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.

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

Wednesday, this ran in the paper:

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,


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?


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,


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.

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?