Monday, December 18, 2006

3rd Sunday in Advent

Gather the Outcast

The reading today comes from Zephaniah. Zephaniah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah, in fact, Jeremiah at one point asks Zephaniah to take a message to the king. The book Zephaniah is written in response to raids by a group called the “Scythians” who were nomadic raiders originating out of the southwestern Russia. Zephaniah sees these raiders as a warning of more troubles to come if the people do not change their ways.

This by now has become a common theme of the prophets. Destruction is at hand, the people must change their ways, God will save.

Disparity of Wealth and caring for the poor is not only an ancient problem. Consider the following:
“average pay for corporate chief executive officers rose to 369 times that of the average worker last year, said finance professor Kevin Murphy of the University of Southern California; that compares with 131 times in 1993 and 36 times in 1976.”
In fact, the disparity of wealth between the richest 1% of our country and the rest of us is becoming as dramatic as it was in 1929 preceding the great depression. The best year was 1976 when the wealthiest 1% owned 20%, the wealthiest 1% today own about 38% of the nations wealth.

The “brood of vipers” become citizens of the kingdom of God when they begin to live in the recognition that all people are of worth and valued by God. They become citizens when they don’t make judgments about the poor but they begin to do something with the poor.

The people of LUMC have done much to live this vision. This past year through the “Pastor’s Love Fund” we have distributed nearly $1,000 to those in need. We have purchased food, gas and clothing. We have helped with rent, electric and water bills. We have purchased medications, and helped with doctor bills.

This year we will continue to live as people of the kingdom as we continue to name and do the work of helping our neighbors. We will continue to help those who ask for assistance and we will find more ways to bring help to those in need. As we help our neighbors, as we look for signs of the kingdom, we are making the way ready for the Messiah’s reign.

Devotions for the fourth week of Advent

Monday Read Zephaniah 1:7-13
The prophet describes God’s judgment as separating the rich from the objects of their wealth. How might it be a good thing to be separated from objects of wealth, what would the benefit be?

Pray for those holding on to possessions.

Tuesday Read Zephaniah 2:1-4
The people are called to gather together before God’s judgment comes and the people are scattered by God’s hand. How might we find strength in community? How can you participate in building community in your neighborhood, or your church?

Pray for those who are isolated and vulnerable.

Wednesday Read Zephaniah 3:14-20
This is a song of joy, for the community is restored as the outcast are gathered together. What prayers, time or money can you give for a mission of the church this next year?

Pray for the Mission opportunities of the church where we might feed, house, teach, build up the people of God.

Thursday Read Luke 3:1-6
John the Baptist quotes Isaiah, that to prepare for the Messiah we need to make straight paths, lift valleys, lower mountains, smooth over the rough places. How does this image fit your life today? Its December 21st, only a few days now until Christmas, what do you need to change so you can receive the Christ child?

Pray for your life with God, any rough places that you and God need to work on together?

Friday Read Luke 3:7-14
John seemingly turns on the people calling them a “brood of vipers.” Then addresses their questions about living a life with God, with answers like, tax collectors don’t take too much and soldiers respect the people. How might John the Baptist lead you in your work or life so you can live according to God’s kingdom?

Pray for those who are oppressing others and justify it by saying, “I’m only doing my job.”

Thursday, December 14, 2006

O Christmas Tree

Last Night we finally got the tree up. We had a bit of a family discussion about the tree this year, Kendra and I with our newly refinished oak wood floor, wanted to get a simple “fake” tree. Brianna was disappointed. She likes how the “real” ones smell. Finally we agreed, Brianna could have another tree in her room, and that seemed to satisfy her.

There has been a lot of hubbub about trees this week. I received an e-mail from “The American Family Association” who is all upset that Senator Murray refused to say “Christmas” tree instead calling it a “holiday” tree. Ugh. I don’t know why she didn’t call it a Christmas tree. The AMA seems to take this as an attack on Christmas. Politically I think it is silly to try to call a Christmas Tree a holiday tree instead. Have people of other religions all the sudden wanted to claim the Christmas Tree as a symbol? IS a “Christmas Tree" a Christian symbol at all, or is it simply a popular thing to do from the Victorian era? What “holiday” is the tree representing if not Christmas? Are evergreen trees part of Hanukah?

Then there is the well known story about Sea-Tac Airport and its removal and eventual un-removal of said trees. Sea-Tac officials, when asked to display a menorah, decided instead to remove all the Christmas Trees from the airport. Ugh. You have to love the overreaction. Apparently, now all is good and the tree are back as is a menorah.

Here’s the thing. There are a number of Christians who complain about the “commercialization” of Christmas. I too become annoyed when the Christmas decorations and store advertisements appear on November 1st. So why do some of those same people have a problem when “Christmas” trees become “holiday” trees? Wouldn’t it be good for the Christian faith if those who are not followers of Jesus, those who are not professing Christians, stopped celebrating Christmas? What if Christmas was a time set apart for Christians and everyone else went about their normal business?

Of course that isn’t going to happen. Christmas has become a national holiday along the lines of 4th of July. Atheist and Agnostics don’t go to work on December 25th, they don’t refuse Christmas presents, or tell their children that Santa is a Christian Saint and so there will be no presents from Santa this year. So we will continue to struggle with the separation of church and state, Christmas trees and holiday trees, until the Christian faith reclaims Christ’s Mass is its own unique time.

I propose that Christians reclaim the 12 days of Christmas. So that when everyone else has packed up the decorations, stopped playing the songs, returned the unwanted gifts, there will be Christians who are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Let the Senator call the tree whatever she wants to call the tree. Let the airport decorate its halls however it chooses (or not) to do. Let us give thanks to God for sending the light of Jesus Christ into this dark and troubled world.

2nd Sunday of Advent

Who Can Endure?

The prophets we most often read and hear about such as Elijah, Isaiah or Jeremiah were preaching in a time of disaster for Israel. They spoke of the doom coming to the nation state as foreign armies would take control of the land. Then we have prophets like Malachi. The book is perhaps most notable to Sunday School students for being the last book of the Old Testament. It is written in a later time than those prophets (although it is not the newest of the “Old Testament” books.)

Malachi was written during the time of the Persian empire about 450 years before Christ. The crisis that Malachi faces is not foreign rule (although Israel is under Persian control) it is the failure of the Messiah to come. Contemporary people in Malachi’s time had expected that sometime soon after the temple was rebuilt, the Messiah would come. The temple was rebuilt about 100 years before the writing of Malachi. The rebuilding has become a fond, but distant memory for the living generation and yet, no Messiah.

Malachi’s concern is that the people having let go of their hope for the return of the Messiah have now become lackadaisical in their religious life. The people and their leaders no longer give their best for God.

Malachi’s question is also John the Baptist’s question. Who can endure? For John the Baptist and for Malachi those who endure are those who turn their life toward God instead of themselves. Malachi calls the people and the priests to once again put their hope in God. John the Baptist invites all to come and accept the sign of repentance in the waters of the Jordan River.

When we make our path straight we are preparing for the Messiah. We make our path straight, when we give our best for God. We make our path straight, when we find meaning in the traditions of the faith. We make our path straight, when we tend to the needs of our neighbor.
Daily Devotions for the 2nd week of Advent

Monday Malachi 1:2-5
God proclaims his love but the people ask questions, why do the wicked prosper? How do you respond to this inequality today?

Pray for those who are prosperous.

Tuesday Malachi 1:6-2:9
The prophet bemoans the church leaders who have forgotten to give God their best. How can you help the church give its best for God?

Pray for church leaders, our Bishop Rev. Ed Paup, our District Superintendent Rev. Mike Graef, and our Pastor Rev. Bruce Smith.

Wednesday Malachi 2:10-16
Malachi’s strong words against divorce are a call for men to be faithful husbands and to not leave their wives vulnerable and in need. Faithfulness in relationships is a sign of living in covenant with God. What can you do today to tend to your family relationships?

Pray for your family.

Thursday Malachi 2:17-3:5
The prophet describes the coming of the Messiah as a time of judgment.

Pray for the oppressed, the vulnerable, the foreigners.

Friday Malachi 3:6-12
The people are accused of robbing God by holding back their tithes. When do you hold back something in your life from God?

Pray for your life of faith and spiritual guidance.

1st Sunday of Advent

The Lord is our Righteousness
Jeremiah 33:14-16

Jeremiah was a prophet in Israel preceding the defeat of Israel at the hands of the Babylonian empire. Under the threat of the invasion the King of Israel is considering alliances with Egypt and other foreign powers. Jeremiah decries these efforts and implores the King to return to faithfulness of God. The common message of the prophet is that corruption has led to Israel’s downfall.

Once the Babylonians began their attack the prophet speaks not only of the impending doom but he brings a message of Hope. The most dramatic image of hope comes as he purchases land during the Babylonian siege on Jerusalem as a way to say to the people, God will bring us back!

Jeremiah talks about the people returning to God, not because they are righteous but because God will make a new covenant and write it on their hearts. It will be God’s action to restore the relationship.

In today’s reading, the prophet brings a message of the future for Israel. Not only will God restore the covenant but God will bring a new leader. This leader will be from the family of David, Israel’s greatest king. This leader will be known not for military victories but for doing what is right and just. Because the people follow this leader their capital city will be called, “The Lord is our Righteousness.”

The Lord is the way of righteousness, not politicians, not empires, nor armies. The Lord is the way of righteousness, not economic systems, not political parties, nor “the perfect Christmas.” Righteousness comes only from God, and we are called to be agents of God’s righteousness.

Today’s advent message is one of hope for a future with the people following a great leader. A leader who is perfect in following God’s law, a leader who is concerned about the condition of the world, a leader who brings the people into a relationship with God so that they know that their salvation comes only from the Lord.

As we anticipate the coming of the Christ child, we are called to proclaim, “The Lord is our righteousness.” The beginning is simple, the rest takes a lifetime.
Monday December 4 Read Jeremiah 1:3-8
The Lord promises to be present with Jeremiah as he delivers the message. God’s presence is a constant theme in Jeremiah.

Be attentive to the presence of God. Has God’s presence given you some security in the past few days?

Pray for those who are afraid.

Tuesday December 5 Read Jeremiah 14:19-22
This passage comes in the midst of a dialogue between God and the prophet, who is speaking for the people. The people make a confession of their wrong doing and then conclude, “We set our hope in you.”

How have you set your hope in God today?

Pray for those who are in depression, grief and despair.

Wednesday December 6 Read Jeremiah 32:1-15
The prophet in making this purchase of land declares that God will restore the land to the people of Israel. It is a message of confident hope.

When did someone make a bold statement of their love or their confidence in you?

Pray for those stuck in military conflict.

Thursday December 7 Read Jeremiah 29:10-14
God promises the people will return. It will take a long time, but God will restore Israel.

God hears our prayers. Looking back can you see when there was a time it was good that you had to wait for an answered prayer?

Pray for those who are impatient.

Friday December 8 Read Jeremiah 31:31-34
This passage is the heart of the book of Jeremiah. As Christians we know the new covenant in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

What can you do to help someone know the Lord today?

Pray for those who do not yet, “know the Lord.”

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sermon Notes October 22, 2006

A long time with God

Read Amos 2:4-16

I don’t know all the reasons that have brought you here this morning. Perhaps some of you have come out of habit. Perhaps it was to see some friends. Maybe you want to spend some time with God here is this sanctuary.

When the prophets of old spoke to Israel their deep desire was that the people would remember who they were and spend some time with God. The prophets complained about the ways in which the people demonstrated that they were lost. They ignored the poor, and they overindulged their desires.

The prophet reminds them of their roots, that it was God who led them for forty years in the wilderness and that while the people believe that they can go their own way, without being God’s people they will find that their life becomes heavy. Their self reliance, the strength that they depend on will do them no good.

Forty is an important number in the Bible. It represents a generation, it represents a time of change. Forty is a long time and it is the time that God desires.

Not only does God desire that time, I believe we desire that time with God. Our problem most often is that we fail to recognize our time with God. God is with us in every moment, every breath, every sunrise, every love song, is a moment spent with God. We often fail to recognize that which we really need. We worry about the bills, about politics, we worry about all sorts of things that are not life giving. Sometimes in our worry we create false ideas of strength. We might believe more money will solve our problems, or voting for a different political party will make everything better. When what the prophet is really telling us is that we simply need to spend more time with God.

Monday Read Exodus 34:27
Moses spent 40 days with God on the mountain as God gave the law of the covenant. Are there moments you can remember that you spent with God where you were given some wisdom in a difficult situation?

Tuesday Moses spent a lot of time with God on Mt. Sinai. Where do you like to spend time with God? Do you have a sanctuary in your home? Create a sacred space in your home today.

Wednesday Read Matthew 4:1-11
Jesus goes to the wilderness for 40 days following his baptism. There in the wilderness he is tempted with bread, arguments about faith, and power. What temptations do you live with? How do you answer the tempter?

Thursday We all face temptations. What is your hearts desire in for your relationship with God? What do you need to let go of to make room for a deeper relationship. Write down something you must give up for that relationship. How will you give it up?

Friday I Kings 19:4-14
Elijah runs away. His life is at risk so he seeks shelter. An angel of the Lord ministers to him for 40 days. As he waits for God, a great wind, an earthquake and fire come by but Elijah doesn’t find God in these forces. Where Does Elijah find God?

Saturday Is there a place, a time when you can experience true silence and be with God? How much time will you give to God in that time of silence?

Sunday Attend worship at LUMC

Making Room

LUMC has been great in the past three years in making room for others. We have reclaimed three rooms that were being used for storage so that they are now available for classes, youth meetings and choir practices. This meant that some groups had to surrender this space. I think it is fantastic how graceful we have been in making these and other physical changes to make room for others to participate in the ministry of LUMC.

I believe that we are being called to continue making room for others not only in physical space but also in how we relate with one another. A year and a half ago I attended a seminar led by Alice Mann who wrote a book about congregations in transition. The following notes come from her book “Raising the Roof.”

Between sizes, churches that have been growing steadily tend to hit an attendance plateau. Often they notice a mismatch between their flat year to year attendance chart and their other measures of growth – the number of visitors, members, or dollars contributed may keep increasing while attendance remains stuck.

The movement from family size to pastoral size involves a change in the way a system centers its life. . . . When attendance exceeds 50, the congregation encounters a crisis – the unbroken circle of members no longer works well as the defining constellation of the congregation’s life. Members experience distress because they can no longer keep track of all the relationships. . . . In order to grow further, the system must allow the development of two or three different networks of family and fellowship

We are facing significant change in how we create space for others. The reality is that most folks will not know everyone at the church. Our challenge is to continue to build relationships with one another as we continue on our spiritual journeys.

One sign of this change is that instead of one Sunday evening class we now have two. Instead of One Bible study group we have three groups meeting on two different days. The networks are developing. While we continue to grow I encourage you to find ways that you can build new relationships and to make room for others.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sermon Notes October 8

Earth, Sea, and Sky

Psalm 8

"The Natural World" from the United Methodist Book of Discipline

All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect. Economic, political, social, and technological developments have increased our human numbers, and lengthened and enriched our lives. However, these developments have led to regional defoliation, dramatic extinction of species, massive human suffering, overpopulation, and misuse and overconsumption of natural and nonrenewable resources, particularly by industrialized societies. This continued course of action jeopardizes the natural heritage that God has entrusted to all generations. Therefore, let us recognize the responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation.
2004 Book of Discipline, Social Principles ¶160

A few years ago I went on a mission trip with the Bishop and other clergy from the PNW to Mexico. We spent a few days in Mexico City. The city is one of the largest in the world with an estimated population of about 17 million people and it is generally regarded as one of the most polluted cities in the world as well. The city is surrounded by mountain range’s that trap the air around it. The congestion of cars and people can be overwhelming. What became abundantly clear to me is that Mexico (and the world) needs the United States to create solutions for many of our environmental problems. We have the scientific and economic resources. We have the ability, but do we have the will?

The writer of the Psalm knew that our health our life depended upon worship and our spiritual health. We are called to live in balance and recognition that all that we have belongs first to God.

Our failure to live in harmony with our environment is a spiritual problem.

One Factor of this spiritual problem is our devotion to individualism, personal freedom and in the church an emphasis on personal salvation. We have taken individualism to extraordinary heights. We don’t attend concerts to listen to music, we download music on “ipods.” You can’t travel in our population areas without a car. Can you imagine being a tourist in Los Angeles without a car? You couldn’t get anywhere. There is no subway to Disneyland, no one WALKS in LA.

Many churches have shifted the emphasis of the great commission to “Make disciples of all nations,” and we have turned it into a commission of “Make disciples of some people.” We must be more than a collection of individuals who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. We must be about the creating of that helpful phrase that Rev. Dan Gerhard brought to our attention a few weeks ago, “The Blessed Community.” We must recognize that our salvation is the discovery that God’s Kingdom is not a place where we live in isolation. God’s Kingdom is a place of community.

This community needs our recognition that all that we have is ours for just a little while. Yet, while we are here for just a little while the impact we have on creation lasts for generations. I have some possesions that I have inherited from my grandfather and I appreciate having that continued connection with him. I have some ties that are his and some books for my own research. I really love running across notes that he made in a Bible commentary or little papers he stuck in the pages. That connection means a great deal to me. I hope that Brianna will have the same appreciation of connection to her past. Through that connection we may come to realize the truth of living in community with others. Our impact on the environment is physical as well as spiritual.

Our worship is not isolated to the hour (or more) we spend together at Longview UMC on Sunday mornings. Our worship is our life. The Psalmist knew that our worship is connected to our recognition that our life is dependent upon God and the wholeness of the creation we live in.

Continue the Sermon

Read Psalm 24: What does this Psalm call the faithful to do?

Take a walk, what do you notice about the environment around you?
Walk at least once this week on a journey that you would normally have driven in your car to do.

Connect with someone you haven’t connected with in a while. Write a note, make a phone call, make a visit. What is valuable to you in connecting with this person?

Spend some time in your yard or your neighbor’s yard. Consider and pray for all that lives in that ecosystem, the plants, the insects, and the pets.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Longview United Methodist Youth joined the Vancouver District "Cool Whip Night"

Did you know that cool whip makes a very effective hair gell?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sermon Notes Sunday September 17

Mark 2:1-12

Home is where the Heart is.

I have a number of places that I might call “home.” Partly it depends on who you are talking to and where you are at the time. Sometimes when I lived in Dallas I would call home Seattle simply because it was easier than saying Rochester, WA and then explaining no, not Washington D.C., WA State.

Today’s Gospel Reading tells us that Jesus is at home. We don’t often think about Jesus being at home. Often we think of Jesus wondering around with people following him. Yet, we know that there were times when Jesus had a place he called home. In the Gospel of Mark that home is Capernaum.

Capernaum is a small fishing village along the Sea of Galilee. The remains of the first century place are visible today and there is a church that hovers above the reported site of this home described in the Gospel of Mark. All that remain are some stone foundations but you can get a sense of the tight community that existed in the time of Jesus. The town itself is smaller than our 5 acres at LUMC. The “streets” or walkways are pretty narrow between the houses. It wouldn’t take a whole lot of people to block the entrance.

The paralytic’s friends are pretty audacious. Climbing on the roof and ripping it apart so that they could lower their friend down to Jesus. They go to every effort to be sure that their friend might be made whole by Jesus.

I imagine that as the paralytic’s friends lowered him down to Jesus they were anxious and hopeful. With each effort they were brining him closer to his best hope for healing. I imagine they were anxious, wondering if this was actually going to work. What if it didn’t work? What if their friend is never healed?

The healing itself is extraordinary, Jesus says “your sins are forgiven.” What does sin have to do with his paralysis? There is this folk religious idea among some in ancient Judaism that sin is what causes our troubles. So some in the village and perhaps, this man himself, believed that it was his sin that caused his paralysis. So Jesus welcomes and heals him by declaring that his sin is forgiven.

I don’t know if it was sin that paralyzed this man but I do know that there are times when I have been paralyzed with guilt. You know those moments when you are so overcome with the guilt of your actions that you don’t know what to do next, you simply wish you could make the situation go away.

Jesus knows that the healing we need is not only physical healing but the healing that we need is spiritual. We need to come to Jesus and be released from sin.

Sometimes all we need to find this healing is to come to a place where Jesus is. Hopefully, we won’t have to tear the roof off the building, but if that is what it takes, may we have the strength to do it. Home is where we are free from sin and death and free to live and love!

What effort are you willing to go to so that your friends might come closer to Christ?

What Sin do you desire for Christ to heal in your life today?


I received a comment on the blog and I posted it with some hesitation, but I thought it was good for a discussion. The comment is attached to the post "Love your enemies." The comment was anonymous and I was hesitant to post a comment when someone refused to put their name to it. If this becomes a problem in the future I will refuse comments without names.

What saddens me about the poster's comments is the attempt to win points and the concluding attempt to save my soul.

It would have been more helpful had the poster desired to enter into a dialogue about those things that we obviously disagree about. A dialogue is an open discussion where we do not enter it trying to score points and to "win" but we enter the discussion in an effort to listen and learn.

The poster states, "And the Bible teaches that homosexuality is wrong. As a minister, you cannot ignore one section of the Bible in favor of another and ignore it in the name of truth and justice and your quest to "welcome" all people." I am not ignoring the Bible. I take the Holy Scriptures seriously as the foundation for my faith. I read these Scriptures with all the gifts God has given me with my ability to reason, with the traditions of the church and with my religious experience. The Bible's statements about sexuality are not clear to me. Our English translations of Hebrew and Greek are not universally agreed upon. We have some idea but not a clear understanding of what Paul was talking about when he used the words,
"arsenokoites" or "malakos." Is Paul condemning male prostitution or pedophilia or consentual loving partnerships? A strong case can be made for the first two, in which case I agree totally. Prostitution is immoral. Pedophilia a heinous immoral act. Is that the same as sex in a loving partnership between two people of the same gender? I don't think it is.

Grace and Peace,


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sermon Notes, Sunday September 3, 2006

Welcome Home
Genesis 18:1-8

When have you been a stranger and welcomed by another? If you are like me those moments when someone has received you as a special guest have left an impression on you. It can be a humbling experience. Hospitality can change your life.

Interestingly the word in the New Testament for hospitality is philoxenia or “love of the stranger.” New Testament people are called to love the stranger, not fear them. When Jesus teaches about hospitality it is about loving one another.

Luke 14 Jesus is the guest at a Pharisee’s house. He offers advice about hospitality. “do not sit at the place of honor”, “do not invite your friends”, “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame.”

Romans 1:11-12 Paul says, “For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged in each other’s faith, both yours and mine,”

In welcoming one another our faith is strengthened. We have shared a number of moments where our love of the stranger has strengthened the faith of another. Sometimes it was for the one who was welcomed, sometimes it was for the one welcoming, sometimes it was mutual.

It will take continued effort to welcome the stranger into our community of faith. Each of us must be willing to love the stranger. You never know when the next member of LUMC will sit for the first time as a guest in “your” pew.

You are the welcoming team for LUMC. There are some items that it would be good for us to remember as we become ready to welcome the stranger.

Gathering and greeting time. It is vital that the entrance to the church be a positive experience for our guests. Some of our guests have been building up the courage to come to a church for a long time. Some of their experiences in church have been harmful and they come wounded and fragile. Some want to talk with many people, some simply want to sit down. We must find the right balance of attentiveness and giving space.

Make an effort to remember the names of those who sit near to you. NAME TAGS are helpful for this. Some people are visual learners and need to see your name as well as hear you say it.

“Passing the Peace” or “Holy hub bub” as I have heard it called. Again we need to have the appropriate balance of welcome without smothering.

It is important that you let us know that you were in attendance but also to set the example of writing your address and other contact information in the attendance pads when they are passed out. With this information we are able to deliver a gift for our visitors and inform them about the ministry of LUMC.

“Fellowship Time” can be one of our strengths but we need to be diligent. It is tempting to sit with our friends and catch up, yet when that happens we might be unintentionally forming “cliques” that exclude others.

Sermon Notes Sunday August 27

A Beacon of Hope
Luke 4:14-22

Why do you suppose that Jesus made that proclamation that he did? Did Jesus make his claim so that he would become famous? Did Jesus hope that he would have a lot of followers so that he could become prosperous? Perhaps Jesus wanted to become a King or a Bishop (yes I know they didn’t have Bishops yet.)

It seems to me that Jesus chose this reading from Isaiah because he knew that now is the time to bring good news to the poor, now is the time to release the captives and bring sight to the blind. Now is the time to let the oppressed go free. I believe that we are being called to continue to find ways to follow our Mission Statement.

Beacon of Diversity
We will continue to be a Church where everyone is welcome to worship and grow in faith. We will work with our local community to bring a better understanding of diversity.

Becoming a Disciple for Jesus Christ
Discipleship is more than a one time event. While it is important to make a commitment to Christ, that initial commitment must be followed by a lifetime of commitments.

We are not inviting others to a quick decision or an easy answer. We are inviting others into a spiritual journey. A journey that experiences the great joy of a new birth. A journey that experiences the grief of death. A journey that has obvious signs of the activity of God. A journey that sometimes seems void of anything Holy.

I believe that there are thousands of people in Longview and Kelso who are spiritually hungry. Our task is simply to invite others to share their spiritual journey with us, and we will share ours with them.

Our efforts to continue to grow are not for our glory. It is not so that the preacher feels good. It’s not so that we feel more popular. Our efforts to grow are so that others can have similar experiences of the living God.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Peace Talks

Check out the groovy Dean at "Peace Talks" Ocean Park Camp.

This past week I spent my annual week participating in age level camping. For the past three years I have been a dean for Ocean Park "junior" (4th, 5th and 6th grades) camp. I really enjoy deaning. It is a huge responsibility and a major time commitment but once the campers arrive and everyone is having a good time I really enjoy the community that is created.

I pray that each of the campers had an expereince that will help them in their faith. It was a lot of fun to dress up '60s style and to talk about Peace last week. Thanks to all who helped camp to happen, Willis and the staff at Ocean Park, Shellane my Co-Dean, all the small group leaders and campers.

Love your enemies

If you have any doubts that Jesus was a radical read the Gospel of Luke carefully. Luke is filled with radical ideas, none more so that the idea in Luke 6:27, "Love your enemies."

Often we struggle with this passage, after all we are all good Christian people. We don't really hate anyone. Oh we hate terrorism and figures like Osama Bin Laden but we can even convince ourselves that we don't hate them, we hate what they do.

On the surface of things I don't believe that I have any enemies. Yet, If I am passionate about justice in the world, injustice is my enemy, and Jesus is calling for me to love those who are part of the problem. Jesus was a radical, not with an army but with love.

The decision by the Washington State supreme court this past week was surprising and disappointing. The State Supreme Court ruled that under current state law same sex marriages are not legal. I really don't understand that decision. Why allow marriage between two people who are in love in one case and not another? What is the state's concern regarding the gender of the two people who wish to be married?

We need more healthy committed gay and lesbian couples to tell the world their story. There are many wonderful couples at Longview UMC who for all intents and purposes are married. They are not sexually promiscuous. They are committed to their relationships. Other than the fact that both people in the relationship are of the same gender I see little difference between these couples and any other heterosexual couple I know.

It seems to me that too many people have false images of gay and lesbian people. For some gay and lesbian people are strange and different.

So perhaps the path to change is to Love the enemy. We need to care about those with whome we disagree. We need to show the value of committed loving partnerships. Live the example of sexual intimacy being reserved and shared in the committed covenental relationships. We can change the face of an issue so that when people vote about homosexuality and marriage they are not voting about a theoretical issue but they are voting about their friends Peter and Paul or Mary and Sally.

We will pray for those with whom we disagree, we will not hate them for the disagreement but we will take the time to get to know them and live into the kingdom of God together.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sermon Notes Sunday June 25, 2006

The Gospel of Judas

This past April the National Geographic Society published (with much fan fare) “The Gospel of Judas.” This Gospel is a dialogue between Jesus and Judas in which Judas is described as the favorite disciple who is given the most important assignment of all, to give him up to the authorities so that he can die.

Dead Sea Scrolls
First discovered in 1947, discoveries continued into the 1950’s
Primarily Hebrew writings. Give details about the Jewish monastic group called the “Essenes.”
“The DaVinci Code” mistakenly refers to these as Christian writings. The Essene community pre-dates Jesus.
Display of these manuscripts coming to the Pacific Science Center for a exhibit beginning September 23rd.

Nag Hammadi Library
Discovered 1945 near Nag Hammadi, Egypt
Coptic texts
Apocryphal Gospels, Gospel of Thomas, first translated into English in 1977

The Gospel of Judas
Discovered sometime in the early 1970’s by a local man near El Minya, Egypt.
Was sold to an antiquities dealer in Cairo who demanded $3 million for the books.
First viewed by scholars in 1983 who were unable to meet the demands of the seller.
Eventually the books were left in the safety deposit box of a bank in Hicksville, NY where the remained for 16 years.
In 2004 scholars in Geneva announced that they had an ancient book called “The Gospel of Judas.” This is what has been published this past April.

You can read the “Gospel of Judas” in a few minutes, its not a very long book. Immediately you will recognize that this book comes from a different religious tradition than our own. That religious tradition is “Gnosticism.”

The root “gnosis” means knowledge. Gnostics believed that Spiritual fulfillment came through the right knowledge. In the first century as Christianity grew Gnostics began to fit this new religion into their religious system.
Some basic Gnostic beliefs:
Salvation comes through right knowledge; salvation releases the self from the flawed physical body.
Jesus was a teacher of true Gnosis
Jesus’ resurrection was the release of his spirit.

Gnosticism also held women in high regard. Gnosticism lifted up women as true disciples and many of the Gnostic texts are attributed to women who were followers of Jesus.

Was Judas a Friend or Foe?

Many commentaries note the similarity of the name Judas and the name Jew or Judah. Throughout much of Christian history Jews have been persecuted and aligned with Judas for betraying and killing Jesus.

Perhaps we should quit looking at Judas as a greedy enemy and we should spend more time recognizing when we are like Judas. When are we too zealous for the cause and end up missing the point? When are we more worried about money than about blessing God? When are willing to sell out our friends in order that our goals, our plans might be achieved? How often do we end up reaching out for Jesus after we have tried to ignore or destroy him?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Sermon Notes Sunday June 18, 2006

Text: Luke 7:36 - 8:3

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

2006 is the fiftieth anniversary of the United Methodist Church recognizing the ordination rights for women. Preaching for us on the first day was Rev. Marion Kline who was one of the original women to be ordained as an elder in the Methodist Church. She shared with us the difficulty of securing an appointment in that time. This year she was received as a clergy member of the PNW.

Throughout the conference each of our communion services were presided over by women who are elders in our conference. The Women in Ministry gave their annual “Ruth Award” to all the women of the United Methodist Women who have for many years worked as an example of ministry for the UMC.

Women play a vital role in the life of the church. And for Father’s Day this year I think it is a fine opportunity for us to recognize that there is a history within the church of men taking the spotlight from women, while women get on with the work of doing ministry.

One of the exciting ideas to come from “The DaVinci Code” is the idea that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that Mary fled to France with the child of Jesus and Mary.

The case for Marriage: Rabbi’s would normally be married. The Gospel of Phillip refers to Mary as “The Companion” of Jesus.
The case against: Jesus, while a rabbi, may have been one who like those in the Essene community believed in celibacy. The Gospel of Philip is not a reliable document.

The DaVinci Code also makes a strong argument that the early church worked to make women second class citizens within Christianity. The primary example given is the church tradition that was created when Pope Gregory in 591 called Mary Magdalene a prostitute. There is no scriptural reference to that effect yet it is a tradition that is believed by many people today. The Pope was clearly trying to discredit Mary Magdalene. It wasn’t until 1969 that the Roman Catholic Church finally acknowledged that there is no scriptural evidence that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.

It is evident that by the third century the church had become a patriarchal society. One could argue that it started that way from the first 12 male disciples. Yet each of the four canonical Gospels record that WOMEN were the first to go to the tomb and experience the resurrected Christ. While the disciples may not have understood fully they kept the record of the high place Jesus gave women in the kingdom of God.

So on Fathers Day I believe one way we can empower Fathers is to recognize the women who have taught us about the faith. We need more “Fathers of faith.” It is my hope that the United Methodist Men will be as equally strong in mission as the United Methodist Women have been for generations. It is my hope that we will have as many men willing to teach Sunday School as we have had women. Just as it is my hope that someday there will be as many women in ordained ministry as there are men.

Fathers are not empowered when women are made second class. Men in ministry are not empowered when obstacles are created for women in ministry. Men and Fathers are empowered when men and women recognize the unique gifts God gives all of us for ministry.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

All tied up

The 133rd session of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference is now in session.

Well here we are at Annual Conference. This is a special year from me as it is the 20th anniversary of my first conference. I was a page at conference in 1986 when it met at Whitman College in Walla Walla. This year we are meeting at UPS where the majority of our conference sessions are held.

Many things about the life of the Annual Conference are the same as they were 20 years ago. The committees are largely the same, we even have the same colors for nametags and printed paper for each of those committees. The controversial social issues are virtually the same.

Nineteen yeas ago when I attended my first conference at UPS one of the PK's (Preacher's Kid) taught me how to tie a tie for the evening worship service. I didn't wear a tie all the time but for the evening worship services we were encouraged to wear our best clothes, and it was fun. That not to say that I always wore my best clothes during conference, I distinctly remember as a college student wearing shorts, Birkenstocks, and a Bart Simpson T-Shirt. But now I like to wear slacks, shirt and tie, 20 years ago that was the norm, now I am in the minority. I have learned to laugh at the comments and the looks. I suppose some see my wearing a tie as "sucking up." I find it ammusing that when everyone was wearing ties I was wearing sandals and t-shirts and now that everyone is wearing sandals and t-shirts I am wearing a tie. Whatever.

Primarly I wear a tie because I believe the work of the Annual Conference and our worship together is important and wearing a tie reminds me of that. It also helps me to remember all those other years at annual conference and that PK who 19 years ago taught me to tie a tie.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sermon Notes Sunday June 11, 2006

Pharisees, Heresies and the DaVinci Code

Some distortions of the DaVinci Code:
The Council of Nicea created the Bible
The Bible is a collection of works over many centuries. This collection was largely agreed upon 150 years before the Council of Nicea. While there were other Christian groups the majority agreed upon the texts we have now. The primary debate at the Council of Nicea was the question of the nature of Jesus in regards to the debate brought by a group called the Arians.
Priory of Sion
This group was created by some bored French men in 1956. Pierre Plantard who had delusions of nobility created the “Priory of Sion” creating fake documents tying him to the former French monarchy. These forgeries were “discovered” and led to the publication of a book called “The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail.” The book suggests that this priory is protecting the true lineage of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ descendents are protected by the Priory of Sion
If you were to accept the idea that Jesus had descendents through Mary Magdalene the number of those descendents today would be in the hundreds of thousands not a limited few. It’s simply mathematically impossible for a small line of descendents to exist today.
“The Last Supper” by DaVinci hides secret information about the secret bloodline of Jesus.
There are mysteries in DaVinci’s works but the gender of the person to his right is not one. Renaissance paintings often depicted John with a fair face and long hair. John is the disciple Jesus loved according to the Gospel of his name, not Mary.

Our Gospel reading this morning came from the Gospel of John, chapter three the first 17 verses. A Pharisee Nicodemus visits Jesus. He comes by night we are told. Perhaps this is to remind us that Nicodemus is in the dark or perhaps it means that he doesn’t want anyone to know he is visiting this Rabbi Jesus. Nick begins by flattering Jesus “we know that you are a teacher of who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do, apart from the presence of God.” Then we have this very confusing dialogue about being born from above. Nick is shown as the fool who doesn’t get it.

The primary belief of the Pharisees was that all Jews should live according to the Law, the writings of what we call the Old Testament. They were one of a number of groups within ancient Judaism that functioned something like political parties or denominations. The Pharisees are experts of Jewish Law and experts in law tend to become wrapped up in the literal, certainly that’s what happens to poor Nic.

It is my impression that many Christians and many more non Christians want clarity about Christian belief. They desire Christian Pharisees to interpret for them, what Christians believe. Sometimes the Christian Pharisees gain a great deal of power and influence because they are so effective with interpreting and if necessary creating Christian Law.

Christian’s get edgy when “true doctrine” is challenged and “The DaVinci Code” is intentional at pressing those buttons. So here we are today talking about the Book and the Movie. The protesters don’t want to watch the movie or read the book out of fear that they will become contaminated. They are happy to have the Church or their local pastor reveal the truth to them. The fundamentalists love to cry out when traditional Christian Teaching is attacked.

I think a number of people are talking about “The DaVinci” code because people are genuinely curious about the life of Jesus and the ancient Church. I believe Christian people and non-Christian people genuinely want more information about the foundations of the world’s largest and most powerful religion.

I believe we must be like Nicodemus and seek out the truth from Jesus Christ. Nic didn’t fully understand what Jesus was saying. As the early church considered Jesus’ life, death and resurrection they talked about Love. The reading from the letter to Timothy says, “Love comes from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some people have deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk. . .” The first concern for our faith is to talk about Love. When the church forgets to be loving it deviates to meaningless talk.

This story Dan Brown has created has people talking once again about who Jesus is and what we believe about Jesus. For this we owe Mr. Brown our thanks.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sermon Notes Sunday June 4, 2006

Movement of the Spirit: Acts 2:1-21

Our United Methodist Symbol is a flame next to a cross. This symbol represents the Holy Spirit moving the church forward. This symbol was created when the United Brethren Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church became the singular “United Methodist Church.” With this union there was much hope for ecumenical relationships and the movement of the Holy Spirit brining the church together in unity.

Those dreams of unity have long disappeared as differences within the church regarding doctrinal standards, the place of “experience” in theology and disagreements about our social principles threaten to create the “Untied” Methodist Church.

Church history is filled with movements of unity becoming fractured. Our reading today describes the very movement of the Holy Spirit as the people began speaking and understanding a variety of languages. The first movement of the Holy Spirit was a movement toward diversity. Within a period of two hundred years there were many church communities spread to the edges of the Roman empire. Each of these early Christian communities began incorporating their understanding of the Jesus story into their culture and society and there was a diversity of Christian schools of thought.

When Christianity became a legal religion in the Roman Empire in 313 Constantine began to align the power of Rome with the power the Church. The council of Nicaea in 325 was brought together in order to create some order within the faith. At stake was the accepted understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ and the relationship of Jesus to “the Father.” The “Nicaean Creed” was created from the decisions of this council. Groups such as the Arians and the Gnostics were deemed Heretics by the majority.

In the 11th century the church split over a debate of what is called the “Filioque clause.” The phrase literally means “and the son” The great debate was whether the Holy Spirit comes directly from “the Father” and/or from “the Son.” The Eastern Church rejected the clause as an addition to the original creed and the Western Church was increasingly accepting it. The result was a church split that was as much about language, culture and politics as it was about theology.

This wouldn’t be the last church split. On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther posted 95 theses (arguments) primarily aimed at the practice of the selling of indulgences. Indulgences were papers of forgiveness sold by the church. It was a great little fundraiser. With the new invention of the printing press Luther’s arguments spread rapidly and soon a separatist church movement was born.

Not all church splits were differences of theology. Henry the VIII divorced himself from the Roman church when Pope Clement VII refused to annul Henry’s marriage with Catherine of Aragorn. Henry simply took matters into his own hands and Parliament created the Church of England.

Methodism was born not out of a theological controversy but with the movement of the Holy Spirit in the life of John Wesley. John’s desire was to strengthen the faith within the Church of England. He despaired at those who would attend church for the appearance of faith. He was moved to help the poor and saw that it was the churches work to care for the poor and oppressed. It was his deep desire that the people of America could receive the sacraments that moved him to ordain preachers to send to America and effectively split himself from the Church of England.

The history of the church is a history of diversity and the movement of the Holy Spirit bringing unity and moving people to the needs of others, sometimes at the expense of church unity. There are some who are anxious about the future of the United Methodist Church as we continue to debate with one another about theology and society. Yet there are also movements of unity. The Methodist of the UK and the Church of England are talking about unification. The Church of England and Roman Catholic Church are strengthening their ties. The Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches are talking with one another in an increasingly friendly manner.

How do we become open to the movement of the Holy Spirit? We begin by being continually willing to grow as individuals and as a community. We must be willing to change and to be changed.

This Pentecost can be an anniversary date for you to reflect on and to look forward with. First: In what ways have you noticed the movement of the Holy Spirit in your life this past year?

Secondly: What changes do you feel the Holy Spirit calling you to consider in this next year? (more devotional time, giving up a bad habit, closer relationships?)

Third: How are you going to allow the Holy Spirit to move you and strengthen you in the next year. What are you going to do today, what are you going to do on Monday that begin the process?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

June Newsletter article

Longview United Methodist Church is a beacon of diversity in our community. We encourage each individual in their spiritual journey as they become a disciple for Jesus Christ.

Leadership Team met this past month to check in with our process of following our mission and our goals. When the mission statement emerged in our strategic planning sessions this past winter we also created a set of focus area’s to go with them. It was helpful to notice that in just a few months we have already done much and a few of our goals have been reached.

Focus area: Ministry with the deaf community and people hard of hearing.
Efforts we made with more banners and liturgical art to improve the overall acoustics of the sanctuary. Some of our hard of hearing folks are still report that they can’t hear the pastor well. An Assisted Listening System will be here for a try out in June. We are in conversation with people familiar with American Sign Language so that we can have regular interpretation at our worship services.

Focus area: Acceptance and Celebration of Diversity.
Plans are underway for a LUMC entry in the 4th of July parade. A design with a lighthouse (beacon of diversity) and a rainbow will be used.

Focus area: Decreases Drug Abuse in the Community.
We are hosting an NA meeting at LUMC each Tuesday evening. Church members and I are involved with local groups and agencies working with the drug abuse problem.

Focus area: Increase membership of LUMC.
The wheelchair accessible bathroom was completed in April helping us to be more welcoming. We continue to receive new visitors. Improvements need to be made with visitor follow up and creating tools to help church members invite friends, relatives, associates and neighbors. May worship attendance average was 74 people (2005 was 68).

We have not achieved perfection yet but we are continuing to do a lot to fulfill the mission that God is calling us into. I ask that you continue to pray for our mission and for the goals we will set and achieve as we grow together.

Grace and Peace,

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Summer Reading List

If you are like me, at the end of the school year some of your teachers would give you a “summer reading lists.” Of course you never read any of the books on the list or if you did you waited until the last week of August.

This year I am challenging myself with an ambitious reading list. The list was compiled after consulting some friends and church members. At the end of the day the list is primarily made up of books that were already on my shelf because I had purchased them for a variety of reasons. It is also likely that I will add one or two books after Annual Conference as I always buy the books at the “Bishop’s Recommendations” table at the Cokesbury display. It is my hope to publish a short review/book report on “graceandstuff” as I complete each book. Some books I will be reading a chapter a week throughout the summer, some I will be reading in a period of a few days. Below are the books with a short commentary about each one. So here they are in alphabetical order by author.

Covey, Stephen R. The 8th Habit. Free press, 2004
I have already started this book but will begin again in the first week of June with the intention to read one chapter a week. Not only is it a book but it comes with a great DVD. Now, I wonder what happened with the other 7 habits? Hmmm.

Crossan, John Dominic and Reed, Jonathan L. Excavating Jesus, beneath the stones, behind the texts. HarperSanFrancisco, 2001
This book is on my shelf as it has come to me from my great uncle Rev. George Foye who passed away a couple of years ago. Uncle George was a member of the Cal-Pac (Southern California) Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Crossan is a well known Jesus scholar and I am looking forward to what he has to say.

Diamond, Jared. Collapse, how societies choose to fail or succeed. Viking, 2005
Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” was a fantastic work explaining how civiliztions began and why they developed the way the did. I am looking forward to see if he was as effective with “Collapse.”

Kasser, Meyer and Wurst. Eds. The Gospel of Judas. National Geographic, 2006
The June Sermon series is titled “The DaVinci Code, The Gospel of Judas, and other Heresies” This Gnostic Gospel should be interesting for what it reveals about Gnostic Christianity.

Keri, Jonah. Ed. Baseball Between the Numbers, why everything you know about the game is wrong. Basic Books, 2006
I was introduced to thinking about baseball in a new way in 1995 when I began regularly reading Rob Neyer’s columns on Then came “Moneyball” in 2001. Then I began regularly reading the fine work at . They recommended another blog Deanna from this site is sponsoring a book club which is reading this book and another on my summer list. If my math teachers had used math the way these guys do for baseball perhaps I would have done my homework more often.

Kouzes, James M. and Posner, Barry Z. Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge. Jossey Bass, 2004
I picked this up while I was attending the Leadership Institute at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS. I haven’t read it yet and that was 8 months ago. The forward is by John Maxwell too!

Krosney, Herbert. The Lost Gospel, The Quest for the Gospel of Judas Iscariot. National Geographic. 2006
Book II from the National Geographic team.

Maddox, Randy L. Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s practical theology. Kingswood Books, 1994
A pastor friend recommended this when I was seeking recommendations for my summer reading. I recognized the name and author immediately as it was one of those books I bought while I was in seminary. I just never found a reason to read it, until now.

McLaren, Brian D. A Generous Orthodoxy. Zondervan, 2004
I have really enjoyed McLaren’s other works “A new kind of Christian” and “The story we find ourselves in.” McLaren is speaking at this year’s COR Leadership Institute and I am really looking forward to hearing him speak.

Meacham, Jon. American Gospel, God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. Random House, 2006
Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” must sell millions of books. I bought this book after the author’s appearance on the show. I have been curious about the topic of “the founding fathers” and their faith since my days as a history major at WSU.

Olney, Buster. The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty, the game, the team, and the cost of greatness. CCC, Harper Collins, 2004
Buster can thank Deanna at I would never have bought a Yankee book but this is next on her book club list. At least its about the decline and fall of the Yankees and not some propaganda about their greatness (I hope.)

Robinson, Marilynne. Gilead, a novel. Picador, 2004
This is one of those paperbacks I picked up simply because it had a sticker on it that read, “winner of the Pulitzer prize.” Then I found an article about Robinson in a recent article of “The Christian Century.” Its good to get a fictional novel in the mix too.

Sellon, Mary K. and Smith, Daniel P. Practicing Right Relationship, skills for deepening purpose, finding fulfillment, and increasing effectiveness in your congregation. The Alban Institute, 2005
Dan and Mary are awesome and I wanted to give this book a look over as Kendra begins a new appointment and I refresh myself for another great year at LUMC.

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Monday, May 22, 2006

The BIble and Homosexuality

Does the Bible condemn homosexuality?
The people of Biblical times did not talk about homosexuality as we do today. They presumed that all people were created to fall in love with people of the opposite gender.
There are five primary references of homosexuality in the Bible.
Genesis 19:5 “and they called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.’”
The account in Genesis of the destruction of Sodom is the origin of the term “sodomy.” It is clear God’s condemnation is about the violence the crowd wishes to inflict on God’s messenger’s who were guest in Lot’s house and not on homosexuality.
Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
Some point to Leviticus and its commands that a man should not lie with a man and yet Leviticus also condemns wearing clothing with mixed fabrics. Christians understand that Christ gave us a new covenant and that we are no longer bound by the Levitical Law code.
I Corinthians 6:9 “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be decieved! Fornicaters, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites,” (NRSV)
Or “. . . no fornicator or idolater, no adulterer or sexual pervert,” (REB)
Or “. . . the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, the self indulgent, sodomites."
The most difficult passages come from the New Testament in Paul’s letters to Rome and Corinth and Timothy. In I Corinthians 6:9 and in the letter to Timothy Paul uses a word that is not found in other Greek writings of the same period. Some scholars have suggested that it is a word created by Paul. The word is “arsenokoites” is often translated as sodomites, it can also mean literally “male bed.” Some scholars have compared the Biblical reference of this word to other Greek writings and found that the term could refer to male prostitution or some economic exploitation of sex. Most scholars will agree we simply don’t know for sure what it means and that its translation as “sodomy” or “sexual perverts” is a modern presumption.
The other New Testament word sometimes understood to refer to homosexuality is “malakos.” This word is translated in I Cor. 6:9 as “male prostitutes” but in the Gospel of Luke it is translated as “soft.” Luther’s reformation Bible translated these terms as “effeminate” (malakos) and “violators of boys” (arsenokoitai).
In Romans 1:26-27 “For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”
In Romans 1:26-27 Paul condemns people for “unnatural” intercourse. Paul presumes that all people are created in the same way. He had little idea that some people are born to fall in love with others of the same gender. Modern psychiatry beginning with Freud has conducted a good deal of research regarding homosexuality. In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of disorders. Researchers today are studying brain activity and genetics to further understand our natural sexual desires.
We believe that it is natural for some people to fall in love with others of the same gender.
But it seems immoral!
Paul’s concern, and ours too is with sexual morality. If Paul is saying that prostitution is immoral, we agree! If Paul is saying that pedophilia is immoral, we agree! We believe sex is a sharing of intimacy for consenting adults. We also condemn the exploitation of sexuality in many forms in our society.
What about sex in marriage?
We affirm that sex is best shared in a marriage covenant. Therefore we urge the government and the church to affirm same sex marriage as a moral and legal covenant.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Comments are UP

Its time to take blogging to the next level. Comments.

Comments will be monitered and require a "word verification" process. The word verification is used to prevent "spam" programs from creating comments. I will be monitering comments to prevent people from taking the blog in a direction it isn't meant to go.

Hopefully this will be a fun way to talk about our faith and church.



Encourage Each Individual


"Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. "

Some time ago one of my clergy colleagues wrote to tell me that he wished to be a “Barnabas” for me. I was puzzled, what did that mean? I knew that Barnabas traveled around with Paul. But I didn’t really know that much about him. After some study of the Bible I found that Barnabas is a name given to a man named Joseph who was from Cyprus. The name Barnabas means “Son of Encouragement.” Now that’s cool! Don’t we all need someone in our life who is there to encourage us? Barnabas is introduced to us one who gave all he owned to the church (Acts 4:36) The following are some verses from Acts that talk about Barnabas.

Acts 11:25 “Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul”

Acts 13:1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler,a and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 14: 12 “Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.”

Clearly for the Early Christian Church Encouragement came from supportive relationships. When the work was hard, when life was difficult the apostle Paul was encouraged by in faith by relationships with others in the faith community.

LUMC has been called to encourage others on their faith journey.

One task for the encourager is to discover what inspires a particular individual. What is inspiring to one may not be inspiring to another. One person might be encouraged in faith through music ministry and another through mission projects. One person might be encouraged through visitation ministry another through Bible study.

One result of encouragement is the discovery of new hope and with it new life. One dilemma often faced within mainline churches is that good and faithful people sometimes forget how their life has been transformed by faith. For Paul and the Apostles the transformation is clear. The risen Christ has revealed to them God’s kingdom on earth and they live in that kingdom each day.

Encouragement grows from one individual to another.

When I played soccer in Junior High I was most proud of when I received “most inspirational” award. I was so proud of that. I played soccer for three years, never scored a goal. I wasn’t the most talented player on the team, but there were some on the team who found my relationship with them to be “inspirational.”

Encouragement comes out of relationship.

We know that we need affirmation. Each of us have emotional and spiritual bank accounts that we keep. Sometimes we have separate accounts for different relationships. We know what it feels like when those accounts are full and when they are empty or even negative. Its not fair but reality is that it takes more encouragement, affirmation and love to fill the account than criticism, disregard, or neglect takes to empty it. Healthy people find ways to develop relationships that fill the bank account and they fill the bank account of others. To be a "Barnabas" for another means that we are working to keep the bank accounts full.

Encouragement helps us experience the Holy.

When we build up one another in Love we create the community of the Kingdom of God. I believe people are looking for authentic communities where all people can grow in love

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

May Newsletter Article

A Mission for LUMC

Longview United Methodist Church is a beacon of diversity in our community. We encourage each individual in their spiritual journey as they become a disciple for Jesus Christ.

The preceding is the new mission statement for LUMC that developed during our consultation this past winter. I am really excited about the possibilities of this mission statement. We have recognized our value of diversity in both our mission with the community and our relationship with one another. Diversity is something we should value.

Of course the hard part is living this out. While people talk about diversity we often mean a diverse group of people like me. Last year we were challenged by Kristina Gonzalez from the conference office to live with the tension of true diversity. Are we willing to be diverse culturally and theologically? Are we only willing to be culturally diverse if we all think the same way theologically? Are we willing to be theologically diverse only if we have similar economic or educational backgrounds?

Living into diversity takes a deep understanding of God’s Grace. With diversity comes conflict. Conflict is not to be avoided but approached with an understanding of God’s grace. Our mission statement is not only about the work of the church, it is also a statement about how we want to live as individuals. We are most often challenged by diversity in our personal relationships. Our friends, family and fellow church members see the world differently than we do. Sometimes it is painful to realize they do not agree with us. The challenge then is how are we going to be in relationship with those with whom we disagree?

If our relationships are informed by “become a disciple for Jesus Christ.” I believe that we will be OK. As Disciples we will go forward by the Grace of God continuing to discover the movement of the holy in our lives. May God bless us as we live into the Mission of Longview United Methodist Church.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Find Your Path, Sunday April 30th

Luke 24:13-35

The Path Begins with Questions
Two men were walking along the road talking about the events of the past day. They knew about Jesus and his ministry. They had hopes that Jesus would be the one to free Israel from the Roman occupation. Perhaps they were part of the crowd that celebrated his entry into Jerusalem. Then it was all over. Jesus was crucified.
Leads to Discovery
As they walk a stranger comes to them and begins to remind them of the scriptures. This stranger talks about the Messiah and his ultimate purpose. Finally as the stranger breaks bread with them they discover the stranger is the Risen Christ.

Find Your Path
The Joy of Discovery. People Get excited about discovery.
Do you remember the first time you were able to ride a bike and that moment when you were able to balance those two wheels and peddle yourself forward? That was such great freedom! The Joy of discovering what you could do!
Do you remember when learning was fun? Remember when you looked in that microscope in science class? When I was in the fifth grade I once spent a whole recess looking at Salmon eggs through a microscope. It was so cool!

Self, loved child of God Prevenient Grace
I believe the first step on our spiritual journey is one of self discovery. The primary element is that God loves you so much, that Christ came to live, die and rise again so you might have eternal live. God Loves You! You are lovable.

God, source of love Justifying Grace
As you discover God’s love you seek to live in that more. You take steps along the spiritual journey to continue to experience God’s love. You respond to people who affirm God’s love and you remove yourself from those who (for whatever reason) try to steer you away from the path of love.

Living in Love Sanctifying Grace
As we grow in our awareness of God’s love we want to share the greatest gift with others. The journey leads us to care for others and work to bring the Kingdom of God to our world today.

Disciples first Find their Path, and then Share the Journey (next week)

Continuing the Sermon

In what ways can you grow in your awareness of God’s love for you?
Is there something you need to do for yourself to affirm that you are a person of great worth?
What commitments can you make for your spiritual life to grow?
In what ways are you helping others?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter 2006

"God is closer than you think"

I am a big baseball fan. I follow baseball with a passion that is perhaps just shy of being obsessive. When I lived in Dallas Texas I would go to four or five Texas Ranger Baseball games a year. When the Mariners where in town I would go to as many games as I could. One time we were at the Ballpark and as the sun was setting I realized that I was having trouble seeing the ball. I looked up and the lights were on. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t see so well. So explained to Kendra I was having trouble seeing and she looked at me with loving amusement and said, “Bruce, you still have your sunglasses on.”

God is always there with us but there are times when we aren’t able to see as well as we normally do. Sometimes we are blind to the holy activity taking place in our midst. If we are lucky there will be someone who can lovingly look at us and remind us to take our blinders off.

Did you notice in the Gospel reading, that even after the Disciples had run to the tomb and Mary had been talking with Angels, she couldn’t see Jesus for who he was, it took the gentle word of saying her name for her eyes to be opened? Here she was in the midst of a miracle and she almost missed it. Wrapped up in her grief and her own expectations of the way things should be she almost missed God’s activity.

I find it remarkable when a scientist who studies the cosmos is unable to be filled with awe and wonder of God’s activity. There are some who get so wrapped up into the math and the theories and the questions about the nature of the physical universe they miss the miracles in their work. When you look at the stars aren’t you filled with awe and wonder? When you look at the cosmos don’t you begin to feel small in the midst of God’s wonderful creation?

Equally I find it remarkable that some who study genetics and micro biology, that they aren’t greatly humbled by God’s gift of life. Life is a gift that begins the simplicity of a cell. We can study cells, we can help them multiply and we can kill them, but we can’t create them. Life is a wonderful miracle.

As we have moved from an agricultural and rural society to an industrial and urban one, one of the miracles we have lost as a common experience is the miracle of birth in its many forms. One spring when I was a child our Cat was expecting a litter of Kittens. My sister must have been about five years old at the time and this Cat was her cat. She named it Mog after a cat in one of her story books. She fed Mog and Mog seemed to go wherever my sister went. One morning my sister awoke to a surprise in her bed, Mog had given birth to her kittens right there next to my sister as she slept. Mog seemed to have wanted my sister to be a part of the miracle of birth.

As a pastor I am occasionally asked to be present when people are near death. Like birth sometimes death can be a time of God’s grace being revealed to us. One occasion I was asked to come as the family had prayerfully made the decision to remove dad from the machines, which would likely end his life. We gathered together and prayed as we listened as his body took its final breathes. When the last breathe left his body we mourned but we also anticipated the miracle of new life, of resurrection. God’s grace was revealed as we considered the suffering that was over and the eternal joy that was beginning.

Are you ready for the truth? As John Ortberg has stated in his book, “God is closer than you think.” One of our failings as human people is that we believe so much in ourselves that we forget to notice the miracles God is performing around us all the time. Are you ready to notice the miracle of the immense size of God’s creation. God has created billions of galaxies and billions of stars in each galaxy and here we are on this one planet able to admire it all. Our life is dependent upon billions of cells working in harmony with each other. Skin cells, blood cells, tissue cells, nerve cells and many more all working so that we can enjoy life. We are able to witness the miracle of birth if we only open our eyes. We can witness the birth of new plants, or of new pets or of new members in our family.

We can even come to death with awe and wonder at God’s grace, because Jesus faced death, died on a cross, and miracle of miracles he rose again!

God is close if you are ready to notice. This is not a promise that things will always go the way we want them too. We are fragile creatures prone to disease and aging. I find it ironic that sometimes those who are most alive are those who are dying. My wife Kendra often talks fondly of her grandfather who she called “Pop.” When Kendra was about 10 years old Pop was dying of cancer. One summer he knew it would be his last and they had a great summer. They saw movies, they ate ice cream, Pop spent as much time with his granddaughter as he could. He was one who was faced with the reality that life is short and he wasn’t going to waste a moment. That time they shared together was a gift of Grace, a tangible sign of God’s love.

God is close if you are ready to notice. Take notice of the miracle of life and treasure it!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Joy of Laughter

When we arrived at Disneyland we immediately headed for Space Mountain the newly remodeled Disneyland roller coaster. I was a bit nervous as but I practiced letting go of those nervous feelings as we quickly moved through the line. The experience of the ride was fantastic. This coaster is unique in that it is so dark you cannot see the track so you have no idea what will happen next as you climb, dive and turn. I laughed, I screamed, I had a great time. I felt so good to laugh!

Then it started to rain. Normally this is no big deal but part of the purpose of leaving the Pacific Northwest for vacation is so that you can get some sunshine! And not only that but the last time we were in Disneyland it rained for four days! I began to get depressed with the rain. We took a break for lunch and went back to our Hotel room and I looked up the forecast and became more depressed when the "Weather Channel" predicted rain all day and more showers the next day. Finally on the ride back to the park I began telling myself this is silly, relax. I bought an umbrella and that cheered me up quite a bit. At least the rain would be off of my head. Then as we began walking around the park it became evident that we were on of the few crazy people who remained at the Park. THERE WERE NO LINES. What a wonderful opportunity, Disneyland withouth the wait. Want to ride the latest attraction, no problem, walk on in. We were even offered another go on Splash Mountain. How often do you get the offer for a second ride without getting back in line?

There was one point while we were at the California Adventure park that I realized that my face hurt from smiling so much. What a joy to have been smiling so much that my face hurts!

Easter season should be a joy and it has been great to have a short vacation to prepare for this Holy Week

Monday, April 03, 2006


We are in Anaheim!

The whole adventure started Saturday evening when I became ill. Sunday morning I looked at Kendra and said, "I don't think I can make it to church." If there was a good time to be ill this was it. Kendra was home with a vacation day and she was able to lead worship for me at LUMC. I really missed worshiping at the church but I was glad Kendra could fill in for me. Now I owe Kendra a Sunday off.

Our vacation plan for the past several weeks had been to leave Sunday after church and drive to LA for a few days at Disneyland. We were taking 7 people, Kendra Brianna and I along with my sister, her two girls who are about Brianna's age and my mom.

I decided that I was well enough to travel when the girls came back from church. So we loaded up the rented mini-van and began driving for LA. At 1:30 P.M. we crossed the border into Oregon and the girls declared "were bored." Wow, it took them a whole hour! It was then when I understood my sister's desire to drive as much as we could through the night as the girls were sleeping. A book on CD kept the girls quietly listening for an hour and we managed to keep them relatively happy as I tried to rest and recover from my illness.

Kendra announced our crossing into California around 8:30 P.M. Soon after that the girls were asleep in the back seat and we settled down for a big drive. Kendra continued driving until about 11:00 and then my sister took over. A 2:00 A.M. Gas stop woke up everyone. I took over the driving and made it to a rest stop at about 4:00 A.M. I took a 45 minute nap while the girls decided that it must be time to be awake. I woke up and decided to start driving again and see if the girls would fall back asleep. They did. We stopped for breakfast at a truck stop about 120 miles North of L.A. around 6:00. We were hoping that would allow enough time for the traffic to lighten up.

To our great Joy traffic in L.A. was rather light (we never stopped to a standstill) and we arrived at Disneyland at 9:30! Longview to Disneyland in 21 hours!Having made such great time we enquired about extending our three day passes for an extra day. For a mere $80 per person we could have. Instead we are recovering from our drive at that hotel. The girls are swimming in the pool, and the adults are taking turns napping.

Grace and Peace,Bruce

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Views of Jesus: Paul
Ephesians 2:1-10

Forgiveness in other world Religions:
“Take forgiveness. Two levels here. One level: forgiveness means you shouldn’t develop feelings of revenge. Because revenge harms the other person, therefore it is a form of violence. With violence, there is usually counterviolence. This generates even more violence—the problem never goes away. So that is one level. Another level: forgiveness means you should try not to develop feelings of anger toward your enemy. Anger doesn’t solve the problem. Anger only brings uncomfortable feelings to yourself. Anger destroys your own peace of mind. Your happy mood never comes, not while anger remains. I think that’s the main reason why we should forgive. With calm mind, more peaceful mind, more healthy body. An agitated mind spoils our health, very harmful for body. This is my feeling.”[1] (Quoting the Dalai Lama)
The concept of performing atonement from one's wrongdoing (Prayaschitta— Sanskrit: Penance), and asking for forgiveness is very much a part of the practice of Hinduism. Prayashitta is related to the law of Karma. Karma is a sum of all that an individual has done, is currently doing and will do. The effects of those deeds and these deeds actively create present and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one's own life, and the pain in others.
Those who avoid major sins and acts of indecencies and when they are angry they forgive. Qur'an (42:37) and that The reward of the evil is the evil thereof, but whosoever forgives and makes amends, his reward is upon Allah. Qur'an (42:40).

Paul is like us, Forgiven
Is a Jew born with a father who is a Roman citizen. He describes himself as a member of the tribe of Benjamin and as a Pharisee. Our first encounter with Paul in Scripture is as he is described holding the coats of those who are stoning St. Stephen to death. Paul has a good deal of social standing, in his younger life he is proud of that status and is zealous for his faith (Judaism).
Paul was not a Disciple. His only encounter with Jesus is a post resurrection encounter. Paul is struck blind on the road to Damascus and in his physical blindness he encounters the risen Christ. From Christ he receives forgiveness for his persecution of the followers of Jesus. Paul’s acceptance of God’s grace transforms the history of the world.
Paul’s life has been transformed by grace and he spends the rest of his life seeing that others have the same opportunity that he has had, to know the life changing effects of God’s grace. He is lead not to Jerusalem but to Ephesus, Corinth, Athens and Rome. He is determined that the transformational love of Jesus Christ not be reserved for Jewish people, but that all people have the opportunity to receive the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are forgiven People
This text in Ephesians is the core text for Methodist and Christian people throughout the world. This text was foundational for Wesley’s theology of grace. When he went to the poor, the young and the outcast he talked to them about the love God has for all people. He accepted those who had felt excluded by the church. That act of acceptance changes lives. When we talk about Christ, when we talk about our faith we need to talk about acceptance of God’s grace.

Forgiveness is good for us
Tension over time may cause our blood vessels to constrict or become narrow. Narrow blood vessels decrease the flow of blood to adequately supply oxygen and other nutrients to our body's cells. Furthermore, when we hold a lot of muscle tension, we breathe more shallow - robbing our body of much needed oxygen. Our digestive system may be thrown off-balance. Our immune system may suffer. Our body's response to these negative thoughts is very much like our body's response to stress. And the truth is, these thoughts are stressful. When we hold onto the hurt of a wrongdoing, we are really continuing to hurt ourselves - emotionally and physically.

Forgive others as God has forgiven us
Paul saw Jesus through the lens of forgiveness. Who knows the guilt that Paul carried with him when he was an active participant in the murder of others because they claimed that Jesus was the Messiah? Who knows the bitterness he might have felt for those who put him in Jail because he was a follower of Jesus Christ? If he had wallowed in guilt we would not know about Jesus today. If he had allowed bitterness to become hatred we would not know about grace today. Forgiveness is vital for healthy life and faith.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Waiting for a Call

Each Spring United Methodist Clergy across the country begin to wonder, “Am I going to get a call from the cabinet this year?” The Cabinet is the group that makes appointments for United Methodist Clergy to local churches, it consist of a Bishop and her or his District Superintendents.

When I was a student at WSU, a friend of mine who is a pastor called me asking if I knew about any clergy who were moving this year. I didn’t have a clue. Apparently he was charting all the moves that he had heard about. I don’t know if he was thinking of moving that year or if he just made a chart each year.

Now with the internet we get updates as decisions’ are made about appointments. They will read something like: "Bishop Simpson has announced her/his intention (Bishops can always change their minds) to appoint Sally Smith to Gravelrock UMC effective July 1st." So now we can all chart the moves. Sally was at Riverbed UMC so now that is open . . . sometimes it’s a fun game to play, a bit like chess or a jigsaw puzzle.

This year Kendra is up for a new appointment. The church she has served these past three years is making some staffing changes for their budget. As a clergy couple we pose some extra challenges to the cabinet. We need appointments within a reasonable commuting distance. Yet, we are really not very different from most other clergy who have working spouses and need to be within a commuting distance for their jobs.

So this year we are prayerfully waiting for that phone call where a cabinet member will ask Kendra to consider an appointment. Hopefully it will be within a commutable distance of Longview. However, there is a chance that we will both have to move. If that happens I will trust in the mysterious working of the Holy Spirit to provide the right clergy person for Longview UMC.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Views of Jesus: "The Jews"

Sunday March 19, 2006
John 2:13-22

Often modern Christians forget that Jesus was not a Christian, he was a Jew. As we have seen from some of our earlier views of Jesus, he was influenced by his place and time. We don’t know a great deal about Jesus’ political leanings. Perhaps he was influenced through John the Baptist by the Essenes. Perhaps he was influenced by his friends such as Peter living in rural poverty in the shadow of the wealth of the Roman Empire.

Judaism of the first century was under the control of the temple authorities. These authorities were divided into different political parties, the two leading parties are names we know well from the Gospels: Pharisees and Sadducees. At the time of Jesus’ life the primary political role for these groups was to maintain order. While they might disagree about theological issues such as resurrection of the dead or the application of Jewish law, their primary concern was to maintain the order of the Temple.

The Temple in Jerusalem was the center of Judaism. A pilgrimage to the Temple was for many a once a lifetime event. The Temple authorities were given some cultural control and a certain amount of autonomy within the Roman Empire as long as tribute was paid. Now the Temple authorities must have been in a bit of a bind. They need to raise funds not only for themselves but also to pay taxes to Rome.

When Kendra and I were touring around England we would often go to visit one of the grand Cathedrals from the Middle Ages. These are remarkable works of architecture and to stand in one is to understand the people’s reverence for God and desire to build a place that helps you to feel small in the presence of God. While we were in England it seemed to become more and more common for the Cathedrals to begin charging a fee for tourist to visit these churches. For a few Pounds you could stand in a sanctuary that was five, six sometimes eight hundred years old. I understood the financial need yet it also seemed sad to me that the church was reduced to needing to charge tourist to visit these holy places.

From a Christian point of view we understand Jesus’ actions at the Temple. Jesus is signaling that he is going to overturn the status quo. He is right to be angry about the abuses of the system. He is right to be angry at money changers who are making a profit off of the working poor who wish to buy an animal for sacrifice. From a Christian point of view this makes perfect sense, but to “The Jews”, this only means trouble.

For insiders of the institution they must be asking “Who does this guy think he is anyway?” Especially as John has placed the text at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry he doesn’t even have a following yet. He’s just some guy from Galilee with a few friends. Who does he think he is?

For the Jewish leaders Jesus outrage is cause for serious concern. Their authority is given by Rome explicitly with the understanding that they can control the people. They cannot abide any loss of control. This is a serious act of trouble, who does this guy think he is?

I believe when we consider “The Jews” in the Bible we best not hear the story as if we are better than the authorities of that time. Sometimes I am a Pharisee, concerning myself with the rules of the church. Sometimes I am a Sadducee wanting to correct what I think is the poor theology of others. Sometimes I am a Zealot who wants to overthrow the current authorities and to take control of the situation right now.

Often Christians today resemble “The Jews” of John’s Gospel. We are concerned with the maintenance of our institution. We worry about money, numbers of people and living in the midst of an empire. What would Jesus want to drive out of our churches today? Whose tables would he want to overturn?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Youth Prayer

This past Sunday the LUMC Youth Group studied prayer. We studied the Lord's Prayer and then I asked the youth to write their own version. Here is one I wanted to share with you.

Jesus's Old Man
You are my cool homedog.
You are my sanctuary.
Can I have a quarter pounder with cheese?
Please forgive me
If you can forgive me, I can forgive others.
Lead us to good things, not bad things.