Back-to-School time for me as a kid meant new shoes, new notebooks, a new teacher, and the new clothes my mother had made for me over the summer. It brought a sense of new beginnings and new possibilities. And because we didn’t move around, but lived in one house through my school years, it also brought a lot of reassurance in continuity—continuity of place, family, and holidays. There was newness built on a foundation of familiarity and love.
Our California-Pacific bishop, Bishop Hagiya, set “I See a New Church” as the theme of our annual conference session this past June. He is now inviting local churches to consider this same theme in our own setting this Fall. Our First UMC Lay Leadership Team will be creating some opportunities for us to come together to listen for the voice of God and to dream with God.
At First UMC, we have a strong and faithful heritage to build upon—in ministry, in mission, and in the character of our life together. We respect and love one another, despite what might be differently held opinions about a whole variety of things. We’ve embodied John Wesley’s maxim: “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.”
Confident in our calling, we are free to imagine and to dream. Are there needs in our community that God’s Spirit is urging us to see? Are there new opportunities for mission and ministry percolating in our hearts? Is there something God might be calling you/me to undertake?
This is a season for the fresh winds of the Spirit to blow through us, opening our minds and hearts to God’s great scope and purpose. Let’s enjoy the adventure!
Our summer season here at First UMC will kick off June 9th, Pentecost Sunday. That’s the day the church was born. Peoples of all languages and races and backgrounds and cultures and perspectives and opinions—all people were gathered together. By the power of the Holy Spirit, they were amazed to discover that they could all clearly understand one another. They could all recognize the presence of the living God in one another.
In times such as ours that seem so rancorous and conflict-filled, when people talk or shout past one another far more than listening, understanding, and respecting one another….
In such a time as this, may Summer bring moments for the fresh, life-giving winds of the Holy Spirit to refresh our hearts and minds, renewing our hope, and our trust in the awesome power of God.
“…as welcome as flowers in May” the old Irish song goes. Clearly a song for the northern climes. We in beautiful Southern California have been enjoying Spring flowers for many weeks already. And in the church, we’re living in the season of Eastertide, a 50-day celebration and the church’s most ancient and most joyful time. 50 days to sing alleluia, 50 days to take in the power of the Resurrection, 50 days to live as if God’s reign of justice and peace were fully with us.
As you’ve read in these pages, there’s a lot fermenting in the United Methodist Church these days as well. It’s the “United” part of our name that’s being tested, examined and explored. Sometimes if you type too fast, “united” comes out as “untied” which is a bit how many of us are feeling.
Our Lay Leadership Team and I will be hosting on-going opportunities to gather for discussion of these developments. It’s still too early to tell what a new iteration of the UMC is going to look like. It’s more a season of seeds germinating in the soil, not quite yet ready to burst forth in full and glorious bloom.
But burst forth they will in due season! I’m working with several groups in our annual conference, the Western Jurisdiction and across the larger church. And I can testify, as did those women who first discovered the empty tomb, that God is doing a new thing within and among us. A beautiful, diverse, inclusive church of love and grace will blossom.
One group I’m working with puts it this way: “We…commit ourselves to participate in the coming of God’s dream as we work for a transformed world and a more gracious expression of United Methodism where both fully reflect God’s love and calling in the lives of all people.”
Stay tuned. Pray fervently. Water the seeds. Be the Hope!
“Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best.” So said Otto von Bismarck, the first Chancellor of the German Empire, 1871-1890, master of realpolitik and balance of power diplomacy.
Happily, our God plays by different rules with different aims in mind. Otherwise, the sealed-up tomb might have been the end of the story. Actually, there wouldn’t be a Christian story at all, were it not for the fact that the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty; were it not for the fact that our crucified Lord and Savior is raised from the dead, ushering in the Reign of Joy which fills our lives in every moment and points to life everlasting in the love and peace of God.
Our God never settles for “what is possible” or “the next best.” God reimagines “the possible” to open new windows to ever new hopes and dreams and visions. Our God is—now and always—making all things new. And with our God, nothing is impossible.
Come share in the worship experiences of Lent/Holy Week/Easter to open windows of new possibilities in your heart and mind and soul. Invite along a friend who may be longing for the same. The Risen Lord waits to greet you all and fill you with life-ever-new.
Our 2019 Haiti Team is gearing up (and by the way, they need the support of our prayers and dollars!)
We’ve sent a team each year since the quake first hit in January 2010. That’s witness to an amazing commitment on the part of many individuals and our congregation as a whole. That long-term commitment changes “mission” into “relationship” and “doing for” into “working with.” It means that we’ve seen kids growing up and facilities we’ve helped build being used. It means seeing that the goats we purchased become the “bank accounts” our Team describes. It means that we are welcomed back by people who know us and look forward to our coming. It means working alongside them again on the projects they have set as their priorities. It means that they have become sisters and brothers, and their families part of our family.
This long-term commitment has changed not only the team members who have gone to Haiti, but our congregation as well. Our boundaries are not Santa Monica or the Westside. This has actually been true of us for a very long time, beginning perhaps with our welcoming of refugees from Vietnam back in the 1960s and 1970s. You may know of other examples as well.
To say “God’s world is our world” is not just about mouthing some words. We know that it’s about living into it, embracing others, learning their names and their stories, seeking their welfare alongside ours. It means holding them in our hearts and making decisions about public policy not just from the mind but from our heart and soul.
Thanks be to God for these gifts of new life and for a family that spans the globe.