reiss, Ron Matney, Alma Martin and Tim Elder.

Monday: Psalm 40:1-17
Tuesday: John 8:48-59
Wednesday: Philippians 2:14-30
Thursday: Ephesians 2:1-22
Friday: John 19:1-16
Saturday: Colossians 1:3-20
Monday: John 4:27-42
Tuesday: Ecclesiastes 11:1-10
Wednesday: Psalm 86:1-17
Thursday: Genesis 3:8-17
Friday: II Timothy 3:1-17
Saturday: Psalm 84:1-12

The New Year is just turning a page on a calendar, but it always represents the sense of a new beginning. As we begin 2013 the following note on a Christmas card from Diane and Lewis Sturm expresses the nature of this congregation. It’s a good way to think about the place we have had in the lives of others, as well as each other day to day. After explaining their pride in showing off their grandchildren, they wrote: “We miss getting to spend time with you, our family and friends, but always know that you remain in our hearts. We pray that God’s love will bring you peace and happiness throughout the coming year.”

The correct dates for the next time we will prepare the evening meal at the Ronald McDonald House will be next Sunday evening, January 13. That one will be hosted by adults. On Wednesday, February 6 the teenagers will help the adults prepare and serve the meal.

Sunday, Jan 6 (today) will be the day the poinsettias will be adopted. Judy Hall bought the ones in the windows and she may want some for a local nursing home. Please do not take the little “dish” under them. We reuse them.

Sometimes announcements are not heard, so remember we are helping repair and replace the roof on one of our family’s home. It will be paid for by the church, but if you would like to help defray the cost, please give your gift to anyone on the steering committee, or mark your check “roof” and drop it in the collection basket.

Now that the holidays are past we are back on schedule for the Wednesday evening soup supper and Bible study. We just finished Titus and are looking for something else.
By the way, when Keith was in Nashville, his nephew said his church had started doing the Wednesday evening soup supper to boost attendance for the evening.