Jon Hevelone's blog

Healing Grief - A Christian Understanding of Loss - October 1, 1-4 pm

The Samuel Still Association of the American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts is sponsoring a grief workshop entitled - Healing Grief - A Christian Understanding of Loss. It will be held at the First Baptist Church of Arlington on Saturday, October 1, from 1 PM to 4 PM, and will be lead by the church's pastor, Dr. Jon Dale Hevelone.

The workshop will address providing Christian care for those who are experiencing grief and loss. At the time of bereavement many look to the church for strength and hope. A belief system that is grounded in Christian understandings of life and death issues can have a profound value to someone whose world has been altered by death and loss.

The main points to be addressed are:
Bereavement Basics - This is what we need to know to feel comfortable around a difficult topic.
Helping Grief Heal - Building a set of skills to help someone as they grieve.
What About Faith? - Where is God in this, and what is the difference between good and bad faith?
Discovering Volunteer Helpers - How to develop competent Christian caregivers who make a difference.

Dr. Hevelone is an experienced counselor and pastor whose passion is to teach people ways of Christian caring. He holds a TH.M. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, a M.A. in Counseling from Louisiana Tech University, and a D.Min. in psychology and clinical studies from Andover Newton Theological School He is a ADEC Certified Thanatologist, NBCC National Certified Counselor, and an AAMFT Clinical Fellow.

Any questions or plan to attend, please call the church office.

Who Are We?

Who are we?

“I’m a diehard Red Sox fan for life.”
“I’m a working mother and it’s all I can do to keep up with my family and my busy life.”
“I’m in middle school and play on the junior varsity team!”
“I am a financial advisor who helps people like you.”
“I’m a Republican.”
“I was laid off.”
“I’ve been driving a truck for 23 years and love it. No boss breathing down my neck.”

There’s a line I used to hear many preachers use that I like. I used it Sunday in my own sermon: “If you were on trial for being a Christian, is there enough evidence to convict you?”

In many ways the quip is not just a flippant sound bite, but rather a profound question, and one that, if taken seriously, can lead to profitable soul searching. It can be revealing to ask of ourselves what others see in us that speaks to our Christian faith.

In so many other areas of life it’s easy to see what a person’s true values, their true love, their true identity is all about. Have you ever had to guess about what gets a Red Sox fanatic excited when David Ortiz hits yet another homer in his grand finale?

Sometimes we must struggle with whatever it is that captures our hearts and forms our identify. It’s easy to get caught up in the materialism and egotism so prevalent in our world today. We think we — and others — are defined by possessions, status, and appearance.

Sometimes we must choose if we are to follow Jesus Christ. The need for choice may come at unexpected places in our life. Maybe we must review long held convictions and decide if they are shaped more by habit, tradition, prejudice or self-interest than by Jesus. Maybe we must reexamine our relationships with others if they are to reflect the love of God. 

The Christian landscape is littered with churches filled with folks who are members, but who would hardly consider themselves first of all to be disciples, followers of Jesus Christ. The working mother stretched to her limits desperately needs Christ at the core of her soul. The Republican — or Democrat — whose values and wisdom are shaped by King Jesus will be a far more valuable citizen on earth. The middle schooler solidly on Jesus’ team will not be alone in navigating the cliques and intrigues of adolescent life. 

Who are we, if not followers of Jesus? What is our core identity? Unfortunately, we all too often are shaped by the prevailing winds that blow across our lives. “If you were on trial for being a Christian, is there enough evidence to convict you?” I must look at that myself. Should you?

Aliens Among Us

Every so often there’s a surge of interest in UFO’s and the possibility of alien life. There is a hardcore group of true believers who are sure that aliens exist, and there are others who find the idea worth considering, or at least entertaining. Even Hillary Clinton has gotten into the act, with comments promising that as president she is going to get to the bottom of the UFO stories.

What do you think? Are there aliens? Run through this quick test to find out your interest:

What was the TV series set in outer space mainly on the Starship Enterprise? (Star Trek)
What town in New Mexico do some believe aliens have already landed? (Roswell)
What is the secret storage area where some think proof of aliens is held? (Area 51)
What did E.T. need to do in the movie? (Phone home.)
What was Spock’s catchphrase, accompanied with spread fingers? (Live long and prosper.)

I thought so. From your answers it looks like the First Baptist family has an interest in aliens.

Actually, every one of us knows what it’s like to be an alien. An outsider. We have each had times when we were the only woman in a room of men, the only conservative Republican in a group of liberal Democrats, the only white person in a crowd of black people. Sometimes being an alien is only a passing thing, sometimes it’s something to endure. I recently received an invitation to my high school reunion (“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”) and it brought back memories of feeling rejected and alone during my adolescence. We’ve all been there, one way or another. A stranger in a strange land.

Sometimes these experiences are easy to get through. Invited to join a new group of acquaintances to watch a Red Sox game at Fenway? Don’t wear your Detroit Tigers gear, and keep your mouth shut. Nobody will know you’re really an alien.  In other cases, the experiences of being an outsider can scar for life. Ever wonder what it does to someone born and raised in America who finds themselves shunned and feared because they share the same racial heritage as the bad guys in the middle east? Ever wonder what it’s like to be a passionate evangelical Christian who also happens to be gay? There are a lot of aliens around us all the time.

Jesus himself was an alien. I’m not talking about the pointy-eared, red-eyed kind of alien of monster movies, but the kind of person who would not accept the corrupt standards of a world that was broken by sin. Jesus loved his neighbor. He healed the broken-hearted. He said the first will be last, and the last will finally be at the head of the line. Jesus lived as an outsider in the very world he himself had created.

As Christians, we too, are aliens. We are outsiders just like the One we follow. The Apostle Paul put it directly: “Your citizenship is in heaven.” As citizens of the kingdom of God we are to represent the personal standards of our Lord and Savior. Violence, hatred, and prejudice are simply not welcomed in our way of life, because they are are being replaced with peace, love and acceptance. We are on mission, to bring the alien ways of Jesus to a world desperately in need of a new way of living. 

Live long and prosper.

Contemporary Christian Music

Contemporary Christian music is not one of my favorite forms of worship. Oh, there are exceptions. My idea of real contemporary Christian music is those songs I lustily sang way back when as a younger adult I renewed my faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, my favorite contemporary music is stuck in a time-warp decades ago. The stuff now just doesn’t move me. Too much noise, too much ego, too much froth. Not enough of the biblical God.

This made it interesting when I found I had an unexpected ally in my distaste for such baptized drivel. Bono, the rock band U2’s lead singer, has recently made a video with Eugene Peterson, the biblical translator whose work, The Message, is a version of the Bible I read. In the video Bono has unexpected suggestions for Christian musicians trying to make music. “I find in Christian art a lot of dishonesty, and I think it’s a shame.”

Bono speaks from the perspective of one who’s ministry calling is outside the church, but in Christ. “I would love if this conversation would inspire people who are writing these beautiful… gospel songs, write a song about their bad marriage. Write a song about how they’re pissed off at the government. Because that’s what God wants from you,” Bono said. “Why I am suspicious of Christians is because of this lack of realism.”

Dishonesty? Lack of realism? Do these things exist in Christian music? Do they exist in the broader Christian church? Do they exist in me?  Yes, they are there, and sometimes they become a huge stumbling bock not only to other people, but impediments to our own spiritual growth. The attitude: “I used to be a terrible sinner, but I’ve come to Jesus, and now everything is ok,” not only wears thin, but it keeps us from allowing those things which are definitely not “ok” to be brought before the cleansing ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The Psalms hold a fascinating appeal for Bono in their brutal honesty. He says the psalms may be  great poetry but it’s the authentic reflection of the human spirit wrestling with God that rivets him. Often the psalmist opens his soul before God as he works out his salvation with fear and trembling.  “…for the word to live, for it to leap from the page and into our lives, the only time is now, the only place is here.”

Bono, who suffers from an eye problem, almost never in seen without sunglasses on. He admits that it’s not only a help for his vision, but also a pride thing. The sunglasses serve as a guard between him and the world. In his usual fresh, direct way of looking at life, he says: “Coolness might help in your negotiation with people through the world, maybe, but it is impossible to meet God with sunglasses on.”

Can we hear the words of a prophet pleading with us? Can we in the church, we who are open to the transforming love of God take our sunglasses off? May we aim for honesty in our lives, in our Christian witness, in our relationship with others and with God? Let this be our goal not only in the music that leads us into worship, be it “contemporary Christian” or classic Bach, but in our relationships with others, with ourselves, and with God. Such a way of living won’t make us a rock star, but it will bring us closer to the Rock.

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First Baptist Church
819 Mass Ave, Arlington, MA
781-643-3024

Sunday Schedule
Service: 10 am
Nursery provided!

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