Thursday, December 27, 2007

On the Third day of Christmas . . .

Merry Christmas Y'all!

I know I am a bit of a church geek but I get annoyed that the radio station that has been playing Christmas songs since before Advent quits playing them the day after Christmas and goes back to its regular music. THERE ARE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS PEOPLE! And the local "Christian" radio station should know that! Ugh. At least the British have the decency to also have December 26th as a national holiday (Boxing Day.) They get one more whole day of Christmas in (and if you saw all they do to celebrate you would understand why it takes two days.)

I don't know about you but I want to enjoy Christmas for more than one day.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sunday December 23

Study Guide
12 days of Christmas

Christmas Day is the first day of Christmas (you know, with the partridge in the pear tree.) The Study guide for the next two weeks will guide us through these days.

Monday, Christmas Eve: Read Psalm 96 as a song of joy.
As you prepare for the celebration of the arrival of Christ what are you able to give thanks to God for this day?

Tuesday, Christmas Day: Read Luke 2:1-20
Remember that the shepherds were not well respected by society. God’s messenger does not go to the homes of the rich and powerful, but to the meek and the outcast. God’s word often comes from unexpected sources if we listen. Listen carefully this day for God’s word to you.

Wednesday, the 2nd Day of Christmas: Read 2nd Corinthians 5:16-21
Paul proclaims that anyone who knows Christ is a new creation and that we have been given a ministry of reconciliation. On this second day of Christmas in what way can you continue to grow as God’s new creation?

Thursday, the 3rd Day of Christmas: Read John 3:1-10
This is an amusing account of Jesus talking with Nicodemus as they seemingly are talking from two different worlds. Nicodemus just doesn’t get it, he is thinking of literal things, Jesus is talking about spiritual things. Do you get it? How is Jesus helping you to be born again?

Friday, the 4th day of Christmas: Read Ephesians 1:3-14
Paul begins his letter to the church in Ephesus proclaiming they are children of God, and God has given them a great gift, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This gift is your inheritance, no one can take if from you, you can’t exchange it. You can return this gift in praising God and offering your worship. You can re-gift it and share God’s grace with other people in your life.

Saturday, the 5th day of Christmas: Read Colossians 1:15-23
Paul proclaims again that Jesus has reconciled us into a relationship with God and with that act of reconciliation, Christ is the head of the church. Are you ready for a fuller relationship with Christ this year?

Sunday, the 6th day of Christmas: Worship at LUMC 10:00 A.M.
Wesleyan Covenant Service. This traditional Methodist service offers an opportunity for prayer and a reaffirmation of our faith in Christ. It is a prayer of surrender to God’s will, fully placing our trust and our life with God. The founder of Methodism John Wesley used this prayer as a prayer for beginning a new year.

The Covenant Prayer:
I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Creator, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

December Delegation Meeting

Yesterday was our third General / Jurisdictional Conference delegation meeting. I was asked to lead devotions to open the meeting. During the week I gave a lot of thought of what I wanted to share in light of the Diversity Parade in Longview and what it means to be preparing to attend General Conference. The Scriptures at this time of year have several messages from Angels who tell people "don't be afraid." So I read from "The Message" Luke 1:26-38 where Mary is told by Gabriel that she is going to have a child.

Delegates carry some fear about attending these conferences. There are fears about things not going the way we might hope, fears about being prepared for all the work ahead, fears about the potential of broken relationships.

I have some fears about all those things and I pray that God might guide us (me) into this unknown territory.

We were blessed to receive Bishop Jack Tuell who spoke to us about the Judicial Council. He reminded us that the council of Bishops nominate 3 times as many candidates as there are openings every quadrennium. We were also told that the Western Jurisdiction has not had a member on the judicial council in nearly 20 years. There is no provision in the Discipline for regional representation on the Judicial Council.

Speaking of regions . . . one of the intriguing works coming to General Conference is a report regarding the Central (non-United States) Conferences. The United Methodist Church is increasingly becoming a world church and the old system is not working.

The United Methodist Church currently has 7 "Central Conferences" Each of these have many Annual Conferences. These Central Conferences in many ways serve like the Jurisdictions within the U.S. Central Conferences elect and assign Bishops, for example. The big issue is paragraph 543.13 that says: "A central conference shall have authority to edit and publish a central conference Discipline, which shall contain in addition to the Constitution of the Church such sections from the general Discipline of the United Methodist Church as may be pertinent to the entire Church and also such revised, adapted, or new sections as shall have been enacted by the central conference concerned under the powers give by the General Conference."

In other words other than the constitution, Central Conferences are free to make changes to the Discipline in order to meet the ministry needs of the region where they do ministry.

Imagine for a moment the possibilities should the US become its own central conference OR the Western Jurisdiction were to become its own central conference. . .

That isn't going to happen in 2008 but there will be discussions about the relationship of the international church with the US church especially as we become more and more numerically equal.

The other big discussion centered on Jurisdictional Conference and the process of supporting a candidate for Bishop. One issue facing us is while we know of one retirement in the Jurisdiction we are unsure if the General Conference will reduce the number of Bishops for each Jurisdiction. IF the General Conference does that, then we will not be electing a Bishop in 2008 for the Western Jurisdiction. However, those are ifs and buts.

It is the intention of Elaine Stanovsky to participate in the process of Episcopal election if there is an opening at this coming Jurisdictional Conference. The Delegation will be asking her questions and entering a process of examination with her and any others that may be discerning a call regarding the episcopacy. By our Annual Conference rules the delegation "may recommend an episcopal candidate for nomination." Nomination's are also allowed to come from the Annual Conference floor. So in addition to preparing for General Conference we will be entering a time of discernment whether we wish to make a nomination.

There were also practical matters to deal with in our meeting. We talked about hotels and committee assignments. The hotel bookings for the General Conference will happen in January, as the second alternate I am likely to have to wait longer to find out about my arrangements.

4th Week of Advent Study Guide

Study Guide
Preparing for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Through this season of Advent we are seeking understanding of God’s activity in the world. As the world around us creates a commercial holiday loosely based on Christian ideals, what is our understanding of God’s promise for a Messiah?

Monday: Read Isaiah 7:10-16
Ahaz is the King of Israel and he is facing an international crisis. Assyria is a large empire threatening smaller states. The King of Damascus and the King of Samaria are working to overthrow Ahaz to gain strength in their alliance against Assyria. Now that is all cleared up . . . the prophet gives the King a warning but also for the people a sign of hope, Immanuel, God with us. For Christians, Jesus is that child, the one who means that God is with us. What help is it for you today that God is with you?


Tuesday: Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
“Restore us” sings the psalmist. Do you find it comforting that ancient people sometimes felt that they had made such a mess of things that only God could sort it out. “Restore us” we might sing when we consider the situation of the world today too. As you prepare for the coming of Jesus, what do you hope will be restored?



Wednesday: Read Romans 1:1-7
In the opening to this letter Paul makes several statements of faith; God promised a messiah (v.2), Jesus is a descendent of David (v.3), Jesus is the Son of God (v.4), through Jesus we receive Grace (v.5). If you were to write a Christmas letter telling your friends and family about your faith, what statements would you make about who Jesus is? Why would that be important to them?



Thursday: Read Matthew 1:18-25
The angel says to Joseph, “do not be afraid.” Joseph had a lot to fear from friends and family. The social and religious pressure would be tremendous should they discover Mary was pregnant and Joseph wasn’t the father. Family stress at Christmas time is not a new thing. What pressures are you facing from society, friends or family as you try to get ready to welcome Jesus?


Friday: Pray with Joy. What does it mean for Christian people today to be a people of Joy? How have this weeks readings influenced your understanding of God’s activity in the world?

What is your understanding of God’s activity in your life?

What is your understanding of God’s ministry at LUMC?


Sunday December 23rd. 4th Sunday of Advent
Monday December 24th 7:00 P.M. Christmas Eve Service

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Diversity Parade




It became clear among many city and church leaders that the best response to the Aryan Nations meeting was to celebrate diversity with a separate demonstration at a separate time from their meeting. The result was a fantastic community event on a cold and somewhat wet Sunday afternoon.

The Daily News gave us good coverage in Monday's paper you can read the article here.
http://www.tdn.com/articles/2007/12/10/top_story/doc475ce9901207b982193333.txt

Here are a couple more LUMC photos from Bob Martinson.




Weekly Update


This is one of many pictures provided by Bob Martinson from Sunday's celebration of Diveristy.
Plans are underway to have guest preachers to lead us in a series of sermons on the theme of Liberation. I am excited by the possibilities of this series in work with our other ministries to make a real impact on the community. This follows the fantastic community response to the very small Aryan Nations group. LUMC people represented almost 10% of the 500 plus people that attended the parade on Sunday afternoon. We were a vital presence in and with the community to celebrate our common value of living in a diverse community.
I have been working to keep up to date with the recovery from the flooding in Lewis County. It turns out that Lewis County has received an abundance of flood buckets so what is needed now is financial assistance and volunteers to be ready in the coming weeks to help out with Volunteers In Mission teams. I have signed LUMC up as a possible group for participating as a VIM group. Assessments are being made and the necessary work is being done to get United Methodist volunteers helping for continued relief. Up to date information can be found at http://www.pnwumc.org/disasterresponse/index.html

The Leadership Team had a good meeting on Monday and set the foundation for improving our system of following the mission statement for the United Methodist Church to “Make Disciples of Jesus Christ.” We already have some great disciple making ministry happening what we hope to do better in this next year is to be intentional about that ministry. In many cases that will simply mean doing the things we do now, only naming the intention of those ministries and being better about sharing the story of how those ministries are changing lives.

The choir Cantata is always a highlight of the Christmas year and this Sunday should be no exception. Pray that all the choir voices are in good shape as people recover from colds and sore throats. This is a great Sunday to invite your friends to get in the Spirit of what this season is about.

Saturday will the second meeting of the General Conference Delegation. Please pray for our gathering as we plan for the General Conference coming this April. This weeks meeting will focus on educating delegation members about the Judicial Council and its role in the General Conference.

Grace and Peace,
Bruce

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sermon Notes December 9, 2007

A gift of Hope

Sinner. You are a sinner and your momma is a sinner. Y’all are a bunch of sinners. That is the sort of inviting message that John the Baptist is preaching. Good News as we prepare for Christmas! Why is Paul in such a bad mood?

There are times when we are surrounded by so much bad news that we begin to believe that the only news is bad news. Now that the flood waters are receding and the cleanup is beginning the news media will only cover the political chaos likely to follow up this disaster. There will be inquiries into political offices of who didn’t do what when. Yet, there will be little notice of the people helping people, the people who travel from Longview, and many other places to help out with a mop or a shovel, or a meal.

We have the opportunity to be a gift of hope as we help and build relationships. What brings more hope to your life than relationships? We can offer ourselves and our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Hope in a King? That is what the psalmist hopes for, that this leader, this time will get it right. How many times have you put your hope in new leadership only after time to be disappointed? Too often we learn that our leaders are imperfect. They are humans who make mistakes just like the rest of us.

John the Baptist notices the community and religious leaders hanging in the crowd and he yells at them. He declares repentance is the only way. We know that when people seek to repair a relationship the first step is repentance.

Repentance means to literally turn around, to turn away from destructive behavior and to turn toward the living God. Through repentance, a simple act of reconciliation our lives are changed through a new relationship.

Obviously the greatest gift you can give this Christmas is yourself and your faith in the Christ Child. There are people who need you to be graceful and loving. There are people who need you simply to sit and spend some time with them. Take the time this Advent to tend to your relationships.

How is your relationship with Jesus? What do you need to do to deepen that relationship?

How is it with your primary family relationships? What do you need to do to care for those?Study Guide
Preparing for the Third Sunday of Advent

Study Guide

Through this season of Advent we are seeking understanding of God’s activity in the world. As the world around us creates a commercial holiday loosely based on Christian ideals, what is our understanding of God’s promise for a Messiah?

Monday: Read Isaiah 35:1-10

Isaiah delivers a message of hope to people who are out of their house and home and looking for God. Has there been a time when you knew as verse four states that God would come to save you? How might this be a message of hope for those who are comfortable and safe already? What might God be calling the comfortable to do?



Tuesday: Read Luke 1:46b-55

This is Mary’s song of Joy, it is a vision of a world transformed by the child she carries. Is this only the optimistic hope of a first time mother? What would be different in our world if this song became true today?



Wednesday: Read James 5:7-10

A call for patience on the third Sunday of Advent. As Christmas comes closer are you anxious with anticipation or has the holiday created so much stress you just want it to be over with. What would be different in your life if you were anxiously anticipating the arrival of Christ? What needs to happen for you to look forward to having a deeper relationship with Jesus?


Thursday: Read Matthew 11:2-11

This passage shows a close relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus. Jesus doesn’t proclaim himself to be the Messiah, he simply shows what is happening in his work. What evidence do you hope to leave from your life? If someone asked about your faith, would you talk about theology or give an example of something Jesus has done for you?


Friday: Pray for love. What does it mean for Christian people today to be a people of love? How have this weeks readings influenced your understanding of God’s activity in the world?

What is your understanding of God’s activity in your life?

What is your understanding of God’s ministry at LUMC?


Sunday December 16th: Choir Christmas Cantata. A worship of music and praise.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sermon Notes Decemeber 2, 2007

Study Guide
Preparing for the Second Sunday of Advent

Through this season of Advent we are seeking understanding of God’s activity in the world. As the world around us creates a commercial holiday loosely based on Christian ideals, what is our understanding of God’s promise for a Messiah?

Monday: Read Isaiah 11:1-10 A shoot from the stump of Jesse? Jesse was King David’s father. The prophet is proclaiming that while the line of the king has been reduced to nothing (a stump) there is still a king who shall come from those family roots. When this one comes there will be no fear, no danger for there will be total security with this King.

What are the green shoots of hope in your life?


Tuesday: Read Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 This is a Psalm of prayer for the King. Clearly the King is praised when the poor are taken care of. What would the Psalmist say about us and our leaders?

How can we be a people of hope for the poor of the world?


Wednesday: Read Romans 15:4-13 Paul proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah for all people. Gentiles (non Jewish people) are welcomed into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Paul proclaims this as a message of hope for all.

Paul clearly understands that the primary relationship in his life is with Jesus, nothing else matters. What is the state of your relationship with Jesus today? What can you do to make it stronger?

Thursday: Read Matthew 3:1-12 John the Baptist proclaims “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Again the Gospel calls us to prepare for the Coming of Christ not with decorations and presents but with humility and repentance.

When will your prayer of repentance become new action in your life?


Friday: Pray for hope. What does it mean for Christian people today to be a people of hope? How have this weeks readings influenced your understanding of God’s activity in the world?

What is your understanding of God’s activity in your life?

What is your understanding of God’s ministry at LUMC?


Sunday December 9th: Worship 10:00 A.M. at LUMC, the Second Sunday of Advent. Diversity Parade immediately following worship at the Civic Circle.
It’s the end of the world as we know it
Sermon Notes from the First Sunday of Advent

As each generation emerges there is an identity to what it means to be alive at this time in history. For my generation that identity was largely shaped by the idea that the world could end in a moment with the power of nuclear weapons. Our popular music declared the end of the world, called for change and prayed that the Russians loved their children too.

Our youth today live with the reality of terrorism and new threats of life ending as we know it such as global warming or a massive epidemic.

In families generational changes are sometimes worked out in dramatic ways and for both parents and child it often seems like the end of the world as we know it.

When the church prepares for Christmas it remembers the scripture that talks about the arrival of Christ. For the First Testament this brings images of Israel being God's Kingdom as proclaimed in Isaiah. For the New Testament this brings images of Jesus returning and the world coming to an end.

At first these images don’t seem to work for getting ready for Christmas. Our end of the world images are not happy ones. Our end of the world images are frightening. We don’t want to think about the end of the world before Christmas. It doesn’t seem very peaceful or hopeful, loving or joyful.

The harsh reality is: if we are going to live in God’s peace something of this world has to end. Usually, people aren't very good with endings. We prefer stability and dealing with what we know. Change is hard. Especially at Christmas, and I don't know about you but I find that amusingly ironic.

In order for us to be at Peace we need to change. It is here in the sermon that I could talk about large world events that we have very little control over OR I could talk about the changes that each of us (including this preacher) must participate in so that the world might be at peace.

Be at Peace with yourself: Do not forget the relationship of body and spirit

Seriously consider the POV of others

Pray

If we are going to be at peace something has to end, something needs to change within ourselves and we need to let go of some control. Go with the flow man, it’ll be alright.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sermon Notes November 25, 2007

Study Guide
Preparing for the First Sunday of Advent

Through this season of Advent we are seeking understanding of God’s activity in the world. As the world around us creates a commercial holiday loosely based on Christian ideals, what is our understanding of God’s promise for a Messiah?

Monday: Read Isaiah 2:1-5. Out of the house of the Lord shall come wisdom and instruction, and all nations will convert their weapons of war into implements for sustaining life.

In a time of war where do you find peace?


Tuesday: Read Psalm 122 (UMH 845). A psalm rejoicing in Jerusalem, a foretaste of the Jerusalem Isaiah prophesies

The Psalmist longs for a place of peace. Where do you find peace? How do you invite others into being at peace?


Wednesday: Read Romans 13:11-14. Salvation draws ever nearer, so live in the fullness of Christ, freed from the power of sinful desires.

Paul calls for the people to “lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” When have you made a choice to lay aside a work of darkness in order that you might live in the light of Jesus Christ?


Thursday: Read Matthew 24:36-44. The coming of the Son of Man will be a surprise, so stay on the lookout!

There are some well meaning Christians who are sure that Jesus is coming soon. The problem is of course that well meaning Christians have believed this for 2,000 years. While we cannot know the time that Jesus will return the Gospel calls us to live as if it could happen any moment. What would you do today if this was your last day?


Friday: Pray for hope. What does it mean for Christian people today to be a people of hope? How have this weeks readings influenced your understanding of God’s activity in the world?

What is your understanding of God’s activity in your life?

What is your understanding of God’s ministry at LUMC?

Saturday: Hanging of the Greens beginning at 10:00 A.M. at the church.

Sunday December 2nd: Worship 10:00 A.M. at LUMC, the First Sunday of Advent.


Awareness of Worship
Exodus 40

Moses takes great care to set up a place of worship for the people of Israel. Details of the tabernacle are discussed in great detail in the final five chapters of the book. The description of Moses’ work is even duplicated in this final chapter.

The care and the detail of this event implies the importance to have this sacred space. As we are aware of our situation we too have need for sacred space. Like the people of Israel sometimes our lives seem insecure. Like the people of Israel we face threats from those who do us harm. Like the people of Israel we sometimes wonder if God is with us or not.

One of my ministries is to be a member of the Camping Board of Stewards for the PNWAC. This ministry is one of administration for the four sacred spaces that are home to our camping and retreat ministries. I have used this text in Exodus 40 as a description for the administration of our outdoor ministry. These places at Twinlow, Lazy F, Indianola and Ocean Park are sacred spaces where people come to find God. Being in ministry with these places for me is to be careful as Moses is to create the right setting for others to know that God is here.

Saturday will be our opportunity at LUMC to “hang the greens.” One of my favorite childhood church memories is the decorating of the Christmas tree at Rochester UMC. It was a fun time and I enjoyed the anticipation of what others would think of our careful decorating.

Moses is taking great care to create space for people who are constantly on the move, and under the threat of harm so that they may spend time with God in peace. There, they will find a sacred secret space where the ark of the covenant is kept. There they will find a place to make their offerings. There they will find a basin for washing.

There are people in your life who need a sacred space. There are people like you who yearn for a place to worship and to know that God is near. LUMC is a sanctuary for the Gay and Lesbian community. LUMC is a sanctuary for progressive thinkers who are looking for a Christian witness that confronts the problems of war and global warming. LUMC is a sanctuary for the poor who are looking for help and support.

What are the means by which you can share your awareness of God’s grace? How will you create a sacred space to invite others to know that they are a loved child of God?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Eradicate the Hate

This past Friday I was alerted to a newspaper article in the Daily News about a white supremacists group that has applied to the City of Longview to meet in one of the city buildings. http://www.tdn.com/articles/2007/11/09/area_news/doc473415cbe0fa6508019909.txt

Sunday, word was spreading of a gathering at the Presbyterian Church to discuss a community response.

Wednesday, this ran in the paper: http://www.tdn.com/articles/2007/11/14/top_story/doc473aa2c08fb91399767901.txt

There were about 40 people gathered this morning to listen to ideas of responses to this group that wants to meet. Cynthia Washington, a community leader who is often called upon when issues of racism come forward in Longview, spoke eloquently of her pain in knowing that this group could meet in a building that borders the public park that bears her grandmother’s name, Victoria Freeman. Cynthia reminded us of her grandmother’s work for civil rights from the very early years of Longview’s history as a city.

We also heard from the Longview Police Chief who spoke well for the city and acknowledged his own personal discomfort with the situation. He recognized that as a first amendment issue it would be difficult for the city to refuse this group access to a public facility. For churches there is also concern of setting a precedent of rejecting one group that calls itself a church, which could then lead to the city not being able to allow any church to use city facilities.

Many people spoke well of their sadness that this group was planning to meet in our area. Father Green of the Episcopal Church spoke well reminding us that this group in applying for use of a building has opened our eyes to a situation that already existed in our community.

I spoke of my experience at LUMC and the joy it is for me to be the pastor of a church that is open for Gay and Lesbian people. I spoke of my belief that the largest gathering of homosexual people in our community happens each Sunday Morning at 10:00 at Longview United Methodist Church. We have been the victims of hate when our cars have had tracts left on our windshields telling us that we were going to hell. We have had young people drive by in their cars yelling “fag!” out the window. I stated that the people of Longview United Methodist Church will be present in a witness of opposition to the planned gathering of this group of hate.

It appears that there will be a gathering of a silent witness to protest the gathering of this church of hate. They plan to meet on Sunday December 9th at 6:00 P.M. I anticipate that the vast majority of our worshiping community will want to gather as a statement of protest.

It is frustrating that by protesting this event we bring publicity to this hate group. Yet, what option do we have. If we are absent and say nothing it will seem as if we approve or don’t care that a hate group is meeting in our area. So we must gather.

I hope that there will be other ways of protesting this groups planned gathering over the next several weeks.

Please join me in prayer as our community faces the reality of hate in our community.

Grace and Peace,

Bruce

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sermon Notes November 11, 2007

Awareness of Freedom

In my humble opinion one of the maturing places in American society has been shown in our determination to support the volunteer troops of an overwhelmingly unpopular war. This seems to me to be a recognition of a separation of speaking against bad policy verses those who volunteer with the ideal of helping others.

We know that the vast majority of people who volunteer for the armed services do so with the intent of making the world a better, safer place. Yes they go with the reality of the possibility of conflict and war. When our policy makers are doing their job well the volunteers of the armed services are able to defend and protect others.

Moses’ song is a song of freedom and it tells the story of the Hebrew people and their relationship with God. God is the one who has freed the people from their oppressors. One could be overwhelmed by the war imagery the song praises God for destroying Pharaoh’s army after all.

Oppressed people are not going to be overwhelmed by the war imagery, they are going to be anxious for freedom. The story of the Hebrew people is a living story today for all people who live under oppression.


There are people in the world today who need help defending themselves, consider the people of Darfur.

Sudan was a colony of the United Kingdom in the 18th century. It was administered as two separate colonial areas until the UK released control.
From 1983 to 2005 Sudan was in a civil war between the (predominately Christian) South and the (Predominately Muslim )North. The peace agreement calls for a referendum in 2011 to either create two separate states or to finally unite as one.
2003 rebels in Darfur begin acting out against a government supported militia. This conflict came out of a fight for resources between local African farmers and Arab nomadic groups.
This conflict has been described as a conflict between African and Arab peoples.
Depending upon sources between 200,000 and 500,000 people have been killed. Over 2 million have been displaced and are living in refugee camps. Hundreds of thousands more are dependent upon resources from aid groups and the UN.
In June of this year President Bush condemned the Sudanese government and has named the conflict as “genocide.”

When we consider the relevance of the Exodus story we must be confronted with the real situation of our world.

God desires for people to be free to worship, to love, and to be the people of God.

Monday Exodus 7 The first encounters with Pharaoh
Moses and Aaron begin their confrontation with Pharaoh. God warns that Pharaohs heart will be hardened. It is easy to consider Pharaoh’s hardened heart, yet where have our hearts been hardened to helping the oppressed?

Tuesday Exodus 8:1-32 Frogs, Gnats and Flies
The first plagues are amusing encounters of annoyance to the Pharaoh. Sometimes we confuse those matters that are annoyances with major problems. In light of what is to come these first plagues are not much of a problem. When do your problems become magnified to be bigger than they really are?

Wednesday Exodus 9:1-12 Livestock and Boils
The plagues become more serious for Pharaoh. This is a blow to Pharaoh’s vanity and wealth. The boils are not causing death but they are ugly. The cattle are valuable for Pharaoh’s way of life but life can continue without them. Have there been times when you have confused vanity and convenience for that which is necessary for life?

Thursday Exodus 9:13 – 10: 10 Hail and Locusts
Not only is the present survival of Pharaoh’s land at stake, now with the hail and locusts the future sustainability of the people is at stake. The crops are not a convenience. Pharaoh must change or he will lose everything. Why doesn’t Pharaoh change his ways now? Why does it take us so long to be willing to change?

Friday Exodus 10:21 – 11:10` Darkness and Death
A sad and scary moment yet also the most holy time of the Hebrew year, the celebration of the Passover. Have you had an experience where you were afraid of what was happening around you and you felt very close to God?

Saturday Exodus 14:1-31 Crossing the Sea
The community is bonded together through overcoming fear and the experience of this great miracle. What creates community for you? How does a community help form your identity?



LINKS

http://www.ushmm.org/conscience/alert/darfur/contents/01-overview/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/africa/2004/sudan/default.stm

http://www.savedarfur.org/newsroom/policypapers/september_briefing_paper_the_genocide_in_darfur/

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/05/20070529.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darfur_conflict

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Remembrance Day


When Kendra and I were serving the British Methodist Church one of the national holidays that was very important was called “Remembrance Day.” It is celebrated on the 11th of November, although like our “Veterans Day” there is a three day weekend created for its observance as well. On the Sunday before or on “Remembrance Day” there would be a two minute moment of silence to remember those who had died in the past wars of the United Kingdom. It is the most patriotic day in my experience of the UK. Many people where poppies (or paper facsimiles), the BBC broadcast special television programs and regular series will often have a special “Remembrance Day” episode. (Kendra and I enjoyed watching the Dr. Who episode the other day.)

This Sunday in worship we will have a time of prayer to recognize all who have served our country in volunteer service. These individuals who have served as Missionaries, members of the Peace Corps, and our Armed Services have given of themselves with the hope of creating opportunities for others to be free. Freedom is a great American value and yet I wonder if we really understand what it means to be free. We will be using the Exodus story to help us take a look at the value of freedom and what it might mean for us today. We will also consider our ministry with those who are not free and need help in order to break the binds that hold them.

Attached to this e-mail is a summary of last weeks sermon and a study guide for this week that was handed out on Sunday. I hope that you will find it helpful in your daily devotions as you prepare for your ministry and as you pray for the ministry of Longview United Methodist Church.

As we continue to study the book of Exodus it is my hope that we will become more aware of the ministry opportunities each of us have to continue the work of Jesus to bring forth the Kingdom of God. Each sermon this month is associated with the idea of bringing our attention to the possibilities for ministry of each of us as individuals and as the people of Longview United Methodist Church.

Grace and Peace,

Bruce

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Awareness of Oppression

What do we know about oppression? Really I don’t know much. I am a walking, breathing example of white privilege. I was born to middle class parents who came from middle class parents that lived through the depression. I have never lived in doubt about my immediate housing or where my next meal would come from. I don’t know much about poverty. The closest I have come was to be a “poor college student.”

Yet, I know poverty exists. I know that there are people in Cowlitz County who are living in generational poverty. Denial of economic change and its effects on the community have led to a high dropout rate in our schools, and an above average drug problem in our communities. Our jails are full of people who have a poor education and committed crimes because of drug or alcohol abuse. How will these people get a new start? Who will help them?

There is a class structure in America. While we might pride ourselves on the idea that anyone can make it, anyone can have “the American Dream” reality is that we have placed barriers to keep particular class boundaries. Those boundaries are distinguished by dress, language, and recreation. We make judgments about class and status by where we shop, go to school and the neighborhood we live in. We live with an idea that America is a place of equality yet we do not provide equal health care, education or employment opportunities.

There is poverty in America and the first thing Middle Class America must do is to recognize the situation for what it is. The poor are with us. They are the faces we ignore on the sidewalk, they are the people we pretend not to see at the freeway intersection. They are also the people we sit with in church, stand in line next to at the grocery store, and they may even live next door or just down the street.

They need help. They need a society that provides basic needs. Yes, they need you to donate food for the shelter. Yes, they need help with getting health care. Yes, they need help paying the bills. You know what they also need? A relationship.

What did Jesus do with the poor? Did Jesus magic some riches so the poor would suddenly have tons of gold? Did Jesus cure everyone who was sick? Did Jesus send the oppressive Roman Legions back to Rome? No. Jesus simply gave the poor a relationship with God. Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God, a kingdom where everyone had a relationship with God, not only the wealthy.

The poor of our community have basic needs that must be met. Not the least of which is the need to have a relationship with another human being. Someone who doesn’t need anything from them, who isn’t going to judge them, someone who can offer the unconditional love of Christ.

Monday Exodus 1:1-14
In the beginning of the Exodus story everything changes. The relationships are different and there is fear. The memory of the special relationship between the Pharaoh and the Hebrew people through Joseph has been forgotten.

Do you remember a time when you felt like others had forgotten you?


Who is someone you know who may feel forgotten?

Tuesday Exodus 1:15-22
Pharaoh attempts to control the perceived threat. This horrible scene is put before us and is a reminder of the potential for the cruelty of leaders who are threatened. What would normally be abhorrent becomes acceptable because of the fear.

How does fear affect your feelings about the poor?

Do larger fences make you safer?



Wednesday Exodus 2:1-10
A favorite story of Sunday School where the baby Moses is saved by the mercy of a princess and the quick thinking of his sister. Sometimes God works through unexpected circumstances and people in order to bring change.

When did God do something unexpected to bring you help?



Thursday Exodus 2:11-25
Moses flees after acting out of the many emotions of being a person of privilege despite his native people’s enslavement. He arrives in a place where he becomes a humble shepherd and begins a new life with a new family.

http://www.tdn.com/articles/2007/10/30/top_story/news01.txt

Generational poverty is an issue in Cowlitz County. Denial of economic change and its effects on the community have led to a high dropout rate in our schools, and an above average drug problem in our communities. Our jails are full of people who have a poor education and committed crimes because of drug or alcohol abuse. How will these people get a new start? Who will help them?


Friday Exodus 3:1-15
God says, “I have heard the cry of my people” and Moses is called to act. Moses is sure that God must be mistaken and has a list of several excellent excuses of why God has made a mistake.

God Called Moses back to a relationship with his people.

What relationships can you foster to help those living in oppression?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me


Happy Birthday to me!

39 today. Oddly enough 39 isn't as hard as 29 was. I got a bit depressed at my 29th birthday. Not so much for turning 39. No promises about next year though!

I wonder if when I'm forty my clergy colleagues will still call me "one of the young ones." Each of my paychecks for the past 18 years have been from Methodist churches. I have been in professional ministry for nearly 20 years and some people still have the nerve to say that I am one of the "young ones!" There are many 50+ year old clergy who have less than half the ministry experience that I have. Ugh.

Well that is a rant for another day.

Have a good Bruce's Birthday and say a prayer for me.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A call to ministry

This month we will be taking a quick tour through the book of Exodus. If Genesis lays the foundation for the Bible then Exodus provides the framework for the rest of the structure. Exodus is the story of oppressed minority people who discover what it means to live as God’s people. The story begins with a call from God to an unlikely leader, someone who is running away after committing a homicide. A leader who is supposed to speak for the people yet he has a speech impediment. A leader who doesn’t want the job, yet he is convinced of God’s call and reluctantly moves forward.

This is the time of year when we seek people who are willing to help lead the church in ministry. The Lay Leadership team meets to nominate people to serve on the committees of the church. Those committees are Lay Leadership, Trustees, and Staff Parish Relations (SPR). We also have teams that are vital to the function of ministry. Currently we have three teams for the ministry of LUMC those are Worship, Missions and Social Justice / Outreach. We call the first three “committees” because that is what they are called in the United Methodist Book of Discipline. We call the other three “teams” because they are created for a particular task and they are less structured as they are not bound by the Book of Discipline.

As the church there are many opportunities for ministry not only on a committee or as part of a team. God may be calling you to a ministry of service within the church or in the community. Some are called to tend to the church garden, spend time with the youth or to sing in the choir. Some are called to work in our public schools, to work in health care or to work with lumber. What if we spent our day recognizing the call that God has for us each day?

I ask that you take time this month to listen to the movement of the Holy Spirit in your life. Where do you find yourself being led into service for God’s kingdom? Do you have a passion working with children and youth? Are you being called to help others recover from an addiction? Do you know how to fix things? I encourage you to take time to thank God for the gifts you have in all your daily activities and to seek to use your gifts for God’s service.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

October 14, 2007 Sermon Notes


God's Gifts, Our Offerings
Genesis 41:14-36

Michelangelo’s painting reminds us that the people of the Genesis stories are African people. It is important for us to remember that. They are not white Europeans. So often if I am not thinking about it, I have this 1950’s Hollywood movie image of these stories.

Sometimes I have a limited vision and I don’t want to limit my vision of what God is doing or saying. Sometimes I make judgments about people’s abilities, a person’s education or income, even a person’s political or theological leanings based on surface things such as they way the dress, the car they drive or even the color of their skin or their ethnicity. I confess this so that I will be able to continue to heal from it and that I might move to see the fullness of God's gifts.

We have blinders that sometimes prevent us from seeing the full picture. This story is a story about the blinders that people put on. Early in the Joseph story we are introduced to the fact that Joseph is the father’s favored son, this is bound to make his brothers jealous. Then Joseph has a dream about the other brothers bowing down to him. Joseph is either arrogant or ignorant about his dreams. He foolishly tells his brothers about them and they react as we would expect them to, they get angry. We are told some of his brothers even want to kill him. Eventually Joe is thrown into a pit, sold as a slave and sent to Egypt. Here in Egypt, Joe’s gift will be put to use.

Each of us has gifts for the ministry. What are you going to do with yours? This is God’s gift, how are you going to offer it? Do you pay attention to the gifts that God has given you. You are gifted. We do so much to downplay our gifts.

One of my connectional responsibilities is to serve on the District Committee on Building and Location. This committee has many responsibilities regarding church property. One day we sat with a church looking to make changes to their property that they could not afford and I grew increasingly frustrated at their inability to see the great gift they had instead of focusing on what they did not have.

Some of us act like the people of that church, only seeing what we cannot do instead of noticing what God is doing in our lives. A few of us clergy were talking about worship one day and we came to an important conclusion. It wasn’t so important to us if a musician or a singer was particularly talented, it was important that the one leading worship music was praising God. It makes a difference if one is performing or if one is legitimately worshiping as they lead the music.
What if Joseph had buried his gift of dreams in that pit that he was thrown into? What if he refused to listen to dreams, to interpret Pharoh's dream or to pay attention to his own. Our Bible would end in chapter 37 of Genesis. Oh, I am sure God would speak to us in other ways, but we wouldn't have the book we have now. Everything would have turned out differently had Joseph buried his gift.

It is vital for the ministry of LUMC that you know what your spiritual gifts are and have a way to discern the use of those gifts.

In my experience discernment rarely happens alone. There are some things that I enjoy doing but I don’t really understand or know that they are meaningful until someone shares with me that they are. You have the opportunity to encourage the gifts of another. Share what you appreciate about another’s gift. Let people around know how you appreciate them. Take notice of what your neighbors are doing by the Grace of God.

We need you to share your gifts in your personal relationships, in small groups, Bible studies, and in worship. The future of the ministry of LUMC and the future of our community depend on the gifts that you share.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Family Picture


I have posted this so that I can get a picture onto my profile. This was taken during our family vacation this past summer. We had a great time in Yellowstone. God's creative power is on display in such fantastic fashion in this beautiful place!

October 7, 2007 Sermon Notes

Jacob struggles with the angel, by Rembrandt


Read Genesis 32:22 - 33:11

Truth be told, sometimes I can be a heel. I know, it’s shocking for you to hear because most of the time I’m a pretty nice guy. I like to think of myself as a people person who gets along with all sorts of folks. But you know sometimes I get grumpy and sometimes I am a bit of a heel. This past week was an annual gather of our conference clergy. Primarily at this last gathering we worshiped together and spent time in fellowship (usually around a meal.) Unfortunately, I found myself at times, in a negative frame of mind. I made judgments about the most petty silly things. I am so ashamed of this as I think back upon it. Why am I so often critical of others like me who are simply doing what they can for the greater good?

Luckily for me, I am not the only one. There are others in this world who can be a heel. Some of you can even be a heel sometimes and today’s story is about one of the greatest heels of them all. Jacob is a scoundrel and his name in Hebrew is literally, “ the heel.” Yet, Jacob is also the one who is the one who inherits the covenant handed down from Abraham. Jacob’s children will be the ancestors of the tribes of Israel. How did this happen?

What does it say about the people of Israel that they recount these scandalous stories of Jacob? The heel who stole his brother’s inheritance and blessing, the scoundrel who lost a battle of wits with his father in law for the woman of his dreams, the coward who sent his women and children to face potential death without him.

Finally, this coward, this rouge, this scoundrel seeks forgiveness and reconciliation. Here we have this account of Jacob wrestling with God and seeking a blessing. Not one that he steals, one that is freely given. In Rembrandt's painting of this scene it almost appears as if Jacob is dancing with the angle instead of wrestling. God's messenger is clearly dominate yet graceful. Jacob seems weary and full of grief as if all his past struggles have come down upon him at this moment. It is a scene of mercy and grace not one of a violent struggle.
Then another extraordinary thing happens, Esau, the rightful heir to his father’s fortune and blessing grants another blessing to Jacob, one that is not deserved or earned, yet freely given. Esau forgives Jacob.

Israel, is a nation formed by an act of free grace.

Longview United Methodist Church is a church that has been blessed by many examples of free grace. Freely you have invited one another into your homes, your lives, and your spiritual journeys. You have received grace in worship, you have received grace in prayer, you have received grace in study, and you have received grace in fellowship. These are acts of blessing, free of judgment, free from prejudice, free to love.

You know sometimes we can be heels. Sometimes we are too judgmental. Sometimes we fail to forgive. Sometimes we too easily share our dissatisfaction with the way things are. What if we turned from the heel and toward grace? What if we gave thanks to God for those people with whom we have a difficult relationship? What if we gave thanks to God for the stuff we have instead of prayers for stuff we do not have?

May I suggest a meal. It isn’t very much, a little bread, a little cup of juice but it is a free meal. It is the only free lunch. Given simply so that you might know that you are loved.

May you be a blessing for others as God has freely blessed you.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

PNW General Conference Delegation Meeting


And so it begins.

Friday evening was the first meeting of the delegation from the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences.

We received words of encouragement and support from Bishop Paup and a report regarding a study of the Episcopacy from Rachel Lieder Simeon the Alaska Missionary Conference Superintendent.

Following dinner we received news that the connectional table of the Annual Conference has elected to fund the travel for all of the General Conference reserves! So as the second reserve my basic expenses will be paid for! This enables us to have an observer at all but one of the General Conference committees. I will be the observer of the Committee on Discipleship. The reports should be available sometime in January so I can begin studying all the legislative proposals. (I understand that there will be a great deal of reading to do.)

Essentially this meeting was an opportunity for the veterans of General Conference and for us rookies to become acquainted with one another and our task at hand. We set a schedule for our future meetings and discussed some possible agenda items for our future meetings.

We received our first reality check of the United Methodist Church in the Western U.S.. The Western Jurisdiction is by far the smallest in the denomination. The seven Annual Conferences of the Western Jurisdiction will be sending 40 delegates to General Conference. The other delegations are as follows:
North Central 138
Northeastern 126
South Central 148
Southeastern 252
Central Conferences 268

The two Annual Conferences in Georgia will be sending 40 delegates equalling the whole of the Western Jurisdiction delegation.

There was some discussion about the difficulties of balancing Spiritual Health in the midst of a very political process. Stories of past hurts from those who had attended before were shared. There was also a sharing of some hoped for guidelines of behavior for those participating in the conference. These guidelines are essentially those used this past summer by an international gathering of youth and young adult United Methodists in South Africa. You can find an article about them here: http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.3082929/apps/nl/content3.asp?content_id={2B1F5695-20AD-47C1-BAC7-18E6878B6063}&notoc=1


I hope that the various delegations and interest groups can follow these basic ideas. If followed equally I believe that there can be a great opportunity for some relationship building during the General Conference session.
I am concerned primarily about the relationships within the church. Unfortunately, I do not go expecting dramatic change for the full inclusion of homosexual people in the life of the church. However, I deeply pray that there will be an opportunity for relationship building so that some who disagree with me regarding the full inclusion of homosexual people will hear the story of the people of Longview United Methodist Church and how being an open and inclusive church has saved the church and saved lives of people who have come into contact with the ministry of LUMC. If our evangelical goal is to save people for Jesus Christ I welcome the opportunity to share the evangelical work of a small town church that is active in the work of making Disciples for Jesus Christ.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sunday September 30th Sermon Notes

Promises, Promises

Do you make promises very easily? Sometimes in our efforts to make others happy we make promises that we can’t follow through with. We often complain about promises our leaders make that they can’t follow through with. Politicians get hammered from both sides, they get hammered when they fail to make a promise to fix things, then they get hammered for not fixing things when they “promised” that they would.

Parents know the dilemma of making promises. Our children ever so hopeful that we might concede to their demands will sometimes take a “maybe” as a signed contract, a done deal, “You Promised!”

Sometimes I have made promises that could not be kept. I am guilty of saying that I would call, and then forget to call. I am sure some of you are aware of other promises I have failed to keep. I humbly ask for your grace. If I have failed to fulfill a promise I pray you may find a way to gracefully remind me of that promise so that I might not continue to stumble and sin.

In Genesis we are introduced to the significance of covenant relationships. God makes covenants with Noah and Abraham. Each of these covenants change our understanding of God, ourselves and our relationship with God.
· In each case the one who receives the promise has taken an action to obey God. Noah built a boat, Abraham went on a long journey.
· Each of these promises are a blessing for people. God promises not to flood the earth again, and that Abraham’s descendents will be as numerous as the stars.
· Each of these promises have a sign, a rainbow for Noah and circumcision for Abraham.

These early covenants create a foundation for the people of God. They begin to create some order in the world for God’s people. That’s what fulfilled promises do, they create order out of chaos. We depend upon promises each day, we don’t always express them verbally but we live by all sorts of promises. When I drive on the street I promise to follow the basic rules of the road. When I go to a restaurant and I order some food I am making a promise to pay for that food. In marriage I promise to love, honor and keep in sickness and in health. When the vows of our covenant relationships are broken, chaos happens.

We know that our life partner covenants are complex. I am still learning how to keep the vows I made to Kendra 11 ½ years ago. I haven’t been very good at taking care of her in sickness. I am getting better. I have learned to make the right comfort foods, to create a comfortable space and sometimes I have even learned when just to stay away.

Keeping those promises of our most intimate relationships is complex and we all need help. Each of us struggle between meeting our own needs and the needs of those we love. Each of us have moments when we succeed brilliantly and when we fail miserably.

As complex as those relationships are, our relationship with God is no different. Living in our covenant with God is a complex matter.
We are asked to obey some basic rules.
We have received blessing from our relationship with God.
We have signs of that blessing.

The Good News is that Jesus Christ gave us a new covenant. We are directed according to the Gospel of John to simply, “love one another.” Through the grace we are promised eternal life with God. Our sign of this covenant is the communion meal, the sharing of the bread and the cup to remember the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

May we continue to live in the grace of the one who is able to keep the best promise of all.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Awareness of God's Gifts

When I was a student pastor in San Angelo, Texas I had one shining moment in each week’s worship service. I called for the ushers to come forward for the offering. There were three pastor’s on staff, and two other full time program staff people. There was a lot of worship leadership to share. So my one consistent moment in worship was to ask the ushers to come forward as I would say “Let us now share in God’s gifts and our offerings.” This was a subtle thing but I had to remember to say “God’s gifts” not “Our gifts.” It is a simple way to remember all of our stuff belongs to God.

That simple statement significantly raised my awareness of God’s gifts. What if in your prayers this month you were constantly able to thank God for the gifts you have received. When your paycheck comes this month can you give thanks to God? When you buy groceries at the store, can you say a prayer of thanks for all the people, time and effort that have come together so you can have some food? When you are helping another person by giving some of your time to be with them, can you say a prayer of thanks?

I wonder if we stop to consider all the gifts that we have if we wouldn’t join the constant heavenly chorus in giving praise to God. Have you considered writing a thank you note to God for some everyday object that you are thankful for? What would your thank you note to God look like if you gave thanks for your phone or your refrigerator or your car? How would your attitude about those objects change after you said a prayer of thanks?

I invite you to notice the blessings in your life and to freely give thanks to God.

Peace,

Bruce

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Recipes

The United Methodist Women are putting together a recipe book. I love to cook. So it seems like I should be able to contribute to the book.

Problem is I never use recipes. Oh sometimes I will look at a book to remember the proper temperature for something or I will take ideas for a particular dish from a book. But I don’t use recipes. Now if I was a baker, I would have to use recipes. Baking is an exact science, Kendra does the baking. I prefer to be an artist, to create in the moment, to allow the ingredients at hand to determine what the meal will be. Sure there is planning involved (sometimes) and lessons learned from failed experiments (ask Kendra about those) but I don’t want to follow recipes, I want each meal to be a new experience. (This drives Kendra crazy.)

Don’t get me wrong, there are basic skills to be learned. There are tools to be used and some foundations of the chemistry of cooking that are necessary for a good meal. There is method to the madness. In my constant search for the perfect Thanksgiving Turkey I have learned the great joy of brining from Alton Brown of the Food Network.

This year I want to encourage LUMC to create “Experiments of Faith.” There are scientist among us who will experiment with great precision. There are others among us who will experiment with an artistic flair. It is my hope that these experiments are the shared experiences we have of God’s grace. Some of the experiments will be new ministry programs. Some of the experiments will become a committee. Some of the experiments will be new relationships. Some of the experiments will involve worship. Some of them will become personal devotions.

This will require an atmosphere of grace as we encourage one another to try new things for the ministry of Jesus Christ. Want to begin a new Bible Study? Sweet! Want to begin a program for children? Go for it! Want to reach out to older adults? Amen! Want to sing a new song in worship? Praise God! Some of our experiments will not turn out as we had hoped. May we have the grace to laugh and learn from our “failures.” Some of our experiments will take off in directions we didn’t think of. In all that we do, may we have the humility to give thanks for all that God is doing in the ministry of Longview United Methodist Church.

Peace,

Bruce

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Audacious Campaign

At this past Annual Conference there were many opportunities to experience the living God. We began with worship remember some of the saints of the church who have died in this past year. We welcomed new clergy to the conference and we recognized the ministry of others by declaring them to be Elders and full members of the Annual Conference (WAY TO GO KENDRA!) We voted for a delegation to attend General and Jurisdictional conference. We played basketball to raise funds for “nothing but nets.” We visited the injured in the Emergency Room. We met to in committees to talk about the values of our Annual Conference and what we would like to say to the whole denomination. We sent legislation to the General Conference asking that body to truly include all persons in ministry including, eliminating the phrase “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching”, removing the performing of Holy Unions as a chargeable offence against clergy, and declaring that we believe homosexuality should not be a barrier to ordination. We worshiped and shared in communion each day. We approved a budget allowing for 6 district superintendents, increase the current number by one.

But let me tell you about “The Audacious Campaign.”

A few months ago I received an e-mail from a colleague in Seattle who wanted to have a discussion about sending a clergy person under 40 to General Conference. A few others joined the discussion a blog was even created. We shared a common value of wanting to send someone under 40 who was serving a local church. After talking with a few others who were likely candidates, I decided to let it be known that I would be willing to be a candidate, thus starting “The Audacious Campaign.” At the time I was reading Barak Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” and I thought it was a rather audacious thing to say “I would like to go.” E-mails were sent seeking support and eventually I was nominated to be a candidate for election.

After the first clergy ballot at Annual Conference I received 44 votes placing me tied in 5th place. Some of the Gen X clergy gathered to talk about a voting strategy and they laid hands upon me to pray as we sought guidance in the process. On the 8th ballot I became the 5th person elected which makes me the second alternate to General Conference and a voting member of the Jurisdictional Conference.

As the second alternate I plan to pay for my way to attend the General Conference that begins April 23, 2008. I believe it will be a good learning experience for me and perhaps I can help our voting members by being an observer. I am very much looking forward to being a voting member of the Jurisdictional Conference that will take place in July 2008, where I will likely have the opportunity to vote for a new Bishop!

Please pray for me as I prepare for these two important gatherings of the United Methodist Church.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sermon Notes June 17, 2007

I Kings 19:1-15a
Luke 8:26-39

Where or when do you notice God in your life? Is it as you are watching “Dancing with the stars”, “Survivor” or the Mariners baseball game on TV? Is it as you are in a rush to get to the next thing and all the lights seem to be red? Is it as you discover that all your laundry has turned pink because of a red sock in the Dryer?

Probably not. Elijah is in trouble. He knows this much. What he doesn’t know is what to do about it. Elijah has just had a great victory and he is in trouble, for while the battle is won he is now all alone. Elijah considers the powers of Wind, Earth and Fire and he does not find God there. You know that in many parts of the ancient world Wind, Earth and Fire are considered the basic elements of the earth. They are powerful and sometimes they are even worshiped. Yet Elijah does not find God there.

Elijah finds God in the Silence.

Where do you find God and why do you spend so much time with that which takes you away from God?

In the Gospel we encounter a crazy man. This dude is out of his mind. He runs around the countryside without clothes and is uncontainable. He has little regard for his well being. Yet it is this crazy man that is immediately able to identify who Jesus is. We then have this fantastic account of how Jesus heals this man of his demons and sends the demons to the pigs who then jump off a cliff. It’s a pretty cool story but we must pause here for a minute.

What is JESUS doing in a country where there are people raising PIGS? We all know that pigs are unclean for Jewish people. They don’t eat port, and they don’t raise pigs for pets. What is Jesus doing here? This is scandalous. Jesus shouldn’t be there.

Then what does he do? When the man he has healed ask to become a disciple and to follow him Jesus says something extraordinary. He says, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.”

When you encounter the living God do you tell anyone about it or do you remain silent afraid others will think you are a bit strange?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Sermon Notes June 3, 2007

Peace with Justice Sunday

Proverbs: All this stuff is God’s
Romans: 5:3-4 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
Today is Peace with Justice Sunday. We can generally accept that it is true that without Justice there is no Peace. I want to add that without Economic Justice there can be no Peace.

Extreme Poverty according to the World Bank is an income of $1 a day (1 billion people), Moderate Poverty is defined as $2 a day with 2.7 billion people living at that level. Nearly HALF of the world population lives on an income of $2 a day or less.

In many developed countries the official definition of poverty used for statistical purposes is based on relative income. As such many critics argue that poverty statistics measure inequality rather than material deprivation or hardship. For instance, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 46% of those in "poverty" in the U.S. own their own home (with the average poor person's home having three bedrooms, with one and a half baths, and a garage
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty

In the United States poverty was set at $19,350 for a family of four for 2007.

Minimum wage in WA State is $7.93 (highest in the U.S.) Recently President Bush signed a law raising minimum wage gradually to $7.25 in 2009, currently the Federal minimum wage is $5.15.

Imagine the possible situation for person living on minimum wage. Minimum wage Job “full time” 32 hours / week, minus taxes brings that to approximately $995 per month. Obviously in our society that is not enough income for basic needs.

Rent $500
Utilities $200
Food $200
Gas $120
Car Insurance $100
Credit Card $75 ($4,000 debt, minimum payments, 116 months to pay off)
Total $ 1,195 (a negative balance of $200 for our poor worker)

The averabe Americans’ average credit card debt is $8400 per household.
Americans pay, on average, an 18.9% interest rate on credit cards.
More than 40% of American families spend more than they earn. (Federal Reserve).
http://creditcounselingbiz.com/credit_counseling_statistics.htm
The average worker earned $41,861, while the average CEO made $10.9 million, or 262 times that of the average worker. (2005)
From 1992 to 2005, the average CEO saw his or her pay rise by 186.2%, while the median worker saw wages rise by 7.2%.
http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/311/executive-pay.html

Economic Justice is necessary for world peace.

When we achieve better economic equity in our country there will be more help available for those living in the poorest nations of the world. We must close the gap between the richest and the poorest of our nation, peace is dependent upon a stable middle class.

Economic equity is closely tied to our ability to recognize that all of this stuff belongs to God. Our hope must not come from how much stuff we are able to have, but in our relationships with each other and with our God.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sermon Notes May 20, 2007

Does the Bible condemn homosexuality?

Clearly the Bible is concerned with sexual morality. As the most intimate act of humanity, our sexual values speak about our value of humanity and our relationship with God. So what does the Bible say about homosexuality?

There are five primary references of homosexuality in the Bible. 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 wished to inflict on God’s messenger’s who were guest in Lot’s house and not on homosexuality. Some people 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.

The most difficult passages come from the New Testament in Romans, I Corinthians and I Timothy. In I Corinthians 6:9 and in the letter to Timothy Paul uses a word, “arsenokoites”, that is not found in other Greek writings of the same period. The word 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 Paul condemns people for “unnatural” intercourse. Paul presumes that all people are created in the same way. Paul and others assume that it is unnatural for two people of the same gender to fall in love. Many people no longer believe that this is so. 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. Therefore, the question of sexual morality moves from a focus of gender to one of honoring our relationship with each other.

So today we celebrate the decision of Longview United Methodist Church to join the Reconciling Ministry Network. A network of United Methodist Churches working for the full inclusion of all people in the life of the church.

The choice of the word reconciliation is important. As a reconciling congregation we are working to reconcile the church with the GLBT community who has too long been set aside by the church.

Reconciliation is a Holy exercise and it is one we often neglect. As a church of reconciliation we are called to reach out to those who have been set aside by others. We are called to consider those relationships in our life that have become broken and to seek healing.

As we live into the fifth year of being a reconciling congregation I believe God is calling us to consider all who need to reconcile their relationship with God. We will not be able to be all things to all people. We will work to truly be a diverse community. Primarily we will continue to seek out those who have been broken and are in need of healing.

Monday, May 07, 2007

May 6, 2007 Sermon Notes

A New Heaven and a New Earth

Revelation is full of fantastic images. Four horsemen, Angels blowing trumpets, monsters being defeated, and finally the image of the perfect city coming down from heaven and replacing the imperfect fouled up world.

For some of us a new heaven and a new earth seems more like a fantasy than a reality. A fantasy is a sort of idea that is so far fetched that it cannot intersect with the real world, whether that fantasy has hobbits and wizards or unicorns and fairies. The imagery of a new Jerusalem coming out of clouds is a rather fantastic idea and it has little meaning for us.

For some, a new heaven and a new earth seems like a dream, some sort of possibility yet it is in the midst of a fog. We can almost imagine the possibility of God taking such drastic action that this world in which we live might be made new and perfect. Pollution would be gone, war would be gone, poverty would be gone. But it all becomes hazy, how does this happen, is it heaven, is it now, what on earth is this dream?

Yet for other’s this vision of a new heaven and a new earth is a real possibility. It is a vision of how God makes things new. God makes all things new through the commandment of Jesus Christ, Love one Another. Jesus’ command is a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. Love one another.

We will struggle with this command. We will struggle with the reality of truly loving the people we are with each day. That is sometimes a difficult task. But we have had success with this before and we are able to succeed again.

We will struggle with the reality of truly loving people we do not know and will never meet. For in order for us to create a New Heaven and New Earth, we must live so that the other 6 billion people on this planet know that they are loved. For Americans this is a huge responsibility. We must challenge the images of our culture that say we do not have enough. We must consider the possibility that we have the potential to bring about a new creation, we have the potential to enact the vision as we live into the reality of loving one another.

Devotions for the Fifth week of Easter
After Each Day’s reading consider how God is calling you to love this week? Take some notes, pray, act lovingly.

Monday Read Romans 12:9-21


Tuesday Read Colossians 3:12-17


Wednesday Read Galatians 5:1-15


Thursday 1 John 2:7-17


Friday 1 John 3:1-8


Saturday 1 John 4:7-21




Reminders:
Registration for Church retreat is May 20th.

Mission Trip for Ocean Park Camp is June 9th.

Monday, April 30, 2007

May Newsletter

May Flowers

This Spring Kendra and I have been working in the garden of the Camas Parsonage. We are very blessed to have a wonderful house with lots of yard to enjoy. (Although there is a LOT of grass to mow.) We have weeded the front flowerbeds, put beauty bark around the bushes and even begun wondering about working on some of the lumps and bumps in the lawn. With the help of one of the Camas trustees we have tilled a nice plot to plant a vegetable garden. The corn, pumpkin, carrots, lettuce and radishes are planted and there is more to do still. We have another area where we have planted strawberries and raspberries. The berries might not bear fruit this year, but it is fun to imagine the harvest next summer!

Working in this garden has been a spiritual exercise for me. There is something holy about caring for living things. Whether it is to enhance the look of a Rhododendron bush or to pull weeds so another plant can flourish, God seems to be present in this care giving.

What are your simple pleasures where you find God to be present? Do you like to take walks and talk with God? Do you have some music that lifts your soul? Does the sound of children playing bring a prayer of thanks?

Each of us has some weeding to do in our life, to rid ourselves of those things that deplete our life. Sometimes to see the beauty in another all we need to do is to highlight the gifts they have. Some of us appear pretty lumpy and rough around the edges, all we need is someone to care. Some of us are ready soil to provide nourishment for new life. Some of us are new to the faith, with questions and struggles and will take time to bear fruit.

Where ever you are in the Garden may you be able to appreciate the simple beauty of life.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sermon Notes April 22, 2007

Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord

As I came into work on Monday I began hearing news of a shooting at a college in Virginia. Soon it became apparent that this shooting was yet another terrible tragedy of gun violence. 33 students died. One of whom was the killer of the other 32, a young man whose serious mental health problems led to this tragedy.

Humans live with conflict, each and every day. Each day where our self will doesn’t match the will of another we face conflict, from whose turn is it to wash the dishes, what color to paint the church or how we are going to understand scripture. Our self will leads us into conflict all the time.

Saul was on his way to pursue more people of this group who were claiming Jesus as the Messiah, when he was blinded with a vision from God. Thank God for that vision. For in that Vision Paul’s eyes were opened to the horror of the violence he was perpetrating. Saul’s vision led him to the house of Ananias. Some sympathy here please for Ananias. He is being asked to do a very hard thing. He is asked to take in this murderer, to forgive him, to restore his sight, and to introduce him to the disciples of Jesus.

Each of these two are being asked to give up their desires, their will and to seek God’s vision for what can be. In being blind Paul is dependent upon the mercy of others. In being merciful Ananias is setting aside his fears, and his grief so that God can act.

It is easy for us to condemn the violence of others today. It is easy to look at how others might be responsible for violence today. We are good at finding fault with others. That is not the prayer we say today, it is not the song we sing today. Today we ask that God open the eyes of our hearts.

Too often we have decided that it was our will be done, our kingdom come. Are you willing today to give up some of your will, so that God’s desires can come forward? Never mind what your judgments are, but to consider how your neighbor looks in the eyes of Jesus? May God’s grace open the eyes of our hearts.

Devotions for the Third week of Easter

This week I will share my devotions with ______________.

Monday Jeremiah 23:1-8

Pray for those who are lost


Tuesday Ezekiel 11:14-21

Pray for those with hardened hearts.


Wednesday Jeremiah 31:10-18

Thank God, there is hope for the future.


Thursday John 10:1-18

Pray for understanding, to follow the good shepherd.


Friday 1st Peter 5:1-11

Pray casting all your anxieties to God.


Saturday Acts 20:17-38

Pray for Pastor Bruce and other leaders of the church.

Monday, April 16, 2007

2nd Sunday of Easter 2007

On the Way

Our mission statement proclaims that “we support each individual in their spiritual journey as they become a Disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Part of this statement is to acknowledge that we each have our own spiritual path. My spiritual life is not the same as yours. We also believe that the goal of the Christian spiritual journey is to grow deeper in our discipleship. That is, to grow in our life as a follower of the servant Messiah.

The path to Christ is not a singular moment in life, it is our whole life. If you were to create a timeline of your life, where would you say that you knew God was with you? Consider the formative events in your life, childhood events in your family, your discoveries in young adulthood, your adult life events. It is usually true in the tragic and in the joyful that those were the moments when we knew God was with us.

Our spiritual lives need attention. As we participate in prayer, worship, reading the bible we become more aware of the spiritual connections. The deepening of those connections leads to spiritual and emotional health. We can learn to not be afraid, we can learn to love the simple beauty of life, we can learn the joy of knowing that we are God’s children.

I have become particularly frustrated with American spirituality. The classic example for my life is September 16th 2001. That was the first Sunday after 9-11. Churches were full on that day, a little less full on September 23, and pretty much back to normal by September 30th. Seemingly saying, “we’ll turn to God when we need something.”

When we are “On the Way” we recognize that our spiritual life is not something we only want to pull out for emergencies, we realize that our relationship with Jesus Christ helps us to live fuller lives right now. It is my relationship with Jesus that encourages me to forgive my neighbors when we can’t agree. It is my relationship with Jesus that reminds me to serve others. It is my relationship with Jesus that helps me to become as healthy and happy a person as I can be.

Devotions for the 2nd week of Easter.

This week I will spend time with ______________________
to read scripture and pray with this week.

Monday Read Ezekiel 36:22-30

God promises to act on Israel’s behalf. Pray for God’s activity in the world today.

Tuesday Read Genesis 17:1-8

God makes a generous promise to Abraham. Pray for understanding God’s generosity in your life.

Wednesday Read Genesis 39:19-23

Joseph seems to be in a horrible situation, yet God makes use of it. Pray for God’s ability to show you how to make the most of your life right now.

Thursday Read Philippians 4:1-9

Rejoice is a holy word for Paul. Pray with Joy this day.

Friday Read Colossians 2:6-15

Paul encourages people to keep rooted in faith. Pray for those who struggle staying rooted in faith.

Saturday Read Acts 4:23-37

Facing a world of opposition the first believers act with radical faith. Pray for a faith of radical action.

Sunday LUMC worship 10:00 A.M.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter 2007

Don’t be afraid

Imagine the anxiety in the disciples in this past week. They began having to deal with a crowd seemingly celebrating the arrival of their teacher, yet there were others who were not so happy watching these events take place. They witnessed Jesus seemingly going crazy in the Temple, overturning the tables, and ranting about abuses of the people. Then there was his arrest and unusually quick execution.

The Disciples have every reason to be afraid for their life and anxious about the future. It is no wonder that they are hiding waiting for their opportunity to get on with their lives. It would be perfectly reasonable for them to dismiss the word of the women as they came making a claim that the tomb was empty.

Then something amazing happens, they experience the risen Christ. The women run reporting that the tomb is empty, Peter sees the tomb and is amazed, soon the two walking to Emmaus will encounter the Christ in breaking bread for an evening meal, Jesus will meet with the disciples and show them his wounds, their encounters with Jesus will lift their fear and anxiety.

Soon these who were hiding will be preaching in the streets and the synagogues that Jesus is the Messiah. They will face the opposition from the religious authorities, they will face ridicule from the majority of people, some will even face death and they are not afraid. Their encounter with the risen Christ has taken away fear.

You cannot serve the Kingdom of God out of fear. You might be able to support a church, follow some rules, or “live a good life” while you are afraid of judgment. But, you cannot serve the Kingdom of God. You cannot serve your neighbor if you are worried about yourself. You cannot visit the sick if you are afraid of becoming ill. You cannot feed the hungry if you are afraid of having your possessions taken. You cannot listen to the grieving if you are anxious about what you are supposed to say.

So today, live with purpose. Admire the biological miracles that surround us. See the beauty in each person. Consider the wonder of the cosmos. Live in the fullness of the kingdom of God. And quit worrying about yourself so much.



I will meet with _____________________________ to read Scripture and pray with this week.


Monday April 9, Easter day 2
Read Romans 6:1-11
Pray that you may celebrate life and sin no more.

Tuesday April 10, Easter day 3
Read Ephesians 2:1-10
Pray for people you love.

Wednesday April 11, Easter day 4
Read Galatians 2:11-21
Pray for those who are foreign to you.

Thursday April 12, Easter day 5
Read John 17:1-5
Hear Jesus’ prayer as a prayer for you, give thanks.

Friday April 13, Easter day 6
Read Romans 6:15-23
Pray for those you might be able to serve.

Saturday April 14, Easter day 7
Read Romans 8:18-30
Pray with hope.

Sunday April 15, Easter day 8
Worship at LUMC 10:00 A.M. “CAMP SUNDAY” come casual.
Theme: “On the Way”
Luke 24:13-36

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sermon Notes March 18, 2007

A New Creation

People like new things. This may be most evident in advertising. How many times do you see the word “new” on packaging of familiar products? You might expect, “new & improved” or “new ingredients” even “new flavor” how about “new technology” but we also get “new size” and “new package design.”

In a society so obsessed with the new, how is that reflected in our relationships with other people? Do we find some people to be as disposable as a worn out television? If someone’s life is a bit of a mess do we toss them away like a disposable towelette? What regard to we have for those who are older? Do we really believe “older is wiser?”

What lessons can we take from this great parable of the man with two sons? We rejoice with the son when we are told of the father’s overly gracious welcome home. Yet, we also find sympathy with the older son who is mad as hell that his stupid little brother has been welcomed home after causing so much strife for the family. The older brother doesn’t want to party, the older brother just wants things back they way they were.

Most of you have had an experience of grace that changed your life. At some point you were asked if you wanted to be a Christian. It might have been asked of you at a Baptism, or you might have responded to an call to accept Christ.

How would you like the older son to respond? What if the older son celebrated with everyone else? What if the elder son filled the younger one in on all the news since the time he left? What if the elder son began showing the younger some of what he knows about being happy and successful on the family farm?

We must continue to change because we all know people who are the younger brother. We know people who are lost in the muck and see no way out. We know people who need a measure of God’s grace. Can we respond like the father instead of the older brother. Can we continue to nurture others in faith? Can we be the brother or sister of faith that we wish the older brother had been?