The season of Lent invites us into a time of reflection, prayer, and repentance as we again consider the meaning and power of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. What does it all mean for our lives and for the life of the world?
We’re living in a time of extreme polarization—in national and international politics, in public debate about almost everything, and even in the church itself. We’ve let ourselves fall deeper and deeper into what columnist David Brooks calls the Golden Age of “Theyism.”
This deeply troubles many of us and we wonder about not only where all this may lead but also what in the world we can do about it.
My prayer is that this Lent 2020 can become a time for us to ponder these things, individually and together. In prayer and worship. Our Lenten theme is “Be the Bridge.” It opens our minds and hearts to consider how, in our own thoughts, interactions, conversations and practices we might be the bridge that crosses divides and turns suspicion and hatred into conversation, humility, empathy and courage.
Consider these words from 2 Corinthians 5:19: “…in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, but entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”
Or, as the Jewish philosopher and writer, Martin Buber, put it in an earlier time of enmity and rancor: “The hope for this hour depends upon the hopers themselves, upon ourselves.”
May God bless to us a holy Lent.
Many of you have seen stories in the press about conflict within the United Methodist Church and plans for our future. Unfortunately, much of what has been written is inaccurate. I don’t really blame the reporters—it’s sometimes hard enough for those of us in the church to sort it all out, let alone those with very limited knowledge of our history, governance, and polity.
I continue to work closely with a number of groups in the many conversations regarding a path forward. I will look forward to sharing these developments with you at our next UMC Report Back on Sunday, February 16 following worship and will do my best to explain where are, what is still under much discussion, and what may transpire between now and our next General Conference in May.
I continue to trust God’s presence in the midst of it all. I’ve even joked that when the Book of Genesis describes God’s Spirit hovering over the waters of chaos to bring forth creation, the story doesn’t tell us just how long the Spirit hovered until the time was right to set everything in motion!
I encourage you to hold steady and remain fervent in prayer. I believe that God can work through a less-than-perfect church to create something new grounded in love of all God’s children and empowered for God’s mission in the world.
See you February 16!
The beginning of a new year offers the gift of looking out over the horizon and imagining new possibilities of all kinds. Most of us make resolutions of various sorts around how to improve our personal lives. Whether or not we follow through, the burst of excitement and potential that we experience gives a nice boost to our soul and heart.
The beginning of a new year also affords the opportunity to imagine new beginnings for our community and world. The spiritual writer and teacher, Eberhard Arnold, has written: “In today’s world situation it is essential that here and there among people there continue to exist rays of light and hope, spiritual realities by which the unity of God’s peace and the [kinship] of true justice are recognized.”
As this new year begins, let us resolve anew to Be the Hope, as the light of Christ shines on us, in us, among us, and outward from us, bringing new light and life to all.
As we enter into the season of Advent this year, we are blessed by the work of John August Swanson in his “Festival of Lights.” John says: “it is a dark night with a star-filled sky. Tiny lights are seen on the distant hillsides, gradually becoming figures carrying candles as they come closer to the foreground of the painting.” John imagines the stars touching the hills, the children in the procession reaching to bring the light of the stars into the world, bringing peace.
We are grateful for this beautiful season in the church year when we are drawn by the candles’ lights to remember that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never overcome it,” as the Gospel of John proclaims. The candles in the Advent wreath and the candles we will light together on Christmas Eve all witness to the birth of Christ, bringing light and life to all.
This is a time of deep darkness in many parts of our world. Still, God comes to be with us. God’s light is given, that we might become people of the light, people who travel together in the light toward the light who is God. How we need God’s light to come to us and transform us from within, that we might be light-bearers who, with the children, witness to hope and peace.
Amidst all the busy-ness of the season, I encourage you to calm your mind and nurture your soul. Ponder the Advent devotionals. Delight in the music of the season. Find some moments of prayer, silence, worship, fellowship, service, and giving—the spiritual practices that form us from the inside out into those who live with the deep assurance that Christ is the Light of the World.
May the light of Christ shine in you.
Church is a School of Love. It is a place and a people that teach us how to live a life of love. We learn the ways of Christ’s love in prayer, Scripture, and worship. We learn the ways of love in the smiles of children and the questions of youth. We learn the ways of love in shared tears and laughter. We learn love sharing meals and mission projects with one another. The church is a School of Love.
Love teaches us patience and endurance. It teaches us selflessness and living for others. Love teaches us joy and gratitude. Love invites us to give generously and joyfully. It teaches us to strive to make our giving reflect our deepest priorities. Love teaches us to live and give after the example of Christ Jesus.
Love shines strong through the people of God and through the ministries and mission of Santa Monica First UMC. In this season of Thanksgiving, as we remember our saints, celebrate our annual church/charge conference, and renew our pledge of our financial resources to the glory of God, we rejoice in this School of Love and are grateful for this place and people that grow us into the disciples Christ calls us to become.
Let the sound of God’s love be heard! (Psalm 66-CEB)