Pastor’s Corner May 6, 2018

The Holy Spirit and Social Justice

 

We talk about the weird coincidences in our day of hearing a favorite song, or we recognize a nudge to call a family member and chat. But, what about those Holy Spirit nudges we feel that arch us toward social justice? One of our favorite characteristics of the Holy Spirit is that she is unpredictable just like the wind: flying and rushing into crevices and corners unnoticed and forgotten. This is true, much to our dismay some days.

 

Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III recently wrote an article in Plough titled “Powers and Principalities: King and the Holy Spirit”. Rivers claims that it was the Holy Spirit at work in and through Martin Luther King, Jr, which made much of the civil rights movement possible. But, also, Rivers adds that it was King allowing the Holy Spirit to move through him. And it was that Holy Spirit movement that made King the most influential voice and conscious of religious and racial freedom from the United States in the twentieth century.

 

It is a daunting task to think about, especially as the church in our modern world. The same Holy Spirit that powers our worship services powers us to march, to respond to injustice, and to fight for love over fear. The United Methodist baptism liturgy calls us to these exact things; to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness and reject evil powers of this world; to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. These are the kinds of tasks that can make us stand out, or even be ridiculed and mocked. These are the kinds of tasks that become heavy and emotionally draining.

 

This discipleship life is daunting but not impossible, especially because we have one another. We have community. We have grace and the Holy Spirit to power us. In the next week or so, I invite you to look within your realm of influence: what ways can you resist injustice? What ways can you resist evil? Can you allow the Holy Spirit to move in and through you?

 

Peace,

Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner April 29, 2018

The Birth of a New Denomination:
This year marks the 50th birthday of the United Methodist Church. The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church became a new denomination between April 21 and May 4 in 1968. The special Uniting Conference was a process, gathering leaders and members of both denominations in varying ways, merging paths and making history.

There are still many, many people who were serving during this monumental time in our church history. One of my parishioners and dear friends Gerry Paulus from Choteau, now almost 104, told me stories of being asked to represent Montana at the initial summits in the mid-60s. She traveled to New York City with 2 other people from Montana and began conversations about what it would look like to be united.

Just months after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the uniting conference came in the midst of total chaos in America. Those present at the conference speak of hope and accomplishment; the pure fact that the church was striving to unify in the midst of deep division in the culture. Retired Bishop D. Max Whitfield was interviewed this last week about his witness of the historical conference. He was a student pastor in 1968 and was serving as a page and marshal. He would run around being a “go-fer”, and then pause to marvel at history being made around him.
The new denomination wasn’t without its own issues, much centering around the racial divide in the country and the church. The Evangelical United Brethren members were in support of the uniting, but, at the same time, they wanted to make sure their rights and privileges were respected in the process as well. As the new denomination formed and grew, challenges and opportunities continued. However, the hope found in a new beginning and new justice pushed the new church forward. Not everything was solved or figured out, but it was the beginning. Pastors remember struggling to type “United” in their bulletins the next Sunday. And, even two years after the Uniting Conference, a special General Conference was held to make more decisions about how to be church in the midst of division and struggles.

In February of 2019, we will have another special General Conference in St. Louis, MO concerning our unification surrounding our longstanding LGBTQ divisions. If you would like to read more about this momentous time, check out many articles on umc.org. And, as we approach this special General Conference next year, my hope is to share more stories and more pieces of history. Our witness to this work is just as vital as the witness 50 years ago. Let us move forward with hope and unity and faith.

Peace,
Pastor Sami



Pastor’s Corner April 22, 2018

Today is Earth Day on our secular calendar and it is Festival of God’s Creation on our United Methodist Church calendar. It is a day to pause and appreciate Creation. It is a day to commit to actions which will care for Creation.

While there are political implications, at the heart of it, caring for our environment is a faith issue. One thing I take away from the creation accounts in Genesis is that God masterfully created this planet in such a way that it can create and sustain life, our life. Slight nuances and changes in the rhythms and patterns of this world have significant impact. God has given us this planet as a gift that we are responsible to take care of. And our actions have a positive or negative impact on creation. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t have the opportunity to hike on mountain trails, sit on the shore of a lake, walk along the beach searching for sea shells, or hear the birds sing and enjoy the flowers blooms.

So our faith and these holidays compel us to grow in our care of creation. The focus of Earth Day this year is to reduce plastic pollution. Plastic is an amazing invention. Plastic is so useful and has made our lives much easier! However, plastic is difficult to break down and so once it is created, it sticks around in our environment for a lifetime. Studies say only about 20% of plastic is recycled or incinerated. That leaves 80% of our plastic items in our landfills and our environment. I read an article earlier this year that said the plastic microbeads we most commonly find in our skin care products don’t disintegrate, they remain in our water system and ultimately end up in the bellies of fish. That has caused me to re-think what skin-care products I use. We each make choices every day that impact our environment. Our actions do make a difference. I encourage you to find one way you can reduce plastic pollution.

  • How can we reduce our use of single-use plastic such as straws, water bottles, plastic silverware, and cotton swabs with plastic sticks?
  • How can we use our consumer dollar to protect the environment and reduce use of plastic?
  • How can we package our food in ways that use less plastic?
  • How can we recycle the plastic products we do use?
  • How can you participate in political activism around issues of plastic pollution?

If you want to learn more about plastic pollution and what we can do about it, visit earthday.org.

 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner April 15, 2018

The Power for Living

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Acts 1:8

When the Holy Spirit showed up with power in Acts 2, it’s unlikely many of those present in Jerusalem had any idea the magnitude of what was in store. They were recovering from the trauma of Jesus’ death and resurrection. They were trying to follow in his way. They had the Law to guide them. And they were doing their best to remember what Jesus had taught them. And Jesus promised them they would not be alone, in fact he promised that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. That same Holy Spirit who enlivened them on the day of Pentecost is still active in the world today!

Following in the way of Jesus is difficult. We can’t do it in our own strength. We need help. We are not alone. We have one another. And that is a great support. But in addition, we have divine help available to us in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us power to live the life of faith.

Way back in the beginning, the Bible teaches us the Creator took mud and breathed into it the breath of life. And human beings were formed. That Holy Spirit is life. The Holy Spirit is movement. The Holy Spirit is power.

Max Lucado shares about the time he wanted to learn how to dance. He went to the library and checked out a book on dancing. He read it. He memorized the diagrams. He learned the rules. He laid out a pattern on the floor and taught himself to dance. When he felt confident, he invited his wife to dance with him. As you can imagine, when he asked her what she thought, she said, “Dancing with you is like dancing with a robot!” She told him to relax, to listen to the music and let the music lead him. When he let the music enliven him, then they danced, they really danced.

When we attempt to live on our own power, we are living like a robot. When we listen to the music and let the music lead us, we can dance through life. The music is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enlivens us. The Holy Spirit guides us. The Holy Spirit disrupts us.

For the next six weeks, we will be exploring how the Holy Spirit empowers, shapes, transforms, and disrupts us.

I encourage you to begin each day by opening your spirit to the Holy Spirit. Seek to listen to the music of God and see how it enlivens your steps each day. The Holy Spirit is active in our world, often beyond our awareness. Let’s seek to connect with the Holy Spirit together and see how God empowers, guides, transforms, and disrupts us.

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti