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.

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

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,

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


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.