Wednesday at NOAC

Photo by Eddie Edmonds
The cross is lit above Lake Junaluska on an early morning at National Older Adult Conference.

Quotes of the day:

“We gather together as saints, and sinners, and scoundrels–I hope!”
— Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm of the Bethany Seminary faculty, welcoming NOACers to the morning Bible study

“We may not be technologically astute, and we may not be familiar with social media, but we know the power of touch for healing people.”
— Edward Wheeler, recently retired president of Christian Theological Seminary, preaching for evening worship

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
They shall mount up with wings like eagles…

“Hard as the race may get, especially when we have experienced aches and pains …I’m glad we don’t run this race alone. We have a cloud of witnesses, seen and unseen, cheering us on.”
— Edward Wheeler

Jesus’ power as Lord brings freedom and healing

“Jesus is Lord, you know,” Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm said towards the end of the second of her three morning Bible Studies at NOAC. That was the discovery  the demons, the man possessed by demons, and the man’s neighbors who all witnessed the power of God in this longest story of exorcism in the New Testament, found in Mark 5.

“We are uncomfortable with stories of exorcism,” she said. In Mark 5:1-10 she explained, however, that readers will encounter “a myriad details about the man and his setting, circumstances, and condition” as well as “the many responses recorded.” Cataloguing the several ways the demoniac was alienated from family, clan, and society, she commented, “This, my brothers and sisters, is hell: to be disconnected in heart, soul, mind, and body.”

The words deliberately called to mind the greatest commandments that Jesus cited from Deuteronomy and Leviticus, to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as self.  “This man had no neighbors,” Ottoni-Wilhelm reminded the Bible study group, but Jesus was not deterred by that obstacle, nor was he deterred by the evil spirits who proclaimed, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” Ironically by their choice they were cleansed and consumed by water like the myriad army of Pharaoh as the Israelites fled from slavery in Egypt.

Photo by Patrice Nightingale
NOAC put together 444 Church World Service School Kits and 217 CWS Hygiene Kits for distribution to disaster survivors.

Chains are unshackled in this story from Mark, not unlike the imagery from Isaiah 58, shared in the Tuesday Bible study. The power of Jesus is the recurring theme. The final movement of the story is the response of the people who, instead of celebrating the man’s healing are astonished and afraid. “It is easier to accept the presence of a crazy man than a healed man demonstrating the power of God in their midst.”

The man who had been alienated wished to follow Jesus after he was healed. Unlike the many examples in Mark where Jesus warned the people not to speak of what happened, Jesus told the man to go home and proclaim among his own. Ottoni-Wilhelm noted: “The people told by Jesus to proclaim the good news are the ones on the margin.”

— Frank Ramirez is pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren

Run the race to the finish

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Edward L. Wheeler, president emeritus of Christian Theological Seminary and an ordained minister and leader in the Baptist World Alliance, brings the Wednesday evening message.

Recently retired president of Christian Theological Seminary, Edward Wheeler called on worshippers Wednesday night at NOAC to follow the example of Jesus, and remember the cloud of witnesses, and run the race of faith and life to the finish.

Preaching from Hebrews 12, Wheeler gave the example of a final finisher at the 1996 Olympic 10,000 meter race in Atlanta, who, though lapped twice, was applauded for his faithful finish long after the gold medal winner had run his victory lap.

Wheeler also lauded the efforts of civil rights leaders as well as those ordinary people who stood up–and still stand up–against the dehumanizing powers of the world in the name of Jesus Christ. “ I don’t know about you, but I’ve been blessed by the faith and example of parents and aunts and uncles who kept the faith and ran the race.”

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
A hug after the sermon: former Bethany Seminary president Gene Roop greets an old colleague and fellow seminary president emeritus with a hug after Edward Wheeler preached for Wednesday evening worship

He emphasized that seniors have much to give, and have every reason to run the race of faithfulness no matter how hard it may seem to continue that struggle to the finish line. “We are more than the label on our dresses and pants, we are more than our bank balance, we are more than our address, we are more than the car we drive,” he told proclaimed. “We are loved and the world needs us to love back.”

— Frank Ramirez is pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren

NOAC Communication Team: Frank Ramirez, reporter; Eddie Edmonds, tech guru and photographer; Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, editor and photographer.