Pastor Dave’s April 2017 Message

It has been an interesting winter here in Chico, a season now thoroughly behind us.…the wettest (is that really a word?) since I have come to California.  I tend to run hot-blooded, and so my Celtic self is happy splashing through the mud and getting chilled, it just feels right.  But the seasons are turning for sure, within and without.

Spring for me is so much more than just the warming and blossoming of the earth…it is, in many ways, our most spiritual season.  We have the symbols of new life all around us; baby bunnies and chicks and lambs and calves, flowers bursting forth with renewed vigor…but unless we take the storm windows off of our souls, we risk having the appearance of renewal without its reality.  And that would be sad, in a wintry kind of way, like spring flowers painted on a brick wall.  I want the real thing, don’t you?

I have never forgotten the old Scottish story of the baby born in the Orkney Islands…think Arctic Circle-type of islands.  All the young folks had moved away decades ago, with the net effect that there had been no baby among the people for – are you ready for this – over eighty years.  Eighty years!  And so, when a vacationing pregnant granddaughter got stranded and delivered her firstborn there, it was quite a celebration!  New life, here, after all the cold and wet and bleak and barren!  How wonderful!

And how wonderful for the faithful of Scotland, to have such a fine illustration of God at work so close to Easter.  How much better they could understand the disciples, following the arrest and mockery and trial and crucifixion, who were as bleak and beaten as those old Scots had been.  No new life, no hope, no promised future, not here, not ever…a cold, awful place to live.  And into that dead, desiccated dough, God drops the leaven of new life, the yeast of Christ, who cannot and will not and never will die…how perfectly wonderful!

So even though, by Scottish standards, our recent winter was pretty tame, you don’t have to live near the Arctic Circle to understand how tough life can seem.  We get plenty of examples every day, broadcast into our minds and hearts by our ever-so-thoughtful media.  It is when times are tough that I am most glad for the Easter story, that we might all be reminded of God’s ongoing, continuing, unstoppable effort to make sweet heavenly lemonade out of bitter human lemons.  Judas made tragic errors, as did Peter, and Pilate, and several dozen or hundred or thousand others, and Jesus ended up dead.  What a mistake, such a tragedy…but only to us.  To God, it was just another wrinkle in the cosmic sheet that was ironed out, smoothed, and changed us all forever.

So, when you nibble the ears off your chocolate bunny, or gently salt another hard-boiled egg, or enjoy another tender chunk of lamb, give thanks for the rich symbols of new life that surround us this time of year, wherever we live.  Whether it comes early or late, in a newborn or in the aged, God is in the new life business, and we are all not-so-silent partners.  Happy Easter season to everyone!

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Pastor Dave’s March 2017 Message

March…named for Mars, the ancient Roman god of war.  March also describes that brisk walking thing, forced or voluntary; marching bands, soldiers marching, marching through Lent towards Easter.  A lot of the walkers, with or without dogs, at Bidwell Park would make great marchers, so fast and snappy!  The military images, not surprisingly, are really mixed for me – how often in the past have we compared the Church to the army of God, sung ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ or the more peppy ‘We Are Marching In The Light of God’, marched together in CROP walks, in protest, or in peace…some of us even recently marched through the brilliant January sunshine on our way home to celebrate the ministry of Martin Luther King Jr.

As armies go, I’m not sure we would qualify.  We all have different levels of training, endurance, and a variety of visions (now there is an understatement!) for where our next campaign should be conducted.  We often bristle at authority, plan our leave frequently, resist uniforms, and a host of other non-military evidences.  On a bad day, I sometimes find myself humming the old hymn, “Like a mighty turtle, moves the church of God, walking ‘round in circles, where it’s always trod”…

AND YET…for all that, we manage to move with efficiency and clarity fairly often, with purpose and passion at the forefront.  When our mind is set towards an outcome, we can be a great force for good and change in the world.  Trinity recently hosted 53 evacuated United Methodists for a few days when the Oroville dam spillway was imperiled.  We have agreed to be an emergency cold-weather homeless shelter if the need arises.  We have embraced a Declaration of Inclusion, widening our ministry to LGBTQ persons.  And we manage to do all these things without too much ‘collateral damage’, a good thing in light of medieval (and local) history.

By the time you read this, we will just be starting our march through Lent to Calvary and then beyond to Easter.  We will have an Ash Wednesday service at 7pm on March 1st, and I hope you will join us in our lovely Chapel to begin lent together.  And even though this “march” is annual, it always feels like kind of a forced march to me, with my sunny temperament chafing under the Lenten sackcloth uniform.  I just don’t like Lent, I say to myself, but that’s not really the whole truth.  What I really don’t like is the imposed introspection, the self-questioning, the intentional spring cleaning of mind and heart that Lent encourages.  Like other healthy things, it doesn’t feel that great.  But it has much value, and so every year I put on my metaphorical big boy undies and soldier on, and encourage others to march alongside.  Misery loves company, right?

But it is so much more than that…in our media circus society, where anyone’s missteps can be filmed by passerby and posted online within minutes, Lent is much more old school.  We are our own paparazzi, our own judge and jury.  We set the pace of the inquiry and the penalty if there needs be one.  What a gift of grace, to take time and review our lives, make mid-course corrections, and resolve to a higher quality of being.

In some ways, we are a rag-tag army, vaguely following vague orders as interpreted by an unqualified officer du jour.  But in other ways we really are a mighty regiment, marching and loving and healing and improving as a unit, and we will persevere, and we will live to love another day.

Thanks to the officers.  Thanks to all the soldiers, of whatever ‘rank’.  And perhaps thanks most of all to Christ, the highest-ranking general of all.  It is his vision that continues to motivate us after millennia of effort, and his smile and praise that inspire us still.  Have a good March, everyone…

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Pastor Dave’s January 2017 Message

It was one of the many things my mom said that has always stuck with me…”The only difference between ordinary and extraordinary is…extra!”  Probably voiced during one of our frequent discussions about how I could get so much better grades with just a little more effort, it nevertheless has survived that icky setting and has become a guiding factor in my life, when I remember and when I have the stamina and devotion to extend myself more fully into the world.

This kind of thinking is extremely valuable individually, but even more so in a larger setting, like, oh, I don’t know….like maybe in a church?  For there are plenty of ordinary churches in the world, churches that leave no visible marks on your heart or your mind, churches that just keep dragging along, not really advancing the gospel, but not hurting it, either.  Ordinary, plain, uninspired churches.  Every area has plenty of those…but as you can well imagine, they are not the kind of churches most of us would desire to attend, or the kind that I desire to serve.  And as you can also well imagine, as the New Year turns and resolutions abound, being an ordinary church is not Trinity’s destiny, as far as I can tell and influence.  We are meant to be extraordinary!

Which, of course, means that what we provide and produce should be more than other places…we create ‘extra’ on a regular basis.  How is that for a guiding principle – that whenever anyone comes to Trinity, the experience they have here will be more than they expected.  Fuller, more profound, more inspiring, every time.  That is one serious mandate, my friends.

We certainly have a history of being extraordinary in some arenas; friendliness, local outreach, excellence of music or preaching or some other worship-connected form.  But the scriptural challenge is to be nothing less than all things to all people, which seems nigh unto impossible, but isn’t, really.  It just means aligning our leadership and vision and energy towards being more than a church that survives; we want to be a church that thrives.

You are probably waiting for the other shoe to drop, and expect me to make a big plea any moment now for more giving or more service or more outreach.  I am glad to disappoint you in that regard.  Because at the end of the day, it isn’t about giving, or serving, or reaching out…those are all natural outcomes that flow like water downhill from a mindset and balanced heart whose focus is beyond mediocre.  The thinking must precede the action, always.

So, here is my wish for 2017 and beyond; that we stop thinking of ourselves as poor, limited, tired, old, or any other negative descriptors you care to insert.  I am not suggesting some Pollyanna approach to artificial living; I am simply suggesting that we embrace the truth, that we are part of a limitless universe energized by a boundless God who knows no limitation, no death, no poverty, and no lack.  We are not guttersnipes scraping sadly by, unnoticed in this world; we are heirs to the eternal, and more than gifted enough to elevate one another and those around us if we simply have the presence of mind and heart to make habits out of excellence and passion.  If the United States Army encourages its recruits to “be all that you can be”, should the church do any less?  Enough for now…I am going forth to have an extraordinary day, and I hope you do just that, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pastor Dave’s Summer 2016 Message

I am writing to y’all near the end of June, on the eve of the Summer solstice.  It is quiet here in the office, nothing like the teeming thousands gathered at Stonehenge today, or the teeming hundreds I will be part of in a few days during Annual Conference.  This year, I have a strange set of feelings, both pre-conference jitters and some anticipated post-conference excitement! Let me explain…

 

Every year we go, wend our way to Burlingame for several days of worship and business and prayer and singing.  They pray a lot and sing even more, and it is always the kind of experience where I come home tired but energized, ready to take on another chunk of ministry.  Calls to ministry get confirmed there; new directions get revealed, appointments get sealed, and friendships rekindled.  All of that has me a little edgy this year, more than usual.  Jittery.  Evidently God has some new ideas that might reveal themselves during the holy hubbub.  David Haynes, Steve Runner, and I will all be roommates this year.  Pray for them, okay?

 

Also significant for me right now is the sense of excitement and anticipation I feel for the time after conference, a time of renewal and actual vacation for me.  It has been nearly two decades since I took a real vacation; Carolyn and I always filled my away time with shows and buying trips and quilt festivals.  I loved it, don’t get me wrong, but a real, actual, sit-and-look-at-the-ocean type of vacation should be quite the treat. And I’ve just now crafted the worship article for the upcoming Trinity Times (this one that you are reading) and the anticipation is churning me up!  Such great preaching themes, such lovely songs to sing, so many ways to open eyes and hearts and minds, so much interesting stuff ahead!  I can’t wait to “do church” this summer, and that is a fleeting feeling in the life of a pastor, let me tell you.  Summer is the most challenging time – Advent and Epiphany and Lent and Easter and Pentecost all have direction and tradition and sentiment behind them, but the summer is a wide, wide field of possibility, and knowing which way to wander can be daunting.  Too easy to wander off in a direction that nobody much cares about.  I suspect that this summer’s sermon series will hold both my attention and yours.

 

‘Nuff for now.  I head off to Conference with a full heart, with Vacation Bible School already completed (it was awesome, dude), and quite looking forward to a restful but also engaging summer.  I have some pastoral care to catch up on, lovely music to make, pugs to play with, and more kilts to sew…I found the greatest African fabrics!  Most importantly, though, I am happy to be returning as your pastor, and anticipate a summer of delight and challenge both.  Blessings to you all, and hope to see you some in worship!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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