Horizons – December 2018

“In the beginning….God said: Let there be light; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good…”

God shines light into the darkness of creation, of our world, of our lives and hearts. God shines light to bring forth life, to reveal truth, and to illumine the path of righteousness and peace. And God sees that it is good.

In this beautiful Advent season, may God’s light shine anew in your heart. Through the worship and music of the season, may God’s light shine in your soul.

In fellowship, may God’s light shine in your home.

In opportunities for service and giving, may God’s light shine in your mind.

And, through us, may God’s light shine anew in our world.

My Christmas prayer for each of you is that you will find in this season a renewed sense of God’s love, and healing presence in your life, bringing light and joy to you and yours.

For in Christ is born the fullness of life, and that life is the light of all people. As John’s Gospel proclaims: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never overcome it.”

May the blessings of Christ, the Light of the World, dawn brightly upon us all.

Horizons – November

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life…
It makes sense of our past,
brings peace for today,
and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
(Melodie Beattie)

November is a month-long festival of giving thanks! We begin with our annual remembrance of All Saints Sunday on November 4, grateful for all those who have gone before, that great circle of love that knows no boundaries of time or space.

We are grateful and we give thanks!

We celebrate our annual celebration of mission and ministry which we call our “Charge Conference” on Sunday, November 18. Led by our District Superintendent, Rev. Mark Nakagawa, we will share food and fellowship around our tables as we lift up all the incredible ways we have sought to be faithful disciples of Christ this year. In worship, service, praise, witness and prayer, we, the congregation of First UMC Santa Monica, continue to “Be the Hope” in lives near and far.

We are grateful and we give thanks!

As we have so generously received, we recommit ourselves to giving back, giving to support the mission and ministry of the church in our pledges and gifts. If you’re already pledging, prayerfully consider giving even more generously. If you’re giving regularly, try on the spiritual practice of making an annual pledge. If you’re new to all this—start by setting aside your weekly or monthly gift to the church. We will offer our pledges and gifts on Consecration Sunday, November 25.

We are grateful and we give thanks!

Together, with grateful and generous hearts, in joy and hope, let us rejoice, giving thanks for the past, finding peace for today in a world where no one lives in need or fear, together creating a vision for tomorrow that extends God’s love from our Thanksgiving tables to God’s children the world over.

We are grateful and we give thanks!

October 2018

“Be the Hope” became our congregation’s unofficial motto after Hurricane Katrina. It’s taken on a life of its own, showing up on banners and on our beautiful lighted sign at the front door of our church campus.

My favorite “Be the Hope” story came to me via Pastor Robert who heard it from a Preschool dad. Seems that it had been a tough morning for dad and son that day. Getting up, clothed, breakfasted, stuff for the day gathered in the backpack…just trying to get out of the house had been especially stressful and nerve-racking that day. Dad was tense as he drove over to school and had been snapping at his son. Just before arriving at the church, the little boy piped up from the backseat: “Be the Hope, Dad!” he said.

I preached a sermon on “Words Matter” a few weeks ago that struck a chord with many of you. I stand by that, but even so, I know how very often what we DO and who we ARE matters even more than what we SAY. St. Francis put it this way: “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”

Being the Hope means witnessing to the Gospel, to God’s Good News for each and every one of us and for the world and creation–in everything we do, everything we stand up for, every act of compassion and kindness. It means putting God’s Hope at the very center of our heart so that it radiates through the person that we are.

On Laity Sunday, October 14th, we’ll hear from several of our members of different ages and life experiences as they reflect on what “Be the Hope” means to them. Let’s all be in prayer with them, asking God to increase our faith, confirm our hope, and mold our lives accordingly.

“Let us hold firmly to the hope we claim to have. The God who promised is faithful.” Heb. 10:23

August / September Horizons

Anyone remember a bumper sticker that seemed to be everywhere just a few years ago? “Commit random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”

Where did that go? The prevailing norm these days seems to be just the opposite. Alarmingly, public discourse is more often marked by polarization, demonization, ugliness and fear. As songwriter Joni Mitchell once observed: “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”

How did we get here and how do we find our way back to genuine communities of respect and compassion? As people of faith, we turn to God, prayer, and Scripture to help us find and re-find our way. Sermons through August in the “Bind Our Hearts in Love” series will explore the Letter to the Ephesians and its many teachings for the church about how to be a community worthy of the gospel, lessons essential both to the church and to our larger community.

And, week after week, we will gather together for worship, study, and service. A new year begins in the Preschool as it celebrates its 70th Anniversary. Sunday School classes, Youth group, and Children’s Church will gather. Opportunities for fellowship and service will be in full swing. Committees will meet and plans will be made.

All the “normal” stuff of church life will be happening, thanks be to God. For this is where we learn to “practice what we preach,” creating community united in love, and through it all, witnessing to kindness, beauty, compassion, justice and peace.

June / July 2018

You’ve heard the expression: “the more things change, the more they remain the same.” As Robert and his family move to Ohio this month to take on new ministries and be closer to family, I know that they’re thinking that they’re moving somewhere that will be really different from Santa Monica. There’s the weather for one thing, and the fact that it will be hard to find great Hatch Chili burritos there. But I’ve discovered a great similarity in the two places, found in their history. Turns out that Mt. Healthy, where Robert’s church is located, was originally called Mt. Pleasant. The community began to be known as Mt. Healthy in the late 1890’s because it tended to avoid the cholera epidemics of nearby Cincinnati. Similarly, around that same time, Santa Monica was known as a healthy place in which to avoid the smallpox epidemics of Los Angeles.

It’s hard to say good-bye and draw to a close this faithful, fruitful, and fun decade of ministry together. We wish the English family only the best and pledge to keep them and their new congregations in our hearts and prayers. In place of good-bye, we say “fare thee well,” an old-fashioned term that reminds us that good-byes are always blessings. We bless their coming and their going. And we are deeply grateful for God’s many blessings poured out through them that have enriched our lives so deeply.

May we and they stay strong and healthy in the days to come, entering into new chapters of life, service and ministry yet to unfold. In the words of 3 John 2: “Dear friends, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”

Thank you. And thanks be to God!