Monday, July 8, 2019

Sermon from 7-7-19 Go!

Luke 10:1-11
Linda, Susy and I are all moved into our new home and I want to thank all of you who have been praying for us, helped us set up the house and office, and even rescuing Linda when our car broke down while I was at Annual conference. I thank Pastor Diane and Mark who have helped ease us into the transition with helping us find this house and hosting us when we were up here and before we had a house.

As I thought about this morning, as I prayed and reflected on what God is doing right now, I wondered what is God calling us to be and do as we start this journey together. The ritual we just celebrated reminded me of all the tools we have as we serve Christ.

These tools are just as important as a hammer to a carpenter, a paintbrush to an artist, an airplane to a pilot. And even though they were presented to me, they are for all of us as we God into the world.

The Bible, our founder John Wesley emphasized is the foundation of what we do both as individual followers of Jesus and as a community. The Bible contains wisdom and direction for our lives, a way to root ourselves no matter how old or young we are. So as we move together into the future we will continue to ground ourselves in the scriptures.
Wesley did not expect us to leave our minds at the door, instead he felt we needed to be diligent about the study of scripture and I know you have a rich history of bible study in this congregation which is something we can continue to emphasize. I am entering the 35 year of ordained ministry and I am always amazed at how much I learn as I study the scriptures.

The hymnal is a symbol of our signing heritage, I pastored a small church in Kentucky while I was in college there called the Campground United Methodist Church. This small church was built on historic grounds, a place where Methodists would come and camp for weeks at a time. There was worship all day long, singing and sermons, bible readings and prayer. And as evidenced today you are a singing congregation. Music helps us express our souls delight, and sorrow, and gives us a way to praise God with others as we harmonize.

The discipline defines our structure, how we are to organized so we can truly follow Jesus’s call to make disciples in the world. The discipline however is an imperfect document, and is constantly being calibrated to reflect changing times. In the coming months we will have many discussions about the recent legislation that changes the language in the discipline to exclude those in the LGBTQ community. I stand in opposition to the exclusionary language. As you heard last week from the delegates who attended, we are going to be discussing the future of the United Methodist Church, and get to be a part of a new Church, the form and shape of which has yet to be determined.

The water reminds me of my role as priest to baptize and confirm those into the faith of God. It reminds us along with the globe of Wesley’s claim that the whole world was his parish, not just those who are like us, those who speak our language, those who have been shoved to the outside of the community. Also we want to find those whose hearts leading them to serve with others, to use their skills to bring healing and save lives.

Jesus calls his disciples and us to go into the world. We are enough, right now to go and invite others to join with us as we seek to care for those Jesus sends us to, to be a part of the work to restore justice and mercy in the face of greed and oppression.
Jesus calls his disciples to go and heal, to bring the good news, to anyone who would welcome them.
I thought of this when I was listening to the music on Tuesday night at Atascadero Lake: here was a group of people all who love music gathered together to listen, to play and to support live music. God calls us to find ways to bring people together so we too can bring joy and healing into the world.

 ( Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, Calvin trips turns upside down and then amazing lands on his feet while he proclaims: Ta Da!)

Like Calvin we will trip and sometimes fall flat on our face as we follow Jesus, we will make mistakes, we will sin against God and one another.  But that is part of what it means to go out into the world. Jesus uses pretty serious language, you will go like sheep amongst the wolves!
The work is not always easy, but if we join together, we can help support one another through the tough times, and celebrate in the good times.

I think of my grandparents, Gertrude and Walter Marshall, who were for me so important as I grew up. July 5 was the 50th anniversary of my Grandfathers’ passing, which I almost forgot about since I was moving and all. But as I was unpacking this bulletin and handwritten sermon fell from one of the boxes . This was a service my Grandfather was preaching because the pastor was on vacation, and it happens to be from July15, 1958 (three days before I was born)
As I was thinking about the new relationship you and I have now, I read these opening words from his sermon:
In the newness of life we enter into when we became members of the Christian church, we promise to uphold that church, by our presence, and our prayers and by the life we live day by day, at home, at work, in the use of our leisure time. For we are born again and become new.

He goes on to tell the story of a man he and my grandmother knew who had after marriage and fathering three children, who feel into alcoholism. However, his wife persuaded him to find help, and he did, finding someone who helped him and he was born anew into a life of sobriety and faith.

As we start our journey together, I know I benefit from the love of my grandparents, who you will hear about from time to time, but also from all of those who lived a life of faith, and I expect you too have those in your life that have loved you even before you realized how much that meant to you.This is the grand tradition of believers Wesley talked about and who we thank for bringing us this far.

Together we take up the yoke of Christ and become one of those who are sent out into the world.I am grateful for this new beginning, and am ready to discover what God has in store for us as we serve together.

We are called to go to those who are suffering in the world,
Those on the border, those fleeing for their lives, those who are living in poverty, those who are addicted. We do so because Jesus teaches us we need to as part of a healthy faith to go into the world and find those who need to hear the good news, to find healing. But we are also going out there because as long as one suffers, even the least of these we all suffer, we are connected, because we all belong to the one God who created the heavens and the earth.
As we gather around the table and celebrate our Holy Communion with God and one another. Let us remember we have what we need: the Bible, the Traditions of the church, the experience of all those who follow Jesus, a curious and logical mind, and a loving heart, all these will guide us and nourish us for all eternity. So let’s Go!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

We have nothing to fear but fear itself

As someone who has participated in many kinds of races to date, half-marathon,5k, 10K and Sprint Triathlons, I have faced my share of pre-race fears. The voices of fear are many, "You didn't train enough", "You trained too much", "look at that course, no way you are getting around it", " I can't do this what was I thinking?" so on and so on. Usually, once the race starts and I start breathing in a nice rythm the fears melt away and I can concentrate on what I need to do.
In the church there can be times when our faith fails us, we hear voices of doubt and uncertainty, "Look at all the empty pews, our church is shrinking and may die", " we have so many expenses, how will we ever pay all our bills and salary's". " We have a huge building, how can we keep it maintained with fewer and fewer people in the church?". And these fears show up in criticism of others, of pastors, of those who left, and other scapegoats that are in our field of vision.
Some try to circle the wagons, which was a winning strategy perhaps in pioneering days, but it does not work well in todays realities.
The fact is that the way we do church is changing, well it has been changing for a while but we have not always felt the shifting sand underneath our feet.  It is churches who have figured out to be the church in their context that has led to changes which have made some uncomfortable afraid but they have forged through listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit that have found a way to be vital disciples and welcome new disciples into their fellowship. There is no magic formula, no easy path, no universal idea that works, except this, not to listen to the voices of fear.
I have completed every race I have entered so far, and most always laugh as I cross the finish line because I have left the voices of fear behind, for the moment, and it feels good to say, I did my best.
What voices are you listening to? Which ones do you believe?

2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (NIV)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Beginning of Lent

One of the important parts of training as a triathlete is the proper breathing techniques for each sport, Breathing is as natural as, well breathing, but in sports training there are many ways to muck it up. Swimming especially is a challenge for me, sometimes I hold my breath too much, other times I breath too much. Neither helps me swim well.
The most important breathing I have discovered is not when I am running, or biking or swimming. It is when I am in the midst of my day. I find that as I get tense, I often forget to take deep breaths, and the tension mounts, taking just a minute to breath deeply helps shed the unneeded anxiety and tension that builds up. Also, when I take time to breath, I find myself more focused, and less anxious overall. I even tried a sleeping meditation before a night of a race, when is it  so hard to settle down for a good nights sleep. I was able to get more sleep than I have ever had for a pre-race night.
As Lent approaches, for us here at the Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church, and Christians around the world, it is a time to deepen our relationship to God. There are many ways to use these 40 days before Easter, and there are many different practises you can take on to see if they help you in your journey with God. I have tried many of these, fasting, praying more, special studies, but for this year I am going to make sure I am breathing enough. It is good my I watch helps remind me to do this, but perhaps we all can figure out how we can take time to breath deeply and see if it does change your life. There are many free apps out there than can help, but I would suggest joining a class or group because that helps you to be accountable to yourself as you practice this new discipline.
Breathing is natural, but we sometimes forget to breath deeply, which can be unhealthy for us.
I hope you will join me and breathe each day very deeply.
Pastor Steve