Weekly Reflection from Pastor Janine

Beloved of God. Advent is upon us. Amidst the decorating and preparation, we are also reminded that this is a time of waiting. Yet even as we wait for the Christ child to be born again, he waits for us to do our part in the world as his messengers of hope, peace, joy, and love. Our theme this Advent is Angels among us: flying in the face of fear at Advent. Each Sunday we will explore the ways Jesus calls us to be messengers of #MoreHope, #MorePeace, #MoreJoy, and #More Love. And, we encourage you to take a “selfie” framed by the angel wings we have in the narthex and share ways you are flying in the face of fear.

 

As I was thinking about practical ways to describe how we might be God’s good news for the world, I came across these reminders about what Christianity is all about from Richard Rohr. I know that when I keep them in mind, my responses to people and situations are more likely to be true good news. I hope you find them helpful, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  1. Jesus is a model for living more than an object of worship.
  2. Affirming people’s potential is more important than reminding them of their brokenness.
  3. The work of reconciliation should be valued over making judgments.
  4. Gracious behavior is more important than right belief.
  5. Inviting questions is more valuable than supplying answers.
  6. Encouraging the personal search is more important than group uniformity.
  7. Meeting actual needs is more important than maintaining institutions.
  8. Peacemaking is more important than power.
  9. We should care more about love and less about sex.
  10. Life in this world is more important than the afterlife (eternity is God’s work anyway).Keeping these in mind, where do you see people in need of #MoreHope? How will you be that hope?Yours in Christ

Are Thoughts and Prayers Enough?

November 10, 2017

Beloved of God, I’ve been asking myself this question after hearing so many people make this statement after every horrific tragedy, especially mass shootings. And I think the Bible has something to say about this. In the book of James, it says, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (2:14-17) Gun violence isn’t inevitable. What is the role of the church in the face of gun violence? I found these statements about prayer from other faith leaders around the country, and from Eco-Justice Notes a blog by Rev. Peter Sawtell.

“Ultimately, prayer also forces us back into the world. We cannot praise God for divine acts of justice and mercy without hearing the call to imitate God through our own actions. Prayer is necessary but never sufficient.”

” I want people to stop going to church and start being the church” … I want them to stop praying with their thoughts and start praying with their bodies and their votes and their voices.”

” Simply stating that your thoughts and prayers are with someone is meaningless unless you are actively engaging in and with the pain and suffering in the world — and doing something about it.”

 

As we have been celebrating the saints this month. We learned that

* saints are those who have suffered and who share in the suffering of others

* Saints are a part of living God’s story of healing, saving, and restoring

* Saint act out of gratitude for God’s gifts of abundance

 

I pray that God will use us to pray and to act.

In Christ’s Shalom

Pastor Janine

Beloved of God:

Once again our country has been devastated by violence. Even as we were leaving worship Sunday morning, the news broke about the mass shooting in a Texas Baptist Church. Whether we think the solution involves gun control, better mental health treatment, or enhanced security, we mourn together even as we pray for healing for this world. I found these beatitudes from pastor Steve Garnaas Holmes comforting. They gave me words to pray when I felt hopeless and silenced in the face of yet more violence. I offer them as a prayer that we can say together.

 

“Blessed are they who are devastated, for theirs is the realm of heaven.

Blessed are they who grieve for this country, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are they who are nonviolent, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who long for a culture of peace, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are they who seek healing, not revenge, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are they who desire only blessing for all, for they shall see God.

Blessed are they who work for the healing of the world, for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who meet opposition in their work for peace and justice, for theirs is the realm of heaven.

Blessed are you when people dismiss and insult you. Rejoice, and be glad:

great is your reward in the heart of all things, for in just this way          they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Yours in Christ

Pastor Janine

Dearly beloved of God,

Don’t just skip over that greeting, claim it and dwell within it. God has chosen you. You are the ones God has called here to love and be loved in this place and time. On this Friday morning in the midst of our yearly bazaar, I am so grateful for all you do in Jesus’ name. I am proud to serve among you as your pastor.

 

Yet even amidst this busy season, God desires to move us forward. John Wesley called it moving on to perfection. As Christians, whatever we call it, we recognize, both as individuals and as the church, that God never simply leaves us where we are, content with the status quo, no matter how glorious. To live as God’s people is to continue to find multiple ways to grow in love and service.

 

On November 19 after worship, our District Superintendent will ask us these visioning questions below. Please spend time individually and in groups praying and thinking about how you might respond.

 

What if Jesus needs us to do something fresh and wonderful to love the neighbors outside this faith community? What if that something was abundantly more than we can ask or imagine? What would Jesus do with us if we were willing to say, “Here I am, send me”?

What is God calling you as a community to do next? What is the missional purpose of the congregation?

 

Think about the ways you currently share your faith, the calls you make, the cards you send, the lives you touch, the money you raise for mission. In what new ways will you share your faith with others this next year?

 

In Christ’s Shalom

 

Pastor Janine

 

October 27 Weekly Reflection from the Pastor

 

Beloved of God, Sunday we will celebrate the saints who have gone before us.  Each time I preside at a service honoring someone’s life, I pray  these words. “Eternal God, you have shared with us the life of (name). Before   (name) was ours, (name) is and always will be yours. For all that (name) has given us  to make us who we are, and  for that which lives and grows in each of us, we give you thanks.”  Take a moment and read this sentence filling in the name of a saint in your life. Read it again with that person’s name and reflect on one or two memories it brings to mind.

 

So much of who we have become, we owe to the saints in our lives. As you think about the saints in your life, both past and present, pause and acknowledge the countless contributions they have made to your life. We do not become who we are in a vacuum. God places people and situations in our lives that shape us as persons and especially as Christians. All Saints Sunday gives us the opportunity to pause and to acknowledge the saints of the faith on whose shoulders we stand. Who are the saints in your life? I look forward to hearing your stories about those saints and the impact they had on your becoming the person you are today.

 

In Christ’s Shalom

 

Pastor Janine

 

Beloved of God,

In a world that seems to feed on the negative, on dissatisfaction, on humanity’s shortcomings, I keep reminding myself that I am happiest, most at peace, when I am grateful for this gift of life I’ve been given. This week I’ve been reflecting on a passage from Philippians 4. Here are the opening and closing verses to the passage I’ve been reading. ” Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” … “I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Rejoice is another way of saying give thanks, live gratefully. Paul doesn’t say give thanks when we feel like it…  when we’ve had a good day … when the stars are aligned … when our team wins or when we feel healthy or any other “when” you could name. We are to rejoice because we have been given the gift of life in Christ.  This is a gift that doesn’t depend on how good or bad the state of the world is or how good or bad our personal circumstances are. It does depend on our willingness to pay attention to life in all of its surprises and unfolding mystery, to be “lost in wonder, love and praise” as one of our hymns suggests.

Responding out of gratitude for life itself places me in a never ending flow of giving and receiving.  Because I open myself to receiving the amazing possibilities life offers daily, my response is to offer all that I am as gift in return. This is not a quid per quo– a giving so that I get back. It’s more like placing myself in God’s  river of flowing love that I become part of as it flows and gathers up others. Okay, maybe that’s a bit too “wuwu” or “loosy goosy” as my mom would say. . I only know that wholehearted gratitude leads to more joy which leads to more gratitude. And I am grateful for what Christ is doing through our church–the lives touched, the friendships made, the joys and sorrows shared, the belly’s filled, the hope given. This is the gratitude Paul talks about, knowing that through Christ in us God’s kingdom comes.

May the shalom of Christ fill you to overflowing.

Beloved of God,

After the horrific violence in Los Vegas Sunday evening, many of us ask “why”? We want an answer from God, a justification for why God allows such violence in the world. Our hearts are broken for the victims, the first responders, and for the one with so much hate in his heart.

Instead of asking “why” of God, perhaps we need to ask it of each other. Surely God is broken hearted over all the violence in the world, wondering why we have not fully understood the message of love and peace sent through Christ and through  most of the world’s religions. Love is the conscious choice we have to make every day, every moment to live in peace and harmony. Love demands that we get beyond the superficial conversations of blame and shame to find that which connects us at the deepest human level. Love also asks us to go beyond political ideologies as we talk about guns and violence. I continue to hear Jesus’ words to us from the cross. “Father, forgive them (us); for they (we) do not know what they (we) are doing.” (Luke 23:34) How long will we continue to see violence as an answer?

My prayer is that we never allow hopelessness, hate, and fear to stun us into silence and helplessness. Be especially tender and forgiving with each other this week. Offer kindness and deep listening to those you disagree with. Give yourselves permission to grieve, to feel the pain of violence, even as you continue to live your lives. Choose love, in what you say and do, in how you treat yourself and each other, and especially in your willingness to know and feel God’s love for you at the very core of your being.

 

In love and hope

Pastor Janine