Tag Archives: United Methodist Church

Speaking out

I am tired. I don’t know about you, but I am weary of the hate-filled rhetoric. There are many times I might have blogged, but chose not to. I,often, have no words, I who am supposed to have a “word” for everything. I am a preacher after all, and am called to have something to say in times of joy, in times of sadness, in times of uncertainty, in times when words seem to fail.

I often have had to something to say, when there has been horrible violence:

Horror and Violence in the nth degree

Prayers for Paris,  

Another Shooting

When there are times that are anxious:

Anxiety, Fear, and Rumors of Wars

When I am upset and overwhelmed by racism or sexism:

Standing up, Speaking Out, Praying for Peace

#MeToo

And my blogging started years ago with the shooting of Dr. George Tiller and then the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford in a post:

Words Matter

Today, once again, I KNOW that words matter, that denigrating human beings and their homelands is bad, period. I can not be the only tired of the words that are coming from our nation’s capital. Words matter, language matters, manners matter and holding one’s self to a higher standard matters. It matters when the president of the United States does not condemn racist language or hateful speech. It matters when the president of the United States uses twitter to belittle other people, to bully other people, to make policy statements or post anything untrue. Words matter, even on twitter, even in private meetings about immigration.

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As an “old pastor,” one who has been around for a while, I often talk with new clergy about things that matter, words, certainly, but also dress and behavior and the higher standard to which we are held. It isn’t fair, it isn’t! When I was young, I lived in a very small town and not long after I was there, some of the people came to talk to me about how I dressed when coming downtown to pick up my mail. I saw nothing wrong with wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Some people saw it differently and said they didn’t want to be embarrassed to introduce me as their pastor.

Did that upset me? You bet it did. However, I decided as a young clergy woman, I had enough strikes me against me that I didn’t want my appearance or my clothing to distract from my service, my work, my calling, my ministry. I probably over dressed for a long time, but no one ever said they were embarrassed again about the way I dressed.

I also over the years have become aware that my facial expressions, my aside comments, my overheard comments and critiques can also be incredibly damaging. I confess, I have not always done well or that I don’t still fail pretty regularly. Rolling my eyes at things I think are ridiculous, making comments about situations or people, these are not only unhelpful, they are wrong and hurtful.

Anyone in public service, whether ministry, or teaching, or government are held to a higher standard of behavior and they should be. We are called to be leaders, we are called to thoughtful rhetoric. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with everyone. It doesn’t mean there can not be deeply held beliefs that are divisive. It doesn’t mean there can’t be heated argument, debate and disagreement.

What it does mean is that WORDS MATTER. Using offensive language to describe a person’s home country, making insulting and derogatory comments about human beings is unacceptable as a public servant, or for anyone. The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church have made this statement about the offensive remarks .

I would invite the President, but more importantly all of us to re-think how we behave in private and in public. What he says, what we say can make a difference for good or ill, for peace or violence, for what is right and what is wrong. As a follower of Jesus, I am convicted that I must stand against racism, bigotry and words that incite hatred and violence.

My words matter, as do all of ours. I call on all of us to stand up against hatred, against racism, against any language that is used to put down, bully or insult other human beings regardless of their race, their age, their nationality, their gender, their orientation, their religion. I, we, can do better than this. Let us choose justice, let us choose goodness, let us choose a higher road and a higher standard for our behavior.

 

 

 

 

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Flood Bucket Celebration

Sunday, September 10th, many people from all over Wichita gathered to put together flood/cleaning buckets for United Methodist Committee on Relief to take to hurricane victims. People came with individual items, with full and partial buckets and with helping hands. By Wednesday morning 165 buckets were completed. You can read the full story in the FUMC Wichita Missions Blog.

Next month there will be another opportunity for the community to gather and to fill  more buckets. Thousands will be needed. The mission director and I created a thank you video to send our gratitude out to all those who put their heart and hands and spirits into making a difference for those so devastated by the storms.

I believe that “when the storms of life are raging” God is with us, but what we do for each other, makes God’s presence real. For all who brought items, sent money, gave of time and energy and those who surrounded this project with prayer. Thank you!

 

Yesterday we loaded 165 flood buckets into the church van, trailer and a SUV and took them to the Conference Offices in Wichita where they joined 1000 other flood buckets that will be heading to UMCOR! It could not have been done without your help! Sunday approximately 100 people came to the Wilke Family Life […]

via THANK YOU!!! — FUMC Wichita Missions

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Helping people devastated by Hurricanes

A couple of weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey did horrific damage to Houston and other communities in Texas and Louisiana. Hurricane Irma has already done catastrophic damage in the Caribbean, the Virgin Islands, Bahamas, and currently Cuba with Florida in it’s path by tomorrow (Sunday, September 10.) The United Methodist Committee on Relief had already issued a call for “flood/cleaning” buckets prior to Irma for those affected by Harvey.

In response to that call, Bishop Ruben Saenz, Jr, the bishop of the Great Plains conference issued a challenge for 5000 buckets to be brought to the conference to be sent out later next week. First United Methodist Church has created a Flood Bucket Assembly Event for tomorrow, Sunday, September 10 from 2:00-5:00 p.m. This event is a practical hands on way to respond to the great needs currently in Texas and Louisiana. This event will be only the first of several we intend to host. The Bishop’s challenge of 5000 is only a “drop” in the bucket of needs that will be arising over the next few weeks and months.

I encourage people to send money, particularly to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, as this independent ministry of the church has received an A+ rating from Charity Watch and a four start rating from Charity Navigator. There will be time for teams to go down and help in the future, but right now, money and flood/cleaning buckets are the first things we can do other than pray for those who are in the midst responding to all the people affected.

If you would like to know exactly how to create a bucket, this video that Annette Schmidt and I created shows how to fit everything in the bucket. There are been questions asked as to why certain items are not included and as to why only certain sizes are needed, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is very specific because this is what works and what fits into a five gallons bucket with a lid.

UMCOR and the Great Plains Conference will not accept partial flood/cleaning buckets, but we will. Tomorrow you are invited to come and help fill as many buckets as possible. If we run out of buckets, we will put things in trash bags to place in the buckets once we receive them (our plan is to finish completing buckets before Tuesday that are not completed tomorrow.) People are invited to bring individual items off the list, to bring full or partial buckets or money to buy items to complete the buckets. We have already received funds and used them for this event. In October there will be another event to fill more buckets.

Here is a complete list of what is needed for each bucket. I hope and pray that you can help us with this important ministry.

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Some Reflections on the the Great Plains Annual Conference

For United Methodists, Annual Conference rolls around every year. It is “non-negotiable” if you are clergy you are required to show up. If you are a lay member, it is expected you show up, but not required. Annual Conference in the best of all worlds part revival, part business session and part family reunion. I both love it and dislike it (the loathe and hate words being too strong.)

I’m an extrovert, so having a chance to catch up with folks I only see once a year it wonderful and exciting. Mostly I enjoy the worship if done well, some of the business and the visiting. I do dislike, no I actually loathe the horrible chairs that are uncomfortable and actually are a pain in the “back” and backside!

Four years ago, three annual conferences (Nebraska, Kansas East and Kansas West) became one conference. I won’t go into the myriad of reasons, but suddenly finding venues large enough to hold that many clergy and laity became more difficult. No longer can we have chairs around tables, which makes it easier to do the work of the conference, now we are in long rows with uncomfortable chairs hooked together. We juggle our laptops or tablets or workbooks on our laps and heaven help anyone who needs to get to a microphone quickly or let alone the bathroom!

The sessions planning committee works hard in those large arenas to make the stage worshipfull and beautiful for our various services. There is nothing easy about trying to get that many people together and have all the various functions go smoothly. I miss the smaller conferences partly because of the ease of knowing most everyone and for the ability to make space more intimate. I, also, was one who voted for the one conference, because I had served a three point charge and I am well aware of the toll on the leader trying to do three of everything. That is not good use of resources, not of time, not of finances and certainly not of human beings.

This year’s conference was our new bishop, Ruben Saenz, Jr.’s first with us. I have been a pastor a long time, but had few bishops. Bishop Scott Jones was my bishop for twelve years, Bishop Fritz Mutti was my bishop for twelve years before that, Bishop Ken Hicks was my bishop for eights years before that and I begin my ministry under the leadership of Bishop Ben Oliphint. Each bishop brings their unique and unrepeatable spirit and their gifts to the area in which they serve. 

Bishop Saenz led with humor, humility, honesty and  a good deal of laughter. He noted again and again that the United Methodist Church is in a time of discernment, and honestly a time of difficulty. There is much about the future that is uncertain, but what is certain, Bishop Saenz stated again and again, is that “Jesus is the foundation and it will be alright.” 

When things got tense, or there were strong feelings running deep, Bishop Saenz’s would stop and lead us in prayer. To some that might some manipulative or shallow, but for me it never felt that way. The times of prayers felt genuine and deep. The prayers were not directed to one viewpoint or another, just that we might discern God’s path for us and to love one another.

Anyone can go to the conference website to see the pictures and videos and updates. My take away said are pretty basic, we are in changing times. Pastor’s and lay leaders need ot be discerning where God is leading using Jesus’ prayer, “not will by thine” and “let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The people of God need each other. 

Personally, I am delighted to return as senior pastor at First UMC, downtown Wichita and to begin work with my new associate Rebecca Goltry Mohr. As part of the Transition into Ministry program, I am honored that First will be a teaching/mentoring congregation and that I have the honor to be a mentoring senior pastor. 

During the opening worship service, we were given small silk flowers to remember those members of the annual conference, both lay and clergy who had died in the prior year. During holy communion we were invited to drop those flowers into a bowl in honor and rememberance. Then someone created this with those flowers:


Stunningly beautiful, during ordination we were reminded we are surround by such a great cloud of witnesses. We were commissioning and ordaining our new leaders and being blessed and reminded to continue to run the race set before us. Pastor Rebecca’s was commissioned as a provisional elder during that service.


The theme for this years conference is a good one: Know God, Proclaim Christ, Serve Others, Seek Justice. May it be so. 

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Pentecost Thoughts, Part 2

Pentecost is one of my “favorite” church holidays or feasts that really is not a holiday. There are no chocolates, or special paper dinnerware, or cards or presents or anything else that usually lets everyone know it is holiday time! Perhaps it is because it is always fifty days after Easter and the date changes. Perhaps it’s because there is no way to commercialize this church event.

“Churchy” people often call it the birthday of the Church and that is true to an extent.  It was the day the Spirit was given in a new way to those who were waiting for the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of an Advocate, a Counselor, a Comforter, God’s very real Presence in their lives. The author of Luke/Acts describes this event in Acts 2.

Every year I want to do something fun, crazy and memorable. Some years, I get something done, this year, I didn’t. I don’t want to trivialize Pentecost and yet, for my faith journey and I believe for the life of the church Pentecost is important. This year there were no cupcakes or balloons, but there was a pair of red shoes

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I wrote a blog post in response to another blog stating why I thought the church and particularly the United Methodist Church needed Pentecost. I think that we are not perfect, but I am grateful that God has a Spirit that makes all things possible.

Debra Dean Murphy at Ekklesia Project: “In truth, Pentecost is not the complete reversal of Babel. We still can’t understand each other; we routinely miscommunicate; we gather and we gripe, betraying the unity Christ has called us to as his Body. But the good news of the Acts 2 story, the good news of all our gathering “together in one place,” is not that the Church has a mission, but that God’s mission has a Church.”

My sermon yesterday pointed to that understanding. Pentecost is not about individuals, it is about God and God’s love and grace as a community. I continue to believe that God is at work and will work and will challenge the community of faith to stand strong in the face of evil, of bigotry, of hatred. I believe we still need Pentecost, but more importantly we need the fresh wind of God’s Spirit.

You can watch yesterday’s worship service at First UMC through our Sunday streams link. It was a morning filled with joy: a baptism, a mission team commissioning and Holy Communion. Come Holy Spirit, Come Holy Spirit!

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For the Love of Jesus, Part Three Or Pentecost Thoughts

Since the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church decision in late April, this is my third reflection on for the Love of Jesus. The first one was on my determination not to leave the United Methodist Church that has nurtured me, affirmed my call to ministry, sent me to serve various church and that I love deeply. The second one reference Pentecost and the church, like jazz, learning, in conflict and compromise, to play and make beautiful music and community.

This third one, is written as I reflect upon a clergy colleague and friend’s blog about Pentecost and the United Methodist Church. The Reverend David Livingston posted these words yesterday. I read them from his facebook post on the United Methodist Clergy page. I had permission to link to David’s blog, even though I disagreed with what he said.

You can read it for yourself, and while I do not disagree that Pentecost ties to the Tower of Babel in the church’s understanding, I am not about to give up Pentecost because there are people in the church not willing to speak to one another. I would say we are following the United States culture right now. Many of the social posts are from one very slanted view or another and then the people who agree “like” the post and the ones that disagree make snarky comments. It is true that people are not listening to one another, but I don’t think that is God’s fault or the Spirit’s fault.

What I said on Facebook in response to David’s post was this,

“My friend, I respectfully disagree. I believe we need Pentecost more than ever. The disciples and early believers didn’t have all the answers. They made mistakes, fought, called names and everything else. If we read the New Testament we know that not everything was good. It was messy and ugly and nasty and graceful and everything in between. The world is messy, God is messy, the church is messy, Lord knows I am messy. I intend to stick with Pentecost, I don’t think God has given up on the church or on us or on the world. Blessings.”

Pentecost in so many ways is the birthday of the church. After Easter, the disciples and other believers were a collection of individuals trying to figure out what it now meant to follow Jesus. They didn’t have plans, they had a promise that God would come and make the Divine Presence real in a new way. The Biblical story speaks of wind and fire and “tongues” languages that were spoken so all could understand.

Whatever happened it practically defied description, yet changed lives and transformed those early believers. They didn’t have written doctrine or polity, that had a faith and a hope that God was doing something new and they lived it out. The sense of community that was given in the early church has not been replicated:

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.  (Acts 2: 43-37)

That basic verse is repeated again in Acts 4, but the point is that the early church was seeking and struggling and searching for what it meant to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth. Without going into a deep biblical treatise, the early church did not have it all together. They excluded people, they argued, they fought and they believed that their “preacher” was better than the other preachers. The conflict between Peter and Paul is well documented. Paul was far too inclusive, and the author of Acts tries to make Peter have the same inclusive understanding. According to Paul’s letters, Peter sometimes fails.

Over the hundreds of years of church history, often, the church ends up on the wrong side of that history. One the one hand, it is the church that began the early hospitals and care centers and the early colleges and universities and public education. On the other hand it is the same church, that when confronted with integration created private schools so that white children would not have to be educated alongside African American children. The church has set up hospitals that ended up hurting instead of healing. And the church has encouraged hatefulness, prejudice and inequality.

So obviously the history of the church is a mixed bag of good and bad, inclusivity and exclusivity, love and hate, sin and grace. Sometimes, it would be easy for me to just give up and give in. It would be easy to say “the church will never change. ” “The church is dying and not worth the effort.”

That is why I need Pentecost. As I said before for the love of Jesus I am not going away or giving up on the church, not on my watch. I do long for a new movement of the Holy Spirit to rush upon me and upon the Church. Jesus offered Peace, and then promised the Presence and Power of God. I am not happy at how the United Methodist Church is handling the differing understandings of sexuality and of biblical interpretation. Every person I know has their own private “canon” of scripture that they use again and again to make her or his points. No person is a true literalist.

All of us need Pentecost. We need God’s Spirit to blow a fresh wind into our hearts, our spirits, our minds and our community. I need, I believe we all need God’s love and grace challenging us to pay attention to how we act and to what say in the name of Jesus. For me, Pentecost is the time to cry out, “Come Holy Spirit! Come and refresh your people once more! Strengthen us, challenge us, comfort us and remind us that Christ is leading us into a new age of grace, of love, of hope and of faith for all people. ” I need Pentecost because sometimes I grow tired and cynical. I need Pentecost to remind me that I am not alone in working toward God’s reign of justice, of equality, of peace and of righteousness.

For the love of Jesus, who promised to be with us always in the power of the Holy Spirit, I am praying for a fresh wind of that Spirit. I am trusting that God is at work, even when I can’t see any change. I believe that God will strengthen and guide and help the church to live into that community where all people are loved, welcomed and know God’s grace.

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For the Love of Jesus, Not on my watch

A couple of weeks ago I watched the movie La La LandI always have good intentions seeing a movie IN the theatre, but more often than not, I watch it at home. I am a sucker for a good musical. I realize that life is not one dance number or musical number after another, but I enjoy dance and music and a few moments that are not filled with snarkiness.

La La Land received great reviews and numerous awards. In some ways it was like every other musical and in others it was full of surprises. I was caught how in the twenty first century a film musical could be made filled with both the old and new.

In fact, I was so caught by one scene, that I had planned on blogging about it prior to my post on the Judicial Council decision. I knew this post could wait, because in some ways, it also is about the church, where we are and where we might go together.

In the movie, Sebastian takes Mia to a jazz club. She has already told him “I should probably tell you I hate jazz.” To which he replies: “What do you mean you don’t like jazz?” She says, “It means that when I listen to it I don’t like it.” The link to the scene lets you see the whole dialogue including what happens at the jazz club.

There, Sebastian says, “I think when people say they don’t like jazz they don’t have context, they don’t know where it comes from…..people spoke five different languages, they couldn’t talk to each other, the only way they could communicate was with jazz.” Mia had a very different understanding of jazz, her life, her experience was that it was relaxing and good for parties but didn’t have the depth or the history or the tradition. Sebastian responds: “You have to see it to understand it….Everyone is composing, rearranging and writing AND playing the melody. Jazz is conflict and compromise, it’s always new, every night it is new and it very exciting…..and it’s dying. The world said let it die, ….not on my watch.”

Those words shocked me into a realization about how I feel about the church. Insert church for jazz and that is how I understand and experience the community of faith. When I think about Pentecost, people spoke in different languages, but it was the gift of the Spirit that allowed them to communicate, that Spirit that Jesus’ promised. The early church was in conflict and it comprised and it continued to compose, rearrange, write AND play the melody of the story of faith. Unfortunately the other history of the church is to try to set things in stone and forget the amazing movement of the Spirit to lead the people in new ways. We sometimes quit composing, rearranging and playing the melody and then our conflict becomes so cemented that we can’t compromise.

Many look at the church and just say “I don’t like it, I hate it.” With good reason people feel that way, they have been hurt and abused and have no need to continue experiencing that. Some people feel the church is out of touch, is boring and might be okay for “background music” at an event, as a value to toss about or proclaim somehow they are part of a “church” so they can check off something on a list, but it has nothing to do with what I think “real” church is about.

Like jazz, many do not know the full history or tradition of the church, not all of which is nice or lovely. Some of our past is downright ugly and hateful. I am always amazed that God uses fragile and flawed human beings to bring a reign of justice, of righteousness, of equality and of peace. Grace abounds, not because the church always plays the “right notes” but because God is God and through Jesus challenges us to love. Jesus was constantly playing the melody, and composing and rearranging and writing. His jazz interpretation caused him a great deal of trouble and eventually his creativity was threatening enough to get him arrested, tried and executed. Again, his rearranging and composing meant he played a new melody that we call resurrection.

I believe the church is called into being a new creation, always new, “every night” and every day called into newness of life and love. Jesus leads the way, not being set into stone, but being made a new creation. The melody is “God’s love and grace” and each generation must re-write, re-arrange and compose so that others might know and experience that love and grace.

This is not an easy task. There are many that would claim this can not be done. We must either tell the “old old story” the way it has always been told, or we walk away and give up. That may be extreme, but I don’t tend to believe it is either/or. I do not believe I am alone in believing that the gospel, the good news of God’s love as experienced in Christ Jesus is dead, or irrelevant. I believe it is every changing and ever new for each generation. The church is challenged to not ONLY play the melody, but to rearrange, to re write and to compose new songs. The church is conflicted and it is in the composing that we can find compromises that lead us into new life.

In the words of the movie, “the world says let it die….not on my watch.” I am not willing to let the grace and love of God be stuck in old ways, in ways that do not connect with a new generation. The United Methodist Church may be in some ways dying, but I am not willing to let it die. For the love of Jesus, not on my watch, not while I have life and breath and faith that in Christ I am made new and the story, the melody is new every day and every night. For all the dreamers, I am committed to the love, the grace and the melody that Christ is creating for all people.

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