Sharing the good news is more than just outreach and mission activities, it’s about living life in community and acknowledging our interdependence.
SUNDAY, APRIL 2 FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT COMMUNION
Today we enjoy the wonderfully engaging story from Ezekiel 37:1-14, the one about the dry bones. Such an affirming tale, with wisdom for us all. Holy Communion will be served, and new life offered, too! The homily will be called “Claiming the Power to Prophesy”.
SUNDAY, APRIL 9 PALM/PASSION SUNDAY
Today is a festival Sunday, where both Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and some of the passion story, will be celebrated. The primary text is Matthew 27:11-54. The service promises to be moving and thoughtful, and the message is entitled “From Bad to Worse?” Please remember, there will be just ONE service today, at 10:30am.
THURSDAY, APRIL 13 MAUNDY THURSDAY 7PM
Join us this evening for a lovely service of solemnity and sacrament, as we commemorate Jesus’ last night on earth, and the final meal with his followers. We will meet at 7pm in the Chapel, and at some point will adjourn to the Upper Room next door for a very moving Communion experience.
SUNDAY, APRIL 16 EASTER SUNDAY!
Matthew 28:1-10 is this year’s version of the great and exciting resurrection narrative. Festive music and liturgy, and a rousing sermon called “The Demise of Fear” will all contribute to another memorable Easter experience.
SUNDAY, APRIL 23 SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTERTIDE
John 20:19-31 takes us back to familiar ground, with the post-resurrection stories of the disciples and the ever-present doubting Thomas. The sermon will be called “Really? Truly?”
SUNDAY, APRIL 30 NATIVE AMERICAN MINISTRIES SUNDAY
Today we return to our annual celebration of the faith contributions made to Christianity by Native American people. Liturgy and song and traditional instruments will all contribute to a peaceful, introspective mood. Our music, fittingly enough, will be offered in the style of Taize, as is our habit every fifth Sunday in a month. Luke 24:13-35 tells the wonderful post-resurrection story of the events on the way to Emmaus, and the sermon will be called “Full Disclosure”.
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!
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…
The team has been working on our upcoming Reconciling Sunday scheduled for this 21st of May. We are excited to have the organizer for the Reconciling Ministries Network for the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church the Rev. Dr. Isreal Alvaran as our guest speaker for the service. We are also planning a workshop on the day before in Hadley Hall for local churches that would like to explore becoming a reconciling congregation. You will be hearing more about this in the coming months.
I have included Dr. Alvaran’s Western Jurisdiction January update for 2016 below,
Steve Runner RMT Leader.
Dear Local Congregation,
2016 was a tumultuous year for the Reconciling movement and for all progressives in the United States. It was a General Conference year that saw the collective coming out of over 140 LGBTQ clergy and candidates, the formation of the Council of Bishops’ Commission on a Way Forward, and the historic election of Bishop Karen Oliveto to the episcopacy. 2016 was an election year in the United States that resulted in new challenges for advocates of civil liberties for workers, immigrants, women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community.
We have our work cut out for us – to remain steadfast in grassroots organizing, and make sure that our justice work intersects with solidarity movements in our communities. Even in the face of dysfunctional leadership at various levels of church and society, we will rise from the ground up. I believe that power comes from grassroots leadership. I do not subscribe to a top-down, trickle-down way of creating change and leading movements for change.
Moving forward in 2017, we should celebrate and be inspired by some of our accomplishments in the Western Jurisdiction and the Reconciling movement in general last year. We added 2,129 new Reconciling United Methodists and 97 new Reconciling Communities. Twenty-five of these communities come from our jurisdiction and we congratulate them for their efforts!