Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Equality Day Pics

You Deserve Grace

Yesterday several members from Longview United Methodist Church attended "Equality Day" at the state capital. We were joined by people from Jewsih, Muslim and Christian backgrounds. There were several United Methodist clergy and lay people from churches all over the state. The effort has been organized for the past few years by the "Religious Coalition for Equality." The marriage equality bill is in process in the legislature right now.

House Bill 1350 and Senate Bill 5335 would offer the same legal protections, rights and benefits to same-sex couples that are currently granted to married couples. The five legislators agreed that it this is the ultimate legislative goal of their efforts to secure similar legal rights for gay and lesbian families. HB 1350 was introduced with 25 co-signatories in the House, where 50 votes are needed for passage. SB 5335 was introduced with 11 co-signatories in the Senate, where 25 votes are needed for passage. http://access.wa.gov/leg/2007/Jan/n2007017_7619.aspx

We were also joined by some people who were apparently trying to save our souls. One Memorable sign read, "You deserve Hell." Nice. You know after reading that sign I am suddenly moved to become a fundamentalist, well, maybe not.

Seriously, the theology of that sign is disturbing. Why is homosexuality so threatening to some people? Where in the Gospel did Jesus proclaim anyone deserved hell. Wasn't it Jesus who at the cross forgave those who put him there? The Gospel doesn't end at John 3:16 it goes on. John 3:17 says, "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (NRSV)

I feel sorry for those who where there to protest equality. I am sorry that they are unable to understand and live in God's grace. I wish someone would just give them a hug and let them know that they deserve grace, just like the rest of us.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sermon Notes February 25, 2007

Your Mission . . .

In the United Methodist Church we have a tradition that all members are ministers of the church. Wesley taught that all Christian people are called by God to ministry. Ministry is not only the role of ordained clergy but it is the work that each of us do as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Some ministries are set apart by the church for service, word, sacrament and order such as ordination as Elder, some ministries are set apart for service to a community such as ordination as a Deacon. These professional ministries are not the only place ministry is performed in the life of the church.

It can be one of the most intimidating steps toward ordained ministry, talking about your “call.” Instantly images of Moses, comes to mind with a burning bush. Rarely is a candidate for the ordained ministry blessed with such clear call. If only God sent us a tape with clear instructions and a self destruct mechanism, now that would be cool.

So how does one discern a call?

Listening: Each of us must be attentive to the movement of the Holy Spirit. What is God placing on our hearts? What do we have an urge to attend to? Are you spending time in prayer to listen for the movement of the Holy Spirit?

Experience: What do you have a passion to do? What life experiences give you a unique skill you can share with the community?

Confirmation: Have others recognized God’s movement in your life?

Each of us are called to be Volunteers In Mission. It is up to each of us to discern God’s call for where, when and how.
Devotions for the First week of Lent

Monday Read Deuteronomy 26:1-11
God commands that the first fruits are to be given to the temple (the place where God dwells.)

What first fruits can you bring to God today?

Pray for your stewardship and sharing of gifts.

Tuesday Read Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
The people of Israel by now know that the Temple will not always be there. They begin to search for other places that God dwells with them.

In what way does God dwell with you?

Pray for those who have no home.

Wednesday Read Romans 10:8b-13
Paul proclaims that we need to believe with our hearts.

Your Mission . . . (UMVIM awareness Sunday)

When does the belief of your heart make a difference in your life?

Pray for those living with questions.

Thursday Read Luke 4:1-13
This passage is often called “the temptation of Christ.”

How does knowing that Jesus faced temptation inform your faith?

Pray for your struggle with the temptations in your life.

Friday and Saturday
What action is God calling you to take? What is your mission?

March Newsletter

I have been greatly encouraged this month with the participation in our latest small group study Saving Jesus. We have already had a lot of fun with the irony of the title and the open discussions about who is Jesus and what is the role of the church today? One of the problems many people seem to have with Jesus is how the church has failed to represent his values in the world today. In fact, some argue that the church has often aligned itself more with empires and the powerful than Christ.

This year for Lent I encourage you to consider how can you represent Jesus to the world? When you consider the ministry of Jesus and what a relationship with Christ means to you, what actions are you led to take?

Often Lent is seen as a time to give something up, and that is a spiritual practice well worth considering. Lent is a great time to consider those harmful habits that keep us at a distance from knowing God more fully and to give them up. Perhaps this Lent you can take care of your body by giving up cigarettes or by giving up unnecessary calories.

I would like to add to that, the idea of taking something up for Christ. What new thing can you begin doing as a response to the Gospel?

“Praxis” is word we have learned in our Saving Jesus class. Essentially praxis is the practice of our faith, or that which we do because of what we believe. Some of the presenters have suggested that our praxis is of greater concern to Jesus than our words. May each of us will continue to grow as we practice our faith together at Longview United Methodist Church.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sermon Notes February 18, 2007

Methodists are a bunch of hippies and holy rollers. Methodists are President George Bush Jr. and Senator Hillary Clinton. Methodists are a diverse bunch of folks.

Wesley was a unique individual who was described as a reasonable enthusiast. He used his reason and his spiritual enthusiasm to guide his life. He was deeply interested in the best scholarship of his time. Not only was he a great Bible scholar, he was also deeply interested in the sciences. He not only wrote sermons but he also published pamphlets on home remedies. Wesley was also passionate about his faith, encouraging his brother in sharing new hymns for Methodist worship. He was also known to rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This holding together of Spirit and Reason caused many fractures of the Methodist movement after his death. Many of these splits occurred within the church when enthusiasts would feel stifled by the moderate majority.

The splits have not always been about reason or enthusiasm. The first split in American Methodism was about racism. In 1787 the African Methodist Church was formed after an African American man was removed from a Methodist Church by the trustees. The EUB was a 20th century merger of two Wesleyan German churches.

What is common in our history is a series of splits and re-unifications. We may face more. There are some limited number of churches both conservative and liberal who have left the United Methodist denomination because of differences regarding homosexuality and the church.

Methodists may always struggle to hold the tension of reason and enthusiasm but that is exactly what we must do. There is room in individual spiritual journeys and in the life of the church for carefully reasoned theology and for enthusiastic trust in the Holy Spirit. Ultimately what must hold us together is a deep understanding of God’s Grace for all.

Like families we will have our conflicts, the question is how will we live in God’s grace while we disagree with one another?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sermon Notes February 11, 2007

People of Grace

Wesley was a fantastic failure.

His sermons at Oxford were unpopular.

He was run out of Georgia.

Local priest hated him, villages ran him out of town.

His marriage fell apart.

He failed to get a Bishop to ordain preachers for America.

His movement split into multiple fractions upon his death.

Wesley’s life was dependent upon grace.

Wesley held a passion for the knowledge that we are “saved by grace through faith.” His only desire in life was that others would know that same truth. It was something so valuable it was worth many failed efforts in the midst of many other successful ones.

While he gathered thousands for a sermon, the vast majority would later ignore or ridicule him, but those few, those precious few who would later gather for class meetings to continue to learn about God’s love,they were a great treasure. Wesley was able to see the lives changed when a man quit drinking, when a young woman gained courage, when small communities began caring for one another.

He was not overly focused on that which did not work. He was focused on that feeling, that knowledge of God’s love which transformed his life. Wesley came home from Georgia a completely defeated man. The woman of his affections accepted the offer of engagement from another man. He was to be arrested by the local governor for having failed to serve communion to said woman. His dream of holiness for the Native Americans and for the colonists was a complete failure. So it is no wonder what a life changing event it was for him to know that God loved him. He described that day as May 24, 1738 when at a prayer meeting he felt his heart strangely warmed. From that point on in his life his sole ambition was to help others to know as he did that he was a loved child of God.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sermon Notes February 4, 2007

The Roots of Methodism

The English Reformation

Henry VIII 1491-1547
Catherine of Aragon (Mary’s mother) Spanish royal, aunt of Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. After failure to have a male heir, Henry seeks divorce to be approved by the Pope. British parliament allows for the divorce in 1533, formally breaking British relations with the Pope.
Anne Boleyn (Elizabeth’s mother) married Henry VIII in 1533. After failure to produce a male heir Henry charges her with treason (on trumped up infidelity charges) and she is beheaded in 1536.
Jane Seymour (Edward’s mother) married Henry soon after Anne’s death. Dies from complications giving birth to Edward.

Articles of Religion, Book of Prayer and Homilies are issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry dissolves monasteries and issues orders to eliminate images of the Roman church.

Edward VI (reign 1547 – 1553) 9 years old when his father died and he became King. His reign was mired by a weak regency.

Mary I (reign 1553 -1558) Comes home determined to restore the Catholic Faith. Some 300 church leaders are executed during her reign.

Elizabeth I (reign 1558 – 1603) Very much the politician, Elizabeth seeks out “via media” or middle way between Rome and Geneva. The theologian Richard Hooker expresses this middle way with Scripture (not “sola scriptura”), tradition (not Roman) and reason


Followers of Jacob Arminius (1560-1609) who opposed Calvinist ideas of predestination and ‘the elect’ by claiming Christ died for all. Arminians came to be known as people who stressed free will and holy living as a sign of accepting God’s grace. Calvinists opponents came to calling them “New Methodists.”

With the act of toleration in 1689 religious groups who would not conform to the 39 articles of religion of the Church were officially tolerated. Nonconformists could only meet in licensed places (not homes), and dissenting preachers were to be licensed. Roman Catholics and Unitarians were not allowed.

Czech protestants, followers of Jan Huss. Impressed Wesley with dedication to prayer while sailing to the colony of Georgia.

The Anglican Church today
A communion of churches recognizing the rites of one another. The Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury hold a place of honor in the Anglican communion, but the Archbishop has no ecclesial authority over, say the Episcopal Church of the USA. There are approximately 70 million Anglicans today. The largest populations by country are: 26 million in England, 17 million in Nigeria, 8 million in Uganda, 5 million in Sudan, 2.5 million in Kenya, 2.4 million in the USA.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

February Newsletter

Not in our Town

According to Census information Longview lacks diversity. 90% of our community identifies themselves as white and our largest minority community is Hispanic with 6%. Our African American community is less than 1%. Yet we know numbers do not tell the whole story. We know that there are those in our community who are in a minority culture because they cannot hear and their language is American Sign Language. We know that there is a significant population of people who are in a sexual minority. We know that there are issues many people live with each day because the majority does not consider their needs or life situation.

This past month there was a gathering that I am really excited to tell you about. Some time after racist attacks were highlighted in the news once again, I contacted the Ethnic Support Council and plans were made for a meeting to address these attacks. This last month several community people gathered together at our church to make plans for addressing the issue of hate crimes in our community.

We heard a thoughtful report from representatives of the Longview Police Department, we heard from community leaders and their experience of racism, we heard from pastors who are concerned about our community. This group will continue to meet this month to create some community events to raise awareness of diversity in our community and I very much look forward to telling you about those plans in the near future.

I believe that it imperative in a community that seems so homogeneous that we bring forward issues of diversity. It is not OK to say, “well there really aren’t any minorities here” because that is simply not true. Nor is it OK to believe that there is no race problem here. There ARE groups in our community looking to promote hatred, racism and homophobia. These groups must be told that we will not tolerate this in our town.

As we live out our mission to be a beacon of Diversity on our community we will continue to shine the light of the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ into the dark places where hatred resides.

One way you can be a beacon is to get informed about what is happening in our community. I encourage you to attend the community forum being held by the Longview Police Department on February 9th at 7:00 at the McLellan Arts Center. This forum will address many community issues including hate crimes.

Grace and Peace,

Sermon Notes January 28, 2007

The Reformation

Important Dates in the Protestant Reformation:

1415 Jan Hus is burned at the stake as a heretic for teaching that the church was all the people and not limited to clergy, that the head of the church was Christ and not the Pope, and against ethical abuses such as the selling of indulgences.

1447 Gutenburg invents the printing press. Suddenly information is available in a way that it never had been before. In 1455 the Gutenburg Bible is printed and suddenly Bibles are available to many more people than ever before.

October 31, 1517 Luther posts his 95 theses calling for a debate within the church regarding questions of salvation and the church’s practice of selling indulgences.

1521 Luther is excommunicated by Pope Leo X and declared an outlaw by emperor Charles V, Luther is forced into exile.

1534 Luther completes a translation of the Bible into German.

1538 John Calvin is exiled from Geneva (he is invited to return in 1540.)

Sola Scriptura Literally translates as “Scripture Alone”
The basis of Luther’s reformation was the idea that Scripture alone was the basis for Christian faith. This was a refutation of the Church’s traditions as having a role in matters of faith.

TULIP Common acronym for Calvin’s theology
Total depravity. This is the idea of original sin.
Unconditional Election. The idea that God has chosen some people.
Limited Atonement. This suggests that God died for some but not all people.
Irresistible Grace. The elect will be called by the Holy Spirit.
Perseverance of the Saints. The saints rest with God.