God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Psalm 46:7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Psalm 46:11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Holy and Mighty God
You are our refuge and strength
You are near- a present help well proved
You are victorious over every conflict-
every division, destruction, and deficiency
The conflict between nations
The conflict within my own nation
The conflict in my city
The conflict in my heart
You are my refuge… my refuge… my refuge
You are my strength… my strength… my strength
You are near… near… near
A present help well proved
I am in awe before you
I am safe and seen before you
I am humble
I need you
I am grateful
I am yours
I am still
A Message in Light of the Potential UMC Split (Psalm 46)
Scripture: Psalm 46
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 01/05/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire worship service, including the message.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
6 The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
In the last few days, most major news outlets ran stories on a potential split in the United Methodist Church. Hearing this news brought up many feelings and questions for me.
What did it bring up for you?
Below you’ll find a link to an article with the most accurate information. The article includes links to the actual mediation document and a frequently asked questions article. We’ll also have copies in the church office. I encourage you to read it.
We will be reading this article together tomorrow – Monday, January 6 – at the Leadership Council Meeting. The meeting begins at 6:00 pm in Haley Hall. You are welcome to attend.
The mediation document is a proposal, not a decision. Those who can make a decision for our denomination will gather in May in Minneapolis. This group is called The General Conference and is made up of United Methodist laity and clergy from around the world.
Here’s some background information to give you some context. It’s quoted from the Frequently Asked Questions Document For the past 47 years, The United Methodist Church has struggled unsuccessfully to achieve consensus and compliance with regard to matters of human sexuality. The Special Session of General Conference in 2019 caused significant harm. This work is a significant attempt to not replicate the mood or climate created in St. Louis in 2019. It acknowledges that even in the midst of faithful attempts to stay together, we no longer can remain as one denomination. The divisions are simply too vast. This work is important because it provides a pathway of reconciliation and grace through separation and offers us an opportunity to bless and send one another into a new reality rather than continue to fight and rend our way into irrelevance and destruction.
This latest attempt at a path forward is new for all of us. There are still many questions. As I know more I will continue to share. Be on the lookout for upcoming times of prayer, listening, and discussion.
Hear this my dear ones:
God is faithful and true and at work. God is Sovereign. Jesus is Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit still speaks and transforms. No human decision changes this.
We are all made in the image of God. All have sacred worth.
We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. All are in desperate need of forgiveness and salvation and the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Our mission has not changed- Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World
Our vision has not changed- God is love. We are called to share that love and the hope we’ve found in Jesus Christ with all people.
No matter what is decided, people will leave and people will come.
No matter what is decided, it will not be a magic bullet to kill the church nor a magic bullet to revive the church.
God will redeem the pain and harm we’ve caused one another. Let it end now.
Our denomination is a 12 million-member global church representing very different cultures and values. Likewise, our congregation is diverse in many ways, including strong convictions on these issues and other issues. It’s been this way for a long time.
Look around this room. What do you see? More importantly, who do you see?
We are not issues; we are people, faithful real people drawn together by our need and love of Christ.
What are we to do? Love one another and serve one another. Love and serve Sarasota. In doing so, we love and serve God.
They will know we are Christians by our love, our love made real in our words and actions, in the way we honor one another and work together in the midst of our differences. The world needs to see this.
I love you and respect you no matter your position on this issue or any other issue. I will continue to serve you with every ounce of grace, strength, and skill the Holy Spirit empowers in me and through me. I invite you to do the same.
Psalm 133 How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
On this Independence Day, I long for our neighborhoods and nation to experience the freedom of this psalm- the freedom of true unity. I long for the dividing walls to come crashing down. I long for an end to destructive division.
In this Psalm, the goodness of God-breathed unity is compared to the anointing of Aaron as high priest and dew on the mountains of Hermon and Zion in Israel.
True unity is precious, like sacred, costly oil or a trusted source of water in the wilderness.
True unity brings abundant blessing to an entire community. It is generous and lavish. There is so much oil it runs down Aaron’s beard and on to his robe. There is so much dew it can sustain plants, animals, and people on a mountainside.
True unity means goodness for all. It is pervasive, crossing unjust boundaries. The anointing oil is mixed with spices so the aroma pervades the gathering. The dew makes way for fragrant flowers, fruits, and crops which are enjoyed by the whole community.
True unity is holy and unique. The oil is set apart for the ritual anointing of a priest or king. It is used for no other purpose. Mount Hermon is set apart for its height and snow, the highest point in the region at over 9,000 feet. Mount Zion near Jerusalem is set apart for the worship of God. True unity sets a group of people apart, a rare and beautiful light in our world.
One yet Three
Reach into the abundance of your companionship
Bring forth unity and healing in our land
Pour out peace on violent homes and hearts
Shower compassion on selfish and short-sighted motives
Rain down generosity and understanding
so all are covered in blessing and harmony and life
36 folks from several difference congregations leave tomorrow for the Holy Land
Won’t be with you as we continue to process the decisions of General Conference
Won’t be with you for the beginning of Lent. Ash Wednesday is this Wednesday.
Ashes seem to be exactly what we need right now.
Traditional Prayer consecrating the ashes before imposition: Almighty God, you created humanity from the dust of the earth. Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality, our humility, and sorrow for our sin. We admit our eternal need of you and claim the greatness of your eternal grace and forgiveness, in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
Ashes of mourning
Ashes were used in mourning sin and mourning loss.
So many feelings following General Conference. Some are relieved by the decisions at General Conference. Some are rejoicing. Some are mad. Some are wondering or in a place of confusion. Some are full of sorrow- grieving, disillusioned, that harm has been done, hurt, wondering if there is a place for them or their loved ones in the United Methodist Church.
Yes, there is a place for you here at Trinity and the UMC! Please read the information we’re providing. Please stay. Please come and speak to me when I return.
Ashes of humility
What you hear when you receive ashes on your forehead: Remember you are dust and to dust, you shall return. Repent and believe the gospel.
Right now my Facebook feed is a mess. There’s a whole bunch of folks telling a whole bunch of other folks I’m right and you’re wrong. It is ugly. It is not of God. We need these ashes to remind us of our need for humility. It’s the only way we’ll move forward.
We’re all hummus (dirt). We’re all human. Hummus, human, humility. All those words are tied together. All of us are in need of Jesus’s grace and forgiveness and love and belonging and hope.
The ashes remind us of sorrow, humility, and mortality. Remember you are dust. This life is short and precious. The ashes also remind us there is life.
Ashes of life
Remember you are dust also reminds us of God breathing life into dust at creation. It is a good gift of God.
So many of us think of Lent as a season of sorrow, wilderness, repentance, giving up stuff (make fun of all of it). Lent is ultimately a season of transformation, new life.
The Grinch isn’t just sour or mean. The Grinch does harm
Why does the Grinch change?
The Grinch literally repents. The Grinch turns and heads down to the Who’s and down to a new life.
How do people change? Change does not come by fear, facts, or force. Change doesn’t come by legislation or law. Change comes by love.
The Grinch sees the Who’s love of one another
He sees and hears their gratitude and worship
Then he experiences their love, Even though he has done great harm, they welcome him into their community and to their table.
At the end of the story, the Grinch has
a new family
a new way of thinking and being
a new identity
This is the Good News of Jesus Christ. We see Jesus loving, healing, welcoming. The love of our Father overflowing in the flesh of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The love of the Father overflowing into the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Through his life, death and resurrection, that we too gain a new family, a new way of thinking and being, a new and transformed identity.
The evil one loves to keep us distracted and divided. (noise, noise, noise, noise!)
Today again I am choosing the way of Jesus, the way of love. I invite you to do the same.
Recommit to loving those who agree with me and those disagree with me. Will you do the same?
Recommit to praying for those who choose persecution and harm over love. Will you do the same?
Prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of your truth and grace. Fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may love as radically as you do, especially when all I want to do is grieve, or run, or demonize, or lash out.
Psalm 37:1, 5 Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers. Commit your way to the Holy One; trust in God, and God will act.
Quote: Steve Garnaas Holmes Beware the temptation to outdo an evil one, to beat the wicked at their own game. The saint does not resist the devil by becoming a more devout devil. Your compass is set to a different star. Don’t let them turn you. Set your heart on compassion, even when facing a wrongdoer: it will make whatever game they are playing a different game. Let the Crucified One play your [role]; it will change the meaning of the [game]. You needn’t pump up the power of God. Trust love to do what you cannot.
The beautiful thing about How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is about how the Who’s welcome him to their table. In the United Methodist Church, we have an open table- You do not need to Methodist, a member of this church, you do not need to be a certain age. Nothing can keep you from this table.
It is Christ our Lord who welcomes us to this table and welcomes all.
What extent are you willing to go to in order to belong?
Staying on the track team in Middle School even though I came to realize I hated running
Buying the latest- saving for a pair of Candie’s shoes in middle school and now the latest face cream
Yoyoing in weight since I was age 7
Staying silent in a conversation even though I disagreed or had a different idea to solve the problem
What extent are you willing to go to in order to belong?
Go into debt to keep up appearances
Keep a crazy busy schedule because busy people are wanted people
Or the kids have to be well rounded to get into college
Keep on going to the bar even though you know you have a drinking problem and shouldn’t be there but the bar where everybody knows your name
Stay in the abusive relationship
Hide who you really are or at least try to
The evil one loves to keep up distracted and divided
McBean is the real enemy of the Sneetches. The real villain. He delights in exploiting the Sneetches’ lack of trust in one another. He has a heart of war. The Sneetches are a means to his greedy end. McBean perpetuates and manipulates the waste of time, energy, and money in order to prove who is in and who is out when there’s really no such thing.
Jesus invites us to turn all this waste and destruction and division on its head. It is so important to Jesus that he dies for it.
Galatians 3:23-29 talks about clothing ourselves with Christ. Imagine all the stuff we put on in order to belong. How others label us. The things advertisers say will make us belong. Things we believe we have to do in order to belong. We put it all on and cover up who we really are.
Taken to an extreme, it’s the stars the Nazi’s made the Jews wear in order to label them other. It’s why Dr. Seuss picked stars for this story.
In Christ, we’re invited to take it all off. Take off all the things that hide us and label us because now we’ve put on Christ. Here we stand. This is how God now sees us and how we now see each other, through putting on Christ.
And so the question we asked at first- What extent are you willing to go to in order to belong – is turned on its head because Christ went to the extent of death on the cross so we could belong. Just as we are.
The new question is this: What extent are you willing to go to in order to ensure everyone knows belonging in Christ? So that you know it and the person sitting next to you and the person you see in the grocery store and the person at the bank and your neighbors and your kids know it. So the folks who are very very different from you know it.
General Conference: The decision-making body of the United Methodist Church, the General Conference, has gathered to discern God’s call regarding sexuality, inclusion, and the unity of the Body of Christ. Hold in your prayers the delegates, the whole church, the millions of people in the LGBTQ+ community who feel the heat of the spotlight, and the world that may learn something about God.
The following prayer is by Steve Garnaas Holmes. It contains some small adaptations.
God of love,
may we approach one another with the intent to love,
first and last,
and submit all our intentions to love.
May our intent be to heal, not to win,
to bless, not to curse,
to join, not to divide.
Help us do your will, not ours.
May we listen humbly, speak honestly and discern obediently.
Save us from justice without mercy,
righteousness without humility, victory without love.
As your word says,
If we do not have love we are nothing. —1 Corinthians 13.2
May we examine our own righteousness more vigorously than others’.
May we demonstrate your goodness, not our own.
May we honestly examine our norms and expectations,
our judgments of those who are different,
our exclusion of those who threaten our superiority
and our comfort.
May we be mindful of every person’s wounded need
to be loved, to be included, to be honored,
every person’s desperation to be good enough to belong.
May we remember your justice is love,
your command is mercy,
your judgment is grace.
God of love, give us wisdom that is love,
fill us with courage that is love,
empower us for victory that is love alone.
By your Spirit help us to do no harm,
to do all the good we can,
and to stay in love with you.
We pray in the love and the company of Jesus,
who served in love, who died for love,
and who rises in us with victorious love
and who clothes us with belonging and love
If you have never known a place of belonging, you can know it here in God’s family. This is where I found it. You can find it, too. Think about all the folks in your life searching for belonging, for someone who understands and listens, for unconditional love, searching for God. Remember them as well.