Thursday, February 28, 2008

A question

In this age of multi-tasking is there room for a man who stays focused on one thing at a time? My wife can balance work, mothering, wiving, all together, but me, I get discombobulated when asked to do more than one thing at a time! I need to finish what I am doing right then or else I will forget where I was in completing the task at hand. The food is burned, the dog pees on the floor, the newspaper turns to trash in the sun. I have multi-tasking envy, I want to be able to juggle it all I want in the air. I want to be able to be good at all I am asked to be, but inevitably I drop the ball, I leave tasks undone, I forget, I rush, I panic! One thing, one day at a time , this is my quest. To be able to complete my to do list and do good work in all the arena's of my circus life.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sermon 2-24-08

Birthday of Amy Tan
This past week it was the birthday of of author Amy Tan, born in 1952, in Oakland, California. Tan is best known for her first novel, The Joy Luck Club. A first-generation daughter of Chinese immigrant parents, Tan says she spent much of her youth trying to deny her heritage. From third grade on, she was the only Chinese-American girl in her class. Tan once went a week sleeping with a close pin on her nose, trying to make it narrower and more like her classmates' noses. She was embarrassed by her mother's broken English and by her Chinese customs.

When Tan was 15, her father and older brother both died of brain tumors, within six months of each other. Her mother became convinced spirits were cursing the family, and she moved Tan and her younger brother to Switzerland. Tan continued to rebel against her mother, who wanted her to become a part-time concert pianist and a full-time brain surgeon. Instead, Tan became an English and linguistics major, and fell in love with an Italian. She and her mother didn't speak for six months.

Tan worked as a freelance business writer, working 90-hour weeks to keep up with demand. But she eventually realized she was addicted to work she didn't like. She went into counseling and began writing short stories.

When her mother went into the hospital in 1985, Tan promised herself that if her mother survived, she would take her to China and learn her mother's stories. It was a trip that would change Tan's perspective. She said later, "When my feet touched China, I became Chinese."

Tan's short stories became The Joy Luck Club (1989), a novel about four Chinese immigrant mothers and their relationships with their American-born daughters. It was an instant best seller and was made into a film. (Source: The Writer's Almanac)

In the story of Jesus at the well with the woman who is from a different culture, and his actions in that story are even more amazing when we understand the depth of the division between Samaritans and Jews, Men and women of that time.
Jewish Rules
"How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" This question hints at the cultural and sexual divides that were the norm of that day. To understand the Jewish perspective, all we have to do is remember the stories of the exodus, a time when the nation of Israel was ready to strike out on its own, with God as their guide. They followed Moses who brought to them the law, and the promise of God to be their God. They were to establish themselves as a different from the prevailing cultures who worshiped many gods, and worship only the one God. They were to turn away from paganism, the worship of Egyptian gods, and create a community that was different, one that had a special relationship to Yahweh. So for generations, the chosen people did just that, through good times and bad, during times of abundance and times of drought. And so Judaism would be shaped into the religion it is today, all the while most of the gods that were so prevalent in the rest of the world, would disappear. From this faith, the faith of Abraham, Islam would sprout, out of this faith, Jesus would come and Christianity would be formed. So, for all these many years of faithful obedience there has been a pay off, God has continued to bless the nation of Israel, the faithful who have kept the commandments, who continue to believe in one God.
So as we read the scriptures, we know that the Jews were a bit selective of who they conversed with, who they ate at the table with, and especially drank from the cup with. Here Jesus breaks the rules, and breaks down the walls that have been established between him and someone outside the circle.
What happens? Does the world come to an end? Does the woman run away? Does the water make Jesus unclean? Not in John, who is the evangelist of all the gospel writers. John shows how Jesus goes beyond the barriers to testify of how we need to break down the barriers in our own lives.
Jesus BREAKS the rules God so loves the world! Not just our part, not just the parts that we get along with, not just those who we like! God so loves the world! We cannot run away like Amy Tan did, we need to embrace all the cultures of the world, and learn to live in peace and harmony.
Walls are broken down

As I was reading statistics and stories about how churches are facing the new immigrant populations in their community, none compared to what we are facing right here in Walnut. All we have to do is go out to eat, and we can see the enormous diversity right here! We can eat Thai food, Vietnam, Korean BBQ, Japanese Sushi, New York Style Pizza, Mexican, Indian, These are just a few of the examples of how we reflect a multi-cultural population that has settled here.
This week I went to the Pastors Prayer Network and we had represented a number of churches, some who identify themselves as Chinese or Korean, but who have found they have to have a ministry to non-Chinese and non-Korean because of the diversity here.
The World today
Diversity rules

I believe in the multicultural congregation, our church needs to continue to find ways to celebrate the richness of culture we have represented here. As the world continues to grow larger in population and smaller in the ways we travel and interact, we need to find ways of worshiping together, because we all draw from the same well.

Now I know this work is not easy, we can so frequently step on each others cultural toes, and learn to hate one another for the differences in how we live. We are constantly reminded of how people suffer because of the hatred that develops, in places like Iraq we mourn the deaths of those who continue to act out of desperation to establish domination against others.
President Bush, in visit to memorial of Rwanda's 1994 genocide, says "We must not let these kind of actions take place." In our own backyard, hate crimes against those who are different, gangs fighting gangs for turf all are testimonies to the fact that hate is alive and well.
Hate and suffering
OXNARD, Calif. — Hundreds of mourners gathered at a church here on Friday to remember an eighth-grade boy who was shot to death inside a junior high school computer lab by a fellow student in what prosecutors are calling a hate crime.
Lawrence King in December 2006. A 14-year-old classmate has been charged in his death.
In recent weeks, the victim, Lawrence King, 15, had said publicly that he was gay, classmates said, enduring harassment from a group of schoolmates, including the 14-year-old boy charged in his death.
“God knit Larry together and made him wonderfully complex,” the Rev. Dan Birchfield of Westminster Presbyterian Church told the crowd as he stood in front of a large photograph of the victim. “Larry was a masterpiece.”
The shooting stunned residents of Oxnard, a laid-back middle-class beach community just north of Malibu. It also drew a strong reaction from gay and civil rights groups.
“We’ve never had school violence like this here before, never had a school shooting,” said David Keith, a spokesman for the Oxnard Police Department.(Source: Yahoo News)
Drink from the Well As Christians we are called to get beyond the hate, and love one another as Jesus commanded. We are all to gather at the well, and dip in the same cool refreshing water, and drink.
When we do several things will happen
First, Stop complaining. Like the people in the desert, we often can find ourselves grumbling about this or that. We can complain to God about our circumstances , or about the difficult lives we have. Many of these are of course legitimate. The prayer concerns we have lifted up are of course serious problems. So too were the lack of water for the people in the story of Exodus. Of course they needed water, they could not survive without it, the desert would take victims who did not keep hydrated. So too today, we could not live without water, it is more precious than oil, or gold because we could not live without it. But, the story is there for another reason, because as much as we can see physically our need for water, our souls thirst this much for God. Prayer, worship, caring for others, working for justice, all these are like a drink of cool water. There is nothing that can satisfy our thirst, there is nothing that will refresh us, give us new energy, new vision than what God provides. So if we try to satisfy that thirst with anything else we will be unsatisfied, and we will complain,and we will argue , and we will be quarreling with God. When we find ourselves doing these things, we can see that we have become thirsty, and turn to God.
Second, When we gather at the well, we will Find understanding there that blows our mind! When the woman at the well encounters Jesus there, she finds that Jesus understands everything about her. She is amazed because he knows things she herself had forgotten, what her deepest self was really like. When we drink from the well of God, we too will find understanding, and a blessing of Jesus that will free us from whatever we are grumbling about.
Third, when we drink from the well of God, we will find ourselves wanting to Respond with Worship. And this worship is identified by Jesus is when we worship God with spirit and truth. An authentic encounter with God results with us worshiping in spirit and truth, and then we can say we have met the Messiah! And we will never be the same.
Fourth, we will want to tell the story to others. Just as Connie did today, we want to continue to spread the news of what has happened to us. We will want to share with others, and we will want to hear the stories of others and bring them to the well to drink of the living water of Jesus Christ. And then when they drink they will want to worship and then our worship become a more spirit filled and truth filled experience as well.

Today we prayed for our leaders as they start a new term in helping us to make disciples for Jesus. I admire each and every one of them for their dedication, for their love of God that has caused them to want to help others. You should be proud of them,and I hope you will pray for them as they carry on the work of the church this year.
But you also have a task to do. The danger of having such capable, intelligent leadership is that the rest of us might think all we have to do is let them do the work.
That would be wrong. It is not our job to sit back and complain, when there is things we do not agree with, or if our feelings get hurt. Rather, it is up to all of us to make this ministry work, as a gift to God.
OUR prayers
Our gifts
Our love

We all are unique and special in the sight of God, we all have a unique cultural and spiritual heritage, we are all known by Jesus, yes everything, and yet loved so tenderly that our souls thirst no more. Some of us have been to the well, some of us are still finding our way, but the invitation from God is to work so others can find Jesus, so their thirst might be quenched.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sermon 2-17-08

Sudden Changes

Moments of change often arrive without notice, without warning ye have the the power to turn our world upside down. An accident can cause injury to body and spirit, which takes, months, years to heal.
One phone call can bring either sad or glad news. Pastors tend to either hide from, or anticipate phone calls this time of the year from the District Superintendent because it could be a call to move to another church. You hide out if you don’t want to move, you anticipate if you re waiting to see if you are being offered another church, because you and the church you are currently serving have agreed it is a time for a change.
Phone calls can change our lives if it is the news of a person close to us has died. Or if we are awaiting the news of a new baby, who is past due!
The weather can bring change, tornados or hurricanes have the power to change the lives not just for individuals but whole communities. Of course we here in S.-Cal. live with the potential of an earthquake or wildfires destroying our homes.
Change can come with forces outside our control, or can be choices we make. Sometimes like Abraham who gets a sudden and life changing call from God, it is all about how we react that gives change a positive or negative impact on our lives. Sometimes like Nicodemus, change is hard to comprehend, what does it mean for us to be born again, to have our spirit transformed from the old to the new?
First, we need to trust God.
Earlier this week I was talking to a fried about an issue I was concerned about. Even though she was way in Tennessee, and I was here, she observed: “ you are really anxious, relax, trust God!” Then I read about the anxiousness of the people who were following Moses in the desert in Exodus, the people quarreled with God, the people complained against Moses, and the whole congregation complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.
Wow, I was embarrassed to say that I too complain, quarrel with God, especially when I am trying to do something new, especially when I am anxious about something I feel totally out of control about.
Then as we turn to Abraham, I see the opposite reaction to something new. Instead of being anxious, instead of being hesitant, Abraham goes! One commentator says it this way: “God’s speech to Abraham requires Abraham to embrace newness, to go where he has never been, to depart all familiar markings and reference points”.(text for preaching) In other words leave everything you have ever known behind, and go where God tells you.
This is the journey of all who follow Jesus, once we choose to follow him once we embrace the invitation to turn our lives over to him, we are never the same. We leave the old ways of our lives behind, and we are born into a new life, one with God firmly and solidly at the center of all we do.
I remember having a conversation with my father after he had become the president of the Monson Savings Bank, a position he retired from a few years ago, but at the time he started the banking world was changing. I asked him what it was like to be president after all these years of working his way up the ladder, of starting as a teller, and working with several banks. He said he was working harder than ever to keep the bank up to speed with all the changes in the industry. I always remember that conversation because it shattered my image of what a bank president did. I thought it would be a cushy job, a reward for all the hard work he had done all his life, now I thought he could enjoy the fruits of his labor! But no, that was not the case. Then I was in Carl’s Jr, and I read the story of how Carl Karcher the founder borrowed a few hundred dollars against his Plymouth, and purchased his first hot dog stand in 1941. He risked it all to start up his business, to start new, but he did, and the rest is history.

The church is faced with many obstacles in being a thriving and vital presence in the community. In some ways I yearn for the days when the church was the center of the community, times when the blue laws kept business on Sundays at a minimum so people did not have as many choices. I have heard about the glory days of my wife’s church in Montebello, when that church was the only one in town, and so everyone went there, the mayor, the fire chief, city council members, and they were able to build new buildings, raise money for missions, and offer a wide variety of programming.
It is time to relive the glory days, but dangerous if we expect to do the same things today as those churches did in the past. It is time to keep our promise to God, God has loved us, and kept the promise to bless us, and bless us, and bless us. But that means that we are asked to keep a promise too.
It is dangerous for us to harden our hearts and minds to the call of God. We are always being called to be reborn, to shed the old skins we became comfortable in to
“embrace newness, to go where we have never been, to depart from all familiar markings and reference points”. (Ibid).
This takes tremendous trust in God, who goes with us into this strange and wonderful new life.
We live in a world where many have become weary of the fallout from their destructive habits and attitudes, and want a new way of living. This week we had many reminders of the hurt many in our world, suicide bombers trying to upset the elections in Pakistan, another shooting on a college campus, this time in Illinois. the service of a Swat officer, an illegal street race turning deadly, just to name a few of the sad experiences of this world. The world needs Many want to feel joy and worth, relief from pain and a connection to others that fosters intimacy. Being born again means a new life free from
A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups — porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite — telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: “If you noticed, all the nice-looking, expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink.

What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups. And then you began eyeing each other’s cups.

Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of the Life we live.

Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us.” God brews the coffee, not the cups. Enjoy your coffee!

“The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.” Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.
Stephen Marsh, assistant to the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Southeast Michigan Synod and director of Acts in Common, a ministry with African-American congregations, asserts that a congregation that determines the most serious needs of its community and then sets out to address those needs is the one that will flourish.

In the July 2007 issue of The Lutheran magazine he writes, “Today, church growth and renewal statistics clearly show ministries that ascertain a community’s needs and then creatively meet those needs are the ones that thrive. These congregations understand that Jesus didn’t just teach about loving the neighbor as yourself but also practiced showing such love.

“The renewal of our Jesus communities, our congregations, depends on realizing that ‘love’ is an action word. Congregations must creatively give themselves away in the name of Jesus, the name that is all about love.”


Saturday, February 9, 2008

The week

The week of a preacher

Each week, every week
I enroll in class.
Each week, every week,
I acquire books and articles,
Eat the knowledge and wisdom within,
Attend classes in classrooms all around.
Each week, every week,
I write notes, insights, thoughts,
Put my computer to work,
Distilling God's word in this particular moment,
In this particular situation,
In this particular place.
Meanwhile, all the time,
Adjusting to winds of need and change.
Each week, every week,
I put all these scattered bits
Into images and words, songs and prayers,
transmitting a glimpse of truth, maybe.
I submit the term paper, await confirmation
I satisfied the requirements to pass and
Can register for the term next.
Each week, every week,
I start again, finish maybe, continue lessons
Of being a student preacher
Wholly dependent on God.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

These are words to bless a body at funerals, are a reminder of our mortality. Last summer I attended the strength for the journey retreat, for people living with HIV/AIDS, for the first time since I was on staff as dean now 7 years ago. I went to see if the retreat still had the same impact on the lives as I witnessed happened those many years ago. I am to report that yes, the retreat is a rich and spiritual experience for those who attend. One young man, told our small group during a sharing about our lives, that he was glad to have AIDS, because it has changed his life, and brought a change of perspective of his life. He cherishes every moment here on earth, and has stopped his addictive behavior. For him, his brush with his mortality clarified his priorities, and he saw he had a choice, to continue destructive behavior or choose another path.

As we stand now, on the brink of another lent, we too have the opportunity to come face to face with our own mortality, to no longer deny the inevitable. In addition as we study Jesus’ life we remember often with tears in our eyes the path he chooses brings him to his own death. So lent can be a burden to us, to see how limited we are, how death is at the end for us all. We see what the disciples did not see, the path that lead Jesus to the cross, so we are somber and respectful.

But here is the rub, even though we come face to face to our mortality, we still have a choice to make. My friend living with AIDS, tells of his choice, he has chosen to use the time he has for the better, to make changes in his life so he can live more freely from the bonds of addiction.

So too do we have the choice, to face our inevitable death, and then choose a path that leads to the appreciation of what the world beholds right now. Or we can live in denial and ignore our opportunity to live fully with out bondage to sin, and death.

Often, the ashes that are blessed at a funeral are taken to a place where the one who has died loved. For some, it is the ocean, or the mountains, for still others it is a favorite spot on the golf course, or even by a tree in the backyard. Since I am at home both here and Massachusetts I often think I would want my children to distribute my ashes in both places, somewhere in the eastern Appalachian mountains I grew up by, hiking the trails, sliding down the slopes on toboggans, camping in the summers. And then here in California, somewhere like Wrightwood where I have attended so many camps, and had so many mountain top experiences. It is not so much that I need to have my ashes there, but it is in those places I felt so close to God, and it is a way for my family to remember to whom I return.

I would hope they would in those moments also remember that this life is temporary, from ashes and dust I was born, to ashes and dust my body returns. My spirit is another matter, who I am, my essence, my soul, is given to me at my creation, and then returns to the Creator at the end of this mortal life. If I fear this end, I truly do not trust in God who through Jesus made known for all believers the resurrected life.
So even in this time of lent, we take a break from the somber path, and do not include Sunday in the time of sacrifice. On this day we take a moment to remind ourselves that eternal life is the end result of our lives. Yes we go from dust to dust, but our souls lives on!

We need to keep in our vision the entire passage of John 3:16 “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life”. God gave us Jesus so we can live, that we can be free from the bonds of sin and death!
God gives us the world so we can experience the love of one another, of all creation, which conspires for us, so we can live with joy and courage and peace.

This Lent I call us to renew our souls by listening to the words of Isaiah, who calls us to not just go through the motions, but to listen for God in our worship, and in our prayer.
We need to heed the teaching of Jesus not to fast for show, but in order that we become aware of our dependence on God, and God alone for a fruitful life.
Psalm 51 contains my personal sentence prayer, that calls me to listen and act with the right attitude: “Create in Me, O God, a clean heart and put a new and right Spirit within me”.

When we take our ashes in a few moments, I am changing up how we can use these ashes in our lenten journey. Instead of distributing them in the traditional way, the sign of the cross on your forehead, I am instead going to give you a small bag of ashes. Keep these in a place you see every day, as a reminder of the limited time we have here on earth. But then on Easter, find a place you can spread them that is a sacred place for you. It might be a favorite park, or a favorite tree or even in your flower bed, but wherever it may be know that these are organic made from palms and wood, so there is not health safety issues, and they will go to help feed the soil. In that moment wherever you feel close to God, give thanks, and be glad that God loves the world, God loves us, and we have been given the gift of eternal life! Amen

Monday, February 4, 2008

Sermon 2-3-08

Ghost Ranch(Chimney rock is to the left) is one of the places where I go to commune with God. The marvolous mesa’s, the mountains, the rainstorms, the experience of being with people, who I can be with whether we are painting a sunset, writing a poem, worshiping God, or walking the labryth. Being in this place is always a mountain top experience for me.
Being in Massachusetts this past summer was a mountain top experience for me, as I co-officiated with my wife the wedding of my oldest neice. I was not literally on a mountain, but the high I felt in the fellowship of my family and their friends, made the moment a precious moment in time. Then to be able to go back a month later to Orange, where I was born, and co-officiate with the pastor of the Orange United Methodist Church the service I wrote for my parents 50th anniversary, this was too a mountain top experience. This was the church I was baptized it some 49 years ago, it was where my grandfather preached before I could really understand, where my grandmother and I preached together while I was on break from college, where I helped with the funeral services of my grandmothers and one grandfather. All of these are to remind us today, of those mountain top experiences of our lives, of the times we have had the experience of glory, of joy, of peace almost too hard to put in the words. I am aware that for some, our mountain top experiences are only hills compared to others experiences. I would not compare my awesome moments to someone like Tiger Woods, President Bush, or the New England Patriots, but that is not the point. It is important that we all celebrate, we all get high, not on drugs, or alcohol, but the experience of being human at its finest.

Today is the day of transfiguration, a theological term hard to define, and even harder to get our minds around. Jesus takes Peter James and John to the mountain top, and perhaps this is something we can get our mind around. Jesus you see had something to teach them there, he had to teach them that his purpose in life was about to undergo a radical transformation. He no longer was to be the teacher, rabbi, master they had come to love, although Jesus was all of these things. No, Jesus was about to be revealed as something quite different, something even more glorious than they could imagine.

In these past few weeks, we have gone from celebrating Jesus’ birth, to this moment in his life when he is all grown up, and now stands ready to reveal the deeper purpose, the one in which is boldly proclaimed in John: God So loved the world, God gave us his only begotton son....

Wow, now that is an experience these three would never forget, they went up to the mountain knowing Jesus one way, but came down knowing Jesus at even a deeper level than they could imagine.
Isn’t that true with our mountain top experiences? Isn’t part of what it means to have this kind of profound experience is to be changed, inspired, strengthened in some way that sheds a whole new light on our lives, on life in general?
We have been following the book, by Henry Nouwen about being the beloved. Discovering our status as God’s beloved is the truest form of a mountain top experience we can have. We discover in seeing ourselves as loved by God, as Nouwen says,
“We are God’s chosen ones and I mean that we have been seen by God from all eternity and seen as unique, special, precious beings”. ( p. 53)

But the mountain top experience is not just about me!
There is a second dynamic that plays out in those precious moments, we discover that we are not only chosen by God, but we are to be the bread for the world.
Yesterday, at the worship service I attended with several of our leaders from this church at the Covina UMC. Our district supertindent, Adiel DePano,issued this challenge, to step outside of our comfortable way of doing things, and bear fruit for the Kingdom in the community, get out from the four walls of our church and make disciples for Jesus Christ, for the transformation of the world! If this does not become our most sacred task, than we might as well be any other organization in the community. We however have seen Jesus on the mountain top, we have met him there, and he calls us to do the tasks of transforming the world.

Now I must say there is one part of the mountain top experience that is does not feel so good. I love ghost ranch, I love Massachusetts, I love my family, and yes I love you, and I love celebrating the mountain top experiences with those I love, but there is a time when we have to come down the mountain. Peter, James and John want to set up shop right there on the mountain, let us build memorial buildings right there. We can relate, it is hard to come down the mountain, and face our daily tasks once again, it is hard to come down from this mystical and magical moment.
I know I am sad when I have to say goodbye, to leave the places I had such wonderful times, but I know too that I cannot stay there, that the calling of God tugs at my heart. Jesus knows he cannot stay there, he has a mission to accomplish, he needs his disciples by his side to help accomplish that mission, so they can’t stay either and so that sad moment comes when you go back to reality.

And so you do, and you go back to work but the good news is that the mountain top experience goes with us. Again Nouwen says it this way: “When our deepest truth is that we are the Beloved and when our greatest joy and peace come from fully claiming that truth it follows that this has to become visible and tangible in the ways we eat and drink, talk and love, play and work”( Ibid. p. 47)

There comes a time when we do put into practice in our daily living the truth we experienced on the mountain top, weddings are followed by the hard work of learning to live together, and be a family, worship is followed by the hard work of making disciples, and following the disciplines that keep us connected to God, graduations are followed by the anxiety of wondering who will hire us, and starting our careers, our experience of accepting the Lord into our hearts and lives, is followed by the hard work of service and sacrifice. Yet, even then, even in the most tedious moments, that glory we have experienced on the mountain top drives us forward with courage and joy, and usually when we least expect it we get another rush of God’s love that fills us with enthusiasm once again.
There is sadness too when the disciples discover Jesus’ deeper mission. We know the rest of the story, we know the suffering that is to come, and how hard this will be on the people that Jesus loves, how hard it is even now for us to hear, of how much pain Jesus endured, ridicule, abandonment, prosecution. We wish Jesus could of stayed up on the mountain top, safe free from the doubters and the injustice. But God does not stay safe up in heaven some where, rather God is here, God is suffering because we suffer, God cares even about those we can’t seem to care for. John Wesley our founder of the Methodist moment, did not stay in his safe town, but traveled extensively, and declared at one point the world is my parish, as United Methodists we follow in that tradition, caring for not just ourselves, not just for those close to us, but for those whom we do not even know their names, who suffer because they do not have enough bread, who are murdered, those who are mistreated. It is not an easy task, but this is the inevitable result of going to the mountain top, you will be changed from selfishness to selflessness. And so, Jesus experiences pain, and unfortunately when we follow Jesus, we experience pain, as we work with those who suffer.

And yet even as we lose the self we once knew after we have been to the mountain top, we find a promise that will satisfy our souls. “God has chosen us with an everlasting love, a love that existed from all eternity and will last through all eternity!” (Ibid. 58)
The rest of the story, the story of Easter, the story of how love overcomes death, how nothing can seperate us from God, how no one can cancel our belovedness, this promise keeps our spirits from bottoming out from despair as we go through the difficult and impossible experiences of life. This is the ultimate mountain top experience, coming to the acceptance that death is not greater than love.
As we move now into the life of Jesus and his journey from the mountain top, to the cross to resurrection, let us take the glory we have received and stay close to God

Let us keep looking for the love, practicing the love and celebrating the love of God as we move from the celebration of Jesus’ birth to his ministry to holy week and Easter. As Bishop Swenson reminded me this week, let us practice the three simple rules of Wesley:
(Do No Harm, Do Good, Stay in Love With God.)