2018! Already?!? Do you feel that way, too? Another New Year begins and after a brief respite during the holidays, we’ll soon be off full speed ahead.
Time is measured by calendars, yes, by schedules and appointments, by the demands of work, family, doctor’s appointments, getting to the grocery store, and just plain living from day to day. On top of that, there’s all the things you didn’t count on, didn’t see coming, really don’t have time for yet have to be dealt with anyway.
Our faith offers an alternative framework for time. It’s grounded in worship and prayer, in sitting still in the presence of God, in remembering that all time is a gift, sacred and holy. How might we hallow the time in this New Year, the Year of our Lord 2018?
Rejoice, people of God! Our God is with us—in it all, through it all, above and beyond and underneath it all. Let’s all take some deep breaths and live into the joy, the promise, the potential of all that this year will bring.
God so loves the world…
The season of Advent begins December 3rd this year, the day of our beautiful Christmas Concert. This is a season set aside for us to prepare our hearts and minds for God’s most amazing gift of the Christ Child. In love, God chooses to come and live with us as one of us, sharing our joys and sorrows, all the while teaching, healing, and encouraging us to become disciples of the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
In Christian parlance, this is called the “incarnation” which means “in the flesh.” It’s one of the fundamentals of Christian faith. It’s also one of the most challenging and mysterious truths about what we believe.
Just as in the time of Jesus’ birth, the world is beset by fear and violence. Like those first shepherds, we wait in the night to hear “good news” and “tidings of great joy.” Like the Magi, our hearts seek after light and truth.
As we journey through Advent this year, remember that it’s all about love–God’s love for the world and for each and every one of us, for the creation itself, and for all God’s children near and far. Hear the angels’ song assuring us that we need not be afraid.
Take heart! God comes in love, again and again, and everything is born anew.
“Now thank we all our God…”
Living in a sprawling metropolitan area, we are far from the natural rhythms of land and harvest. Still, November turns our thoughts to harvest and gratitude. We’ll gather ’round the table for a Thanksgiving meal shared with family and friends, giving thanks for God’s mercies, bounty, and love.
We’ll gather November 19 for our annual Church Charge Conference with our District Superintendent, Mark Nakagawa, to give an accounting of our mission and ministry and our stewardship of all the amazing resources God has entrusted to us at First UMC.
And we will reflect on our own personal stewardship of all the gifts God has given as we grow in generosity through giving in our “Say YES!” financial campaign.
“For all that has been–thanks! For all that will be–yes!” as Dag Hammarskjöld, former Secretary General of the United Nations, put it.
So let us gather. Let us give thanks. And let us commit ourselves anew to the future with hope God has in store for the whole creation.
Across the years here, we’ve used the words of Dag Hammarskjöld, former Secretary General of the United Nations, as inspiration: “For all that has been—thanks! For all that will be—yes!”
How appropriate these words seem again now, as we move into the Fall. There is SO much for which to be thankful—families finding support and fellowship in Messy Church, simple church celebrating its first anniversary, the upcoming start of our Habitat Build of Patience House in Culver City. And that’s just for starters!
It’s also the season of our Annual Laity Sunday which has become a highlight of celebrating the manifold gifts and graces of this amazing congregation. And it’s our laity who will kick off this year’s Stewardship Campaign.
Our theme this year is “Say YES!” With new life and deeper faithfulness bubbling up all around, we want to Say YES to all that God is doing in our midst. And we want to call each other to go deep and consider anew the part we will each play in supporting mission and ministry through our generous financial pledge.
When the letter comes in the mail, or you pick up a pledge card in worship….pause. Take a deep breath. Give thanks. And pledge to give more in 2018 than you did in 2017.
Won’t you join me in saying YES?!
It’s been exciting over these past weeks to see the work being done on our steeple. We are so fortunate to have been entrusted with this beautiful church. Now, with the leadership of our Trustees, we strive to be faithful stewards of it, with the foresight and financial means to make sure that everything is well-maintained and safe-guarded for the future.
Across these last many decades, our steeple has been a beacon of faith and hope in our community. Even in this era of internet and Facebook, I’m amazed at how many visitors tell me that they’ve found their way to worship and prayer here because they’ve seen our steeple.
The scaffolding that’s been up has been a great advertisement as well. Many neighbors and passers-by have stopped to look and to inquire. They, too, appreciate our investment in the community they and we love.
But with the work completed, I’m glad the scaffolding has come down. I was starting to have the feeling that our steeple was in jail, held in, restricted in the message it could send. It’s free again–and more radiant than ever.
Especially in these turbulent times, may its message of God’s love, constancy, and abiding presence in our midst exuberantly witness to abiding joy and peace.
It’s time for Fall Kick-Off!