I think I did 50 years ago when as a young adult I stepped into 1stUMC: La Mesa.
And it’s been there in all the churches I’ve been honored to serve, with all the people I’ve loved and who loved me in God’s holy love, and in all the hours I’ve spent here with other clergy and church leaders, it has been a recurring, inspiring joy, a true gift.
It’s in Holy Communion, in celebrations of Baptism and in times of healing and growth. It’s all filled with the life giving presence of Jesus that inspired and renewed me.
And now, do I see a "New Church?"
It’s been said so many times that it’s trite:“It takes a village,” but what happens when that village fails?
What happens when the children have to fend for themselves, getting no wisdom as to who they truly are?
We are at a confusing crossroads of history, but we only see in part.
Swirling around us is a tectonic “Gutenberg Moment” where technological changes are rearranging everything.
It’s taken us decades, but we have finally moved out of the false membership rush born of a post-war prosperity, where people attended church for comfort, to escape a world destroyed by war, or perhaps just to be social, …rather than be a faithful, deeply searching community living an honest and personal relationship with God.
Consumerism and greed have been our society’s god for centuries, but now our younger prophets are unmasking it for the self-centered false god it is.
But remember, we’ve been here before:
Roman roads disrupted families and nations in the 1stCentury.
The Gutenberg printing press brought on the tumultuous age of reason, and in Wesley’s time, the Industrial revolution upended everything held dear.
And in all these times chaos became fertile ground for the good news of Jesus that we were no longer limited by the world, but we can be fulfilled as citizens of heaven.
My most cherished Brothers and Sisters,
baptism gives us immigration papers into God’s holy realm of unconditional love,
God’s presence is at hand!
And as our world grows more desperate in loneliness and isolation, we have the gift of the holy community to give, with agapé-unconditional love and phileo-deeply chosen love rather than storge-family love and eros-physical love.
It makes this time the most exciting time everin my lifetime.
And as far as I’m concerned, I was born 40 years too soon.
Now is a true revolutionary time to proclaim the radical, transforming, heavenly, unconditional love of Jesus Christ, spoken and lived in ways that invites everyone to come home.
....and do the hard work that makes us all a family, an eternal village with God.
Like many others, I have agonized over the issue of Homosexuality and the United Methodist Church (UMC) for a long time. I believe we can unravel, not cut, this Gordian knot.
Is it possible for the 2016 General Conference next Spring to consider two completely unconsidered initiatives that are based on the reality that “Sex" does not equal “Love.”
One side talks about “love" as being inclusive of all sexual behavior. The other side seeks to uphold the biblical mandate that some sexual behaviors are “incompatible with the Christian lifestyle” yet paints it with such a broad brush that leaves many hurting in it’s wake.
Unless we make the above distinction of “sex" not being equated with “love" we shall always be talking past one another. (I’ve noticed that Eros love - physical love, and even Storge love - family, protective, are not mentioned in the New Testament, only Phileo love - Friendship and Agapé love - Godly love.)
2016 General Conf. Recognition of Covenanted Families
…Blessing the formation of families comprised of spiritual people who deeply love each other, but without intimate sexual activity.
In other words, is a “21st Century Monastic 'Small Group' Family Possible?”
Can we study ways to affirm “Covenant Families” of same sex families who choose to live in a close, caring, Christ-centered and nurturing relationship that refrain from certain sexual behavior?
Were not the classic Monastic orders basically same sex families?
Can we recognize the deep need we all have for family without being overwhelmed by our completely sexualized culture?
In other words, is this a way to recognize the “same sex love” that faithful people are feeling and choosing for each other without compromising a clear standard of behavior and our Book of Discipline?
Initiate a Gen. Conf. comprehensiveTheology of Recreational Sex in the 21st Century over the next four years.
What are the biblical, theological, traditional and experiential threads that could be woven together to provide wise and faithful guidance concerning sexual behavior in our turbulent and over-sexualized society?
What do we as a church have to say about
Adultery, the Divorce Rate and Multiple Remarriages,
Internet Pornography and Soft Porn in TV/Movies/Entertainment
Non-married living/sexual arrangements,
Sexual abuse of children and adults,
Sex Trafficking and casual sex among strangers,
Teen and younger sex,
(and other related topics)
...that can bring healing and wholeness in Jesus Christ to those caught up in these tragedies?
Perhaps these two initiatives can steer us away from the rocky shoals of division and estrangement of the "peculiar people" of the UMC who love so.
This is the second simple rule after the first: "Do No Harm."
And while “doing Good” is something we all can easily agree to, it comes at a higher cost than the first.
It begins with recognition that in order to do good, we must know right from wrong.
“You owe your conscience to God; to one another you owe nothing but mutual love..” (Letters of St. Augustine)
It’s the natural follow up to:
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28)
The trouble starts when we actually start measuring our life against our hopes and dreams to “do good.”
And of course, we have all the excuses as well: “It’s impossible to do good all the time!” “I don’t know if what I’m doing is really right or not.” “What if I do good and people abuse and/or misuse my gift?” “I don’t like being called a ‘do-gooder.’ “I have too much on my plate already.”
However, we’re in luck. What’s impossible to us is possible with God.
We have God’s shoulder to rely on. We have the unstoppable, unconditional, no-strings attached love of God to refresh and renew us.
And ultimately, it’s our decision to do the good that God wants us to do. We don’t have to worry about what others think of us. We already know what God thinks of us.
That’s the message of the gospel, the ‘good news’ that Jesus Christ came to bridge the gap of loneliness between us and God. …That the love of Christ is more powerful than anything else. That we are a loved child of God and we know it!
In this love we can, in great gratitude and thankfulness, live out the scripture that says:
“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers." (Romans 12:9-10,13)
And in this way we live with this guideline:
“Every act and every word must pass through the love and will of God and there be measured to discover if its purpose does indeed bring good and goodness to all it touches.” - “Three Simple Rules” pg. 38 by Rueben Job
Are you ready to “do good” and change your life?
Can you catch yourself doing better at “doing good” each and every day?
How have you lived closer to God this day? …this week?
Della, of the beautiful hair, wanted to give her husband a gift to express her unconditional love for him. Her husband, Jim, whose only possession was a magnificent gold pocket watch from his grandfather, wanted the same thing for her.
So the stage is set for the wonderful short story, "The Gift of the Magi," by O. Henry.
(In the story, Della sells her long, beautiful hair to buy Jim a chain for his watch, while Jim sells his watch to buy her an exquisite set of combs.)
It describes a memorable Christmas of magic and wonder, filled with extravagant love and surprising joy set in an otherwise dreary and hopeless world.
In our current recession, with friends and family losing jobs and homes, with money running out and Christmas expectations always high, we need a deeper, more "grown-up" understanding of Christmas.