|Photo by Regina Holmes|
|Bob Neff was the presenter for the Sunday morning all-Conference Bible study. The hour-long Bible study preceded the morning worship service.|
The following review of the Sunday morning Bible study presented by Bob Neff is written by Frank Ramirez, pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren:
As a young boy of seven years Bob Neff says he was inspired to become a missionary to India, but as a city boy he realized he had to develop agricultural skills in order to have something to offer when he set off as an adult to fulfill the Great Commission. So, for the next eight summers, Bob reports that he worked first on a farm, and later on his uncle’s ranch, so he could bring the gospel into the mission field.
But as it turned out, his ministry took a sharply different turn when, at Yale Divinity School, he came under the tutelage of Dr. Brevard Childs and his Old Testament 101 course, and realized that in order to take the gospel of Jesus Christ into all the nations, as called for in Matthew 28:16-20, “It is absolutely essential for a New Testament Church to be rooted in the Hebrew scriptures.”
The Gospel of Matthew opens and closes with God-With-Us, Neff pointed out. Matthew brings up Isaiah’s prophecy that a virgin shall give birth and shall be named Immanuel–God with us–and closes with the promise of Jesus that “I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age.”
Noting that the Greek says we will have the presence of Jesus with us every day, “It’s here now. That’s what undergirds the church,” Neff said. He then told a touching story about his mother, who even in her nineties defined her life in terms of service “now.” Even in a retirement center she visited others, played music, and folded napkins for the meal. Her last act of service was the folding of a napkin. She left behind a note for her adult children, “Weep not for me, my precious ones. I have gone home.” Bob concluded by saying, “She had a future expectation but it was fed by a real presence now.”
Bob said that he and his wife had entered into a weight and fitness program that emphasized walking “with your eyes on the horizon.” As one who had always walked looking down on the ground, he was amazed what a difference it made. He stated that many people walk around in life looking down at the ground, but looking up he could see the mountains, the vistas, and the people. “To walk with your eyes on the horizon is to discover life is all around you.”
Believers should walk with their eyes on the horizon, aware of the presence of Christ now. “To believe in the resurrection of Christ is to know the presence of Christ now.” Knowing the power of Christ now means to live biblically, caring for the poor, the oppressed, creation, and striving for justice in everything.
Bob Neff is currently a volunteer at the Village at Morrison’s Cove in Martinsburg, Pa. He has been a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Bethany Theological Seminary, served as the general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, and was president of Juniata College. He lives in State College, Pa.