Series: A Future With Hope

future with hope series sepia light

Summer Worship Series – A Future With Hope 

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” — Jeremiah 29:11

 We ease into the summer season: a time for planting, growing, and sitting back to enjoy the fruits of hard work. As flowers, vegetables, and trees flourish in their own time and season, we are reminded that growth takes time, and that God’s timing is often much longer and more far-reaching than our own.

Have you ever been frustrated or impatient with how long it takes to grow and change as God’s people? Maybe you wish your life would turn around right now, or that there could be a “quick fix” for our congregation as we live into our mission and ministry, or that the world could instantly be filled with the hope and joy God offers. But growth takes time, and we who plant the seeds of hope and change, who nurture the tender shoots of new life, are in it for the long haul.

This summer in worship, we plant, we tend, we wait with patience, and we celebrate the promise and presence of God now, and in our future filled with hope.

Sermons in this series:
June 18 – A Future With Hope
June 25 – The Opening 
July 2 – The Planting
July 9 – The Nurturing 
July 16 – The Residing 
July 30 – The Building 
August 6 – The Bearing 
August 13 – The Sustaining 
August 20 – The Remembering 
August 27 – The Releasing 
September 3 – A Future With Hope 

Sermon: Let (it) Go

emerge series“Let (it) Go- Leaving Behind what We Don’t Need”

(May 21, 2017) Sometimes, too much change, even good change, like leaving behind oppression in Egypt, or like God conquering death in Jesus Christ, can throw us off balance. It can be hard to let go of the past, no matter what that past is like. Gently, we offer to God those things that we need to let go, like the empty shell of a chrysalis, so that we are ready to journey on. (Exodus 16:1-3, 9-12John 21:1-14)

Sermon: Unwrap & Unfold- Unbound

emerge series“Unwrap & Unfold- Unbound”

(May 14, 2017) An emerging butterfly– or human child– is strengthened by the process of breaking free. Much as we might wish we could save our children from hardship, and much as God might wish to save us, God’s children, from hardship, the struggle is part of what strengthens us so that we will one day be able to soar. Unlike moths and butterflies, we do not struggle alone. Like Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, we are surrounded by a community that struggles with us, and that aids us in the unbinding. (John 11:1-44)

 

I tried and failed to show this video clip from ABC’s show “Lost”. I described it instead, but the illustration goes faster if you have the option to watch it.

Sermon: Stir- Wake me Up

emerge series“Stir- Wake me Up”

(May 7, 2017) A brief reflection on a day when we celebrated camping Sunday still offers time to ask– when and where and how to we begin to awaken to God’s new thing? Are you falling asleep just as the story gets interesting, or are you beginning to awaken? (John 10:1-10Matthew 28:8-20)

Sermon: Open – Into the Light

emerge series“Open- Into the Light”

(April 30, 2017) What does it mean to open to God’s transformation in our lives– not to be open (a state of being), but to open (a verb)? As the disciples struggle to imagine what the death and resurrection of Jesus could mean, Jesus himself comes to journey with hem, opening scripture, opening their eyes, and opening their hearts. Do you see the little crack through which the light gets in? (Genesis 17:1-7, 15-27; Luke 24:13-35)

Sermon: Re-Form- Leaving Comfortable Places

emerge series“Re-Form- Leaving Comfortable Places”

(April 23, 2017) The more we learn about butterflies (and moths) and the process of metamorphosis, the better it preaches about the transformations of the Christian life. Tombs, cocoons (or chrysalises), wombs, and locked rooms may seem like safe places, but instead are the places where Jesus finds us. Like the caterpillar, we are broken down to be re-formed in God’s hands. Are we really ready for this complete transformation? (Luke 1:26-38John 20:19-31)

IMG_0058A new favorite of many in the congregation, and as promised, my self-disclosure of how very wrong I was about butterflies’ bodies.

To Bishop KO with Love

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Bishop Karen Oliveto, who is NOT an individual respondent in next week’s Judicial Council cases, with my daughter and me in March.

Next week, the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church will rule on cases concerning out LGBTQ clergy in the denomination. While the outcome of these cases will certainly have a huge impact on the global UMC, no matter what that outcome is, I’m distressed by the mischaracterization of what the cases address.

The Judicial Council is NOT ruling on whether or not Bishop Oliveto can be a Bishop. It is NOT ruling on whether or not gay and lesbian pastors can be ordained. It is NOT acting upon a complaint against Bishop Karen, or the against the individual clergy people ordained by the New York Annual Conference or the Northern Illinois Annual Conference. And it is most definitely NOT creating new rules or regulations that will bind the church.

For people who support The UMC official policy that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” cannot be ordained or appointed as clergy (spoiler alert: this is not my position), I imagine this is a frustrating moment. For over forty years, the denomination’s legislative body, the General Conference, has codified this discrimination in our rule book, the Book of Discipline. But making legislation is not the same thing as living out ministry. As it turns out, proving that anyone is a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” is all but impossible. Defining marriage– both a civil and a religious institution– gets complicated, and only serves to demonstrate that marital status is not the same as a person’s sexuality, no matter how much the heterosexist patriarchy would like to think it is.

And meanwhile, while the Discipline and its supporters have spent countless dollars and hours trying to tighten and clarify restrictions, queer United Methodists have been busy doing shocking things. Like preaching and teaching. Visiting people in homes and hospitals. Baptizing and burying. Celebrating eucharist and journeying with siblings in Christ through life milestones. Being the people of the church.

And since LGBTQ United Methodists are doing these things, they– we– are also doing them in leadership. As lay leaders, deaconesses, home missioners, pastors, candidates, elders, deacons, yes, even bishops. And when it comes time to evaluate and discern leadership in the Body, a curious thing happens: congregations, Boards of Ordained Ministry, and whole Jurisdictional Conferences are evaluating and discerning a person’s gifts and graces for a particular ministry on the basis of that ministry. Not on the basis of that person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or other personal characteristic that is not at all a part of their gifts and graces for ministry. Scandalous.

So, in New York Annual Conference, for example, the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry discerned the gifts and graces for ministry as ordained elders for several individuals, some of whom happen to be queer and some of whom do not. They rightly stated that the sexual orientation of the individual was not a relevant factor to discern a person’s gifts and graces for ministry. Likewise, in the Western Jurisdiction, the voting members discerned the gifts and graces for ministry as a Bishop in Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, a elder in good standing in The United Methodist Church. They rightly determined that Bishop Karen’s sexual orientation is not a relevant factor in determining if she will be a good Bishop. Because it turns out that how we live as Christ’s people in ministry and service matters, and that people will know we are Christ’s people by our love and service. Not by our sexual orientation.

But this is wrong! cry the supporters of the current policy. And to try to stop the natural outpouring of good, loving, faith-building ministry that is happening while people also happen to be queer, they request judicial rulings on the legality and constitutionality of the processes used by the voting bodies to ordain elders and deacons or to elect and consecrate bishops. 

That’s what is before Judicial Council next week. Not people. Processes. Did the Western Jurisdiction follow the correct process in electing a particular person, who was eligible for nomination and election, as Bishop? Did the Board of the Northern Illinois Conference exercise its own legitimate authority to evaluate candidates for ministry by the standards that are set by the denomination and the Board?

Quite frankly, I think the Judicial Council would have to violate several (United Methodist) Constitutional and polity principles in order to find these bodies in error. It would have to take up the task of legislating and punishing, rather than adjudicating. But I have seen the terrifying might of homophobia in this church. It’s possible that that power will prevail, and the Council will rule procedures to be improper. Then a whole new series of procedural questions would begin, because undoing ministry and life together is not as easy or as quick as making a Judicial ruling.

Oh, there will be personal consequences and fall-out for these procedural decisions, no mistake. There will be new struggles to journey through, and we will continue to fight whatever new injustices arise. But the Judicial Council is not ruling on the calling, the gifts and graces, the God-given beauty and love and ministry, of these beloved servants. That matter was settled long ago. And Bishop Karen and my colleagues in New York and Illinois know it, to the tips of their toes. Nothing will take that away.