Change brings with it challenges and is always scary. If I have learned anything in my work here it is fear of change never really goes away, even if you are the wisest and most reflective person. Jesus took time to reflect and pray every time deep change was coming his way. Jesus also didn’t avoid the emotions that come with deep change, he embraced them and lived through them. However you are feeling today I invite you to not bypass it for a feeling of “being ok,” but instead embrace it as your authentic self. We are called by God to be our authentic selves, and letting go of who the world tells us we should be at any certain moment. I will join you in these emotions, because I believe that in letting emotions live and die that we will find new life.
I wonder what new life is forming in this amazing place we live and how our church might be a part of helping people live authentic lives. As I drove across the state this week I saw solar panels going up, I had conversations with a family that moved to Montana for the connected environments of our communities, and I jumped on trampolines at a Trampoline Park. All of these new things are happening through people taking risks on new relationships and new ways of thinking. If we are to embrace change, we have to live through some risks together and be willing to invite in new partners in God’s work.
In the coming months I hope to be in conversations and prayer as a community about what God is doing among us. However, you feel at the end of worship today, I hope you know one thing, “God is with us.” God is with us in the pain, the fear, the sorrow, and God is with us now and always.
I am thankful for the ministry of each of you.
Intermountain here in Helena is an unexpected lesson. This organization offers incredible gifts of healing and guidance to children and families living through mental health challenges. Intermountain grew out of a need at the turn of the century to provide a home for children who were left to fend for themselves. Behind that history is the story of Rev. Brother Van Orsdel who is said to have been in tears pleading at the Annual Conference for the Methodist churches in the region. The public tears of a grown man and the vital work of women deaconesses have become the hope of more children and families than we can count.
Hear the words of one parent who has seen hope in the work of Intermountain:
“I am a single parent of two adoptive children, one of whom has suffered with the emotional/behavioral chaos of attachment disorder since early childhood. At one point I was having to call our local police to help restrain my daughter during her violent behavioral outbursts. I was at the brink of losing my family (and possibly my life).
Now, after 18 months of residential treatment at Intermountain, we are an intact family ready to thrive. My daughter is returning home with the skills to manage her feelings and behaviors long before they get to the rage that previously overtook her mind and body. We as a family have learned important skills for success. This program not only changes lives, it literally saves them!”
Last year Intermountain treated 1334 children and youth, and made a difference in the health of Montana communities. This Lent we are asking members, friends and you as the disciples of St. Paul’s to make a difference by financially supporting Intermountain through a spiritual practice.
We invite you to journey with us through the unexpected.
* During the final stage of our launch to Cuba we endured a Mission “hold” of one day in Newark due to a “Nor’easter” snow storm. No flights were then available from Newark for two additional days. Fortunately, our Mission Navigator (Eric) established contact with Houston (… “HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM”…) and rearranged final launch from Houston. Thus an extra flight stage and night in that Texas city. Hence our Mission time in Cuba was shortened by several days.
* From Houston, gliding over the blue expanse of the Gulf, we spotted Cuba!! Surrounded by a turquoise patchwork quilt shallow sea sifting into sand and green shore vegetation. Touch down! First the asphalt of the Havana Airport, then the chaotic motions of the Cuban baggage claim and Customs…. Finally!!!….on Cuban soil!!
* Havana is ruggedly handsome in it’s old age and patina, with stewardship apparent in it’s historic buildings and vintage automobiles, yet it’s people are youthful regardless of their age!
* Church services in Cuba resonate with enthusiastic and passionate worship. Booming amplified voices of Pastors, colorful young dancers with tambourines, music and songs that literally vibrate your heart. Via con Dios!!
* Astounding contrasts are everywhere in Cuba….rusted-out holes in sidewalk utility covers (watch where you step!), juxtaposed with the beautiful old, old, buildings dripping with the romance of Spanish architecture, shortages of staple foods (two weeks of rations per month), but the absolute best ice cream (Coppela – from Havana) that you will ever eat.
* Cubans share among friends, guests, and strangers with Christ-like action, backing up their faith through their service – as the hands and feet of Jesus. On the day we left, Oscar told us, “Christ is in Cuba, and He has grace for his people, and He will be with us forever. They (the people) do not have much money, but when we ask, He does not fail.”
* Friendships in Cuba are like bread — flour, water, salt, and yeast mixed with love patted, and rolled and allowed to rise baked to perfection and savored. Jokes and laughs, hand slaps (high fives are now universal), hugs, exchanges of gifts, food and mementos, promises of emails to come, vows of remembrance, and many, many prayers. God has been our cook and baker.
* Our governments may have differences, and we may be separated by tariffs, blockades, diplomatic exclusions, executive decisions, and legislation from souls who have not yet set foot in both countries….but, we remain neighbors only 90 miles apart – brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, grandparents….all of God’s family – drinking the same Earth’s water, breathing the same Earth’s air, warmed by the same Sun, and held in the same comforting and nurturing hands of God, guided on the same paths by the teachings of Jesus. Our intentional sameness is overwhelming.
* As we glide to a touch down on US soil, and the wheels of our craft are stilled, baggage is reclaimed and we disperse back to familiarity, the Mission travel is concluded….but the Mission continues. Each of the twelve pioneer Montana missioners to Cuba must now spread and share the great images, sounds, tastes, smells, touches, music, worship services, friendships, occurrences, and spiritual wealth that God has endowed on us from our Cuban experiences. This is our Quest. Our prayer of thanks to all who supported us in the name of Jesus thank you!!! Via con Cristo!!!! Amen.
2017 Montana Methodist Mission to Cuba
In just two weeks, March 2 – 5, our church will become a beehive of activity as the team members from the Women’s Walk to Emmaus move in and set up what promises to be an amazing weekend of spiritual growth. The following weekend, March 9 – 12, the team members for the Men’s weekend will host a similar weekend, designed to foster spiritual reflection and community. For 30 years, St. Paul’s has provided a home for these amazing events that, every year, touch many people deeply.
So, just what is a ‘Walk to Emmaus’? You might remember the story from Luke’s gospel. After the death of Jesus, we are told that two disciples walk from Jerusalem to the small town of Emmaus. They talk about the events of the past days and their fears and concerns about what the future held. And, “while they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and walked with them.” (Luke 24:15) The story then relates how, in conversation with each other and with Jesus, they came to new understandings and new insights about their life and their call. It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful stories from the Bible.
Rooted in that story, the walk to Emmaus weekend is an experience of Christian spiritual renewal and formation. Through times of prayer, talks, great food and community experiences, participants have an opportunity to meet Jesus on their road of life in a new way as God’s grace and love are shared through other believers – clergy and lay alike. The weekend begins on Thursday evening and concludes on Sunday late afternoon. Following the three-day experience, participants have opportunities to join with others in small groups to support each other in their ongoing spiritual journey.
The overall objective of the Emmaus experience is to inspire, challenge, and equip the local church members for Christian action in their homes, churches, communities and places of work. Emmaus lifts up a way for our grace-filled lives to be lived and shared with others. If you have never participated in a Walk to Emmaus weekend and are interested in considering it this year, please call our office so we can put you in contact with the lay leadership of the weekend.
And, most of all, thanks people of St. Paul’s, for your warm welcome. You have always helped us make room for these important weekends, even though it is sometimes a bit inconvenient. This is one of the ways we make good on our mission of being ‘grounded in hospitality’ so we can help provide a place for people to ‘grow in faith, give in service and go in mission.’
Grace & Peace,
Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ’s love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Christ.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.
So that leads to the concept of membership. What does it mean to become a member of a church? First of all, membership presumes baptism. Membership presumes that somewhere, at some time, a person was baptized and that now he or she is choosing to live into that baptism by joining with a particular group of people (like the people of St. Paul’s). For me, membership is about choosing to live and grow my faith with a community that challenges and nourishes me. Frankly, I don’t think membership is something God requires so much as it is something we need. We need each other as we struggle to do the hard work of living faithfully as followers of Jesus. The one thing we ask of people who wish to join St. Paul’s is that they attend an Amazing Grace class. It is a one evening class taught by one or both pastors during which we share some history of Methodism, and more specifically, how we at St. Paul’s live into our faith. It is a good way to meet other people, share insights, ask questions, and get just a bit more familiar with this church community.
Each year, retired UM Bishop Woodie White writes a “birthday letter” to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in which he offers his perspective on the current state of race relations. The first general secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race of the UMC, he held that post until his election as bishop in 1984. Retiring in 2004 he then served as bishop-in-residence at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta until May 2016. In today’s Pastor’s Corner you will find excerpts of Bishop White’s timely letter.
This letter almost did not get written this year. I needed more time to sort out the meaning of events during this election season and the election itself …
We shall overcome,