Tag Archives: thankful

Cautiously Hopeful for the United Methodist Church

Two weeks ago, a group of representatives from across the United Methodist Church which included advocacy groups and bishops released a statement that they had come to an agreement for how to have an amicable separation of our denomination. That article from the Great Plains Annual Conference website includes links for the protocol and the FAQ and the list of those who participated.

In the relatively short amount of time since this press release was shared there have been numerous responses: some positive, some negative, many trying to figure out how this late in the game this could be accomplished (It is possible and will require a great deal of work and for the General Conference itself to be open to working toward a solution.) Having read the materials, I saw immediately this was a compromise for both sides (progressives and traditionalists) and no one group “got” everything they wanted.

I have shared numerous blog posts on the issue of inclusion in the United Methodist Church. You can find them herehere, here, and the week of the special called General Conference in February, 2019, I posted three, two before,  and the one written after the One Church Plan failed and things looked bleak for full inclusion.

For my entire ministry I have wanted nothing more than for the United Methodist Church to fully embrace our LGBTQ siblings. On Facebook I posted a response from Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, one from the Pacific Northwest Conference, and one from a friend of mine David Livingston, who was a delegate in 2019 and will be a delegate in May. All of these, in my opinion, very helpful for those of us who are trying to figure out how to be the church and specifically the United Methodist Church in the future.

I shared all of this information because yesterday at the Orders and Fellowship gathering in Lincoln, Nebraska, our current Bishop Ruben Saenz, Jr announced in the spirit of the protocol he would abide by the abeyance and not proceed on any charges brought for doing same gender weddings or against gay clergy pending the outcome of General Conference. This is a HUGE!!!

Six years ago, our former bishop announced exactly the opposite. Toward the end of page three and the beginning of page four of this pdf, Bishop Scott Jones announced he would do one hundred trials if necessary for clergy who disobeyed the Discipline, regardless of the cost. Another stunning announcement which was devastating to many clergy and laity.

I am not sure how it is I tend to miss this big announcements because I am usually at everything! I missed this because I am on a one month study leave, and the last time, in January of 2014, I had left early because the local church I was serving was in crisis. Either way, I was not present in the room when these big statements were made.

There is no way to describe how delighted and thankful I am for Bishop Saenz to make this statement. I know it is not a “forever” promise, as it has a time limit. Still, it speaks to me of a hope that this General Conference may find a way through this “mess” we are in as a church.

Honestly, I am tired. I am tired of the angry tirades and the hateful posts and statements that have filled social media and sermons and blog posts. I am honest that I really do not understand why we can not live and let live. All the theological rants and ravings about biblical authority and scholarship notwithstanding, I believe underneath it all the argument is about power and money and who wins and who loses. I am tired and done with the arguments.

So, I have somewhat bowed out of the debate and chosen to live and preach and pastor what I believe: God loves you and God loves me and that the deepest power in the world is the power of love to change lives and transform communities. I serve a congregation that doesn’t agree on everything, socially and politically we have great diversity. On the issue of full inclusion, we are mostly of one mind and heart. We will continue to offer hope and faith and love to all people.

Our welcoming statement written by our youth and adopted by our church council:

First United Methodist Church will live out the love of Jesus Christ by including everyone, accepting others for who they are, treating others the way we would want to be treated, respecting all, loving all, and affirming the full participation of all regardless of nationality, race, class, culture, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, and age.

I am grateful to our youth and to our congregation for this statement that we will continue to live into and share. I am cautiously optimistic for the future of this church I love and have loved for decades. Even though I am “tired” I am not leaving and I plan to stay to work toward a church that fully embraces all of us as beloved children of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lingering over the Memories

Earlier this week I noted that this was the first anniversary of my mother-in-laws death. Early November includes her “yahrzeit” and my own mother’s. Mostly this does not cause me deep grief, although I know grief. Usually, my memories catch me at interesting times and make me smile.

My sister reminded me of that today as she reposted a blog of mine from this day five years ago. https://revcindylee.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/memories/ This blog and memory still makes me smile years later. My mother was quite the shopper. She loved catalogs, shopping channels and was beginning to get into the whole “online” shopping thing.

It is such a gift to be able to linger over the memories. While occasionally there are still tender spots, mostly there are just smiles and sighs and thankfulness. In a month where many post daily gratitude posts, I am thankful for this gift of memories. I am grateful to remember those people I have loved and lost. Their memory is a blessing and in the moments of memories I say a prayer of deep thankfulness for lives well lives.

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LifeCycle of Giving, Celebrating the Fruits

This is one of my favorite Sundays of the year. There is something deeply sacred about naming name and lighting candles and remembering. At First, only people who are members are named, and while I struggle with that, if we opened it up, we would probably have a couple of hundred names or more. Lighting an extra candle allows all of us to name those persons in our lives who we have died this last year.

After all these years, I find myself coming to this Sunday with a tender heart. For ALL the saints, year after year, I remember and am grateful. I also acknowledge the loss. I firmly believe we are each unique and unrepeatable and when a person dies, no one can take their place.

It doesn’t mean we don’t love any more, or can not love again, but it is always different, not bad, just different. Each person we love adds to the wholeness of who we are. So there are spots, holes if you will, that linger in our hearts and spirits when loved ones are no longer there.

This Sunday we not only remembered those who have died, we also focused our attention on their “fruit” or the gifts their lives offered. Not only are they saints, we are too. We are called to carry on the love and grace we have been offered in Christ. As we are moving through our stewardship sermon series, remembering our saints is one way of honoring their gifts and their lives and spirits.

“I sing a song of the saints of God…and I mean to be one too.” (Lesbia Scott, 1929) Today in worship, we were invited to be a saint today. You can find todays worship service, or just the sermon here.

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All Souls and Giving Thanks

Today is All Soul’s Day, the end of the All Hallow’s Triduum. For Protestants this doesn’t mean much, All Saints Day if celebrated at all is honored on the first Sunday in November. All Soul’s Day is also known as “Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed.”

In other words, everybody. Our loved ones may never have a day set aside for them or a festival, but in more liturgical traditions, we remember all those we have loved and lost on this day. Each year, these moments to stop and remember, regardless of whether or not I call them All Saints or All Souls, become more tender, more reflective, and more poignant. In my own life, we will remember the one year anniversary of the death of my mother-in-law and a few days later, the six anniversary of my mother’s death.

I reflected on my own mother’s death in a couple of blog posts, that you can access.

https://revcindylee.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/all-souls-and-being-thankful/

https://revcindylee.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/gratitude-and-grief/

And these are not the only deaths that I am reminded of during these holy days. Family, friends, colleagues all come to mind and I am grateful for our relationship, love and laughter shared. I miss many of them deeply, but not to the point of great pain. I miss them because of their unique and unrepeatable spirits which can not replicated, only celebrated and remembered.

Carrie Newcomer has a beautiful song called “All Saints Day” In the Celtic tradition the last few days have been a thin space between life here and the spirit world collide. Perhaps it isn’t the space, but the time where we can almost sense the world beyond this one, the place and space and time when the prophets promised there would no more tears, no more sorrow, no more suffering, no more death.

These holy, hallowed days invite me to pay attention to the sacredness of time, of place and of relationships. I am grateful, deeply grateful for those I have loved deeply and who no longer walk this sacred earth. I smile, I sigh, I say a prayer of thankfulness. On this All Souls Day I am blessed and I continue to be graced to serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thankful for All the Saints

Today in the Christian tradition, it is All Saints Day. This day sits in the middle of a triduum (a series of three days, we use the word for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday as well.) This period begins with All Hallows Eve ( Halloween) continues with All Saints Day and ends with All Souls Day. “Traditionally” today is the day we remember the named saints and tomorrow is the day we remember “everyone.”

I almost always write a blog on this day.  A couple of examples of what I written are here:

https://revcindylee.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/all-saints-day/

https://revcindylee.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/all-saints-and-remembering/

So many people have touched my life and I miss them. After 35+ years as a pastor, I have done countless funerals and this day is always a big poignant for me. I don’t think I am maudlin, but I do believe that as a culture we are uncomfortable with grief and tend to want to move on. I know I often do.

Today, after a couple of unseasonable cold and blustery days, the sun is shining. I have taken down the Halloween decorations and am working on the Thanksgiving decor. The colors of autumn remind me of how precious life is, how deeply grateful I am to be alive and to remember. As the leaves turn colors, I think of how many share the best of who they are in the final time of their life.

Autumn is an invitation for me to take each moment as a gift, and to live with love and gratitude. As I finish up an intentional year of gratitude, I am grateful for “all the saints who from their labors rest.”  I am grateful to honor their lives and spirits and be challenged to share the best of their faith, their love and their gifts with others.

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A Year of Gratitude End of May +++

I missed writing my prompt for our year of gratitude last week. I was attending the Festival of Homiletics in Minneapolis and posted two blogs, and had planned a third. Obviously not done! So I have a whole lot of gratitude, many random thoughts and a few things I want to share.

The Festival, as always was inspiritational and filled my “cup” both spiritually and intellectually. I am deeply grateful for all those who make this event possible every year. This was my fifth time to attend, and I have never been disappointed. The theme was “Preaching as Moral Imagination.” You can find my thoughts from the first couple of days here and here. The preachers were wonderful and challenging.

Some quotes that I continue to ponder from Anna Carter Florence:

(When speaking of Zaccheaus) “What Zaccheaus wanted was an unobstructed view of Jesus and what he got was an unobstructed view of Jesus in his life.”

As preachers, like Zaccheaus we need to learn to climb trees, “to try and see Jesus in the text, in the people, in the world, in each other, in the hard covnersation and in the meetings.”

So I am thankful for time away, for time to worship and learn and reconnect to the art and practice of preaching.

This week I am grateful for the clergy and laity that met at the Church of Resurrection to ponder and consider a way forward in the United Methodist Church. What’s next? UMC Next gathered people from every annual conference in the United States to pray, to have conversation and begin to discern a way forwawrd that would truly be open and inclusive for all. You can find the details of their meeting and their commitments here

I am deeply thankful for all those who gathered together and did the hard work to move the United Methodist Church in the United States in a new direction. I am personally committed to doing whatever I can to be part of this new direction.

This weekend is Memorial Day and I will give thanks for all those who have gone before me. I will decorate the graves of those I loved, and tell stories and laugh and maybe even shed or two.

What will you being thanks for in the next few days? What groups, or institutions or people are you grateful for their leadership and their commitment and their vision?

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