East to West

imagesPsalm 103 proclaims “11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is God’s steadfast love toward those who fear the Lord; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far God re-moves our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compas-sion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear him.”

During March, our praise song will be “East to West.”  The music will be a bit challenging (but we do have a whole month to become familiar with it).  The message is based on the Psalm.  It places our struggles with who we are and who we want to be within the context of God’s overwhelming love and forgiveness.

images-1Think of the image.  How far is the East from the West?  If you travel north, you will pass the North Pole.  After that, you will travel south.  Pass the South Pole, and you travel north.  On the other hand, you can travel east for the rest of your life; or west.  There is no directional dividing line.  In that regard, I think the distance from east to west is infinite.  That is how far God “removes our transgressions from us.”

There is more to the image; our part, if you will.  If you travel east, the only way to travel west is to turn around and go the  opposite direction.  The Biblical image for repentance is a “change of mind.”  In some ways, the deeper and more permanent meaning of Lent is to be found in our changes of mind.  We usually think of the Lenten discipline as temporarily giving things up or temporarily taking things on.  While this is fine, it misses the fullness of the Psalm.

To be touched by the greatness of God’s love, to feel forgiven and accepted, to be changed by that love and forgiveness into those that love and forgive — that is the fullness of the Psalm.  It is also the deeper meaning of Lent.

Thanks be to God.
Pastor Dan

 

Annual Church Conference

churchconferenceThe annual Church Conference this year will be held Tuesday, December 2, 2014, in the Narthex.

The Church (or Charge) Conference is the annual business meeting of the Church.  When designated as a Charge Conference, only the leadership of the congregation participates.  When designated as a Church Conference, all are invited to participate.  We hold our annual meeting as a Church Conference.  So all are invited.

Usually, the Conference is convened and presided over by the District Superintendent of the Elgin District of the Northern Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church.  This year, the DS will not be with us, and a Presiding Elder (one of the    pastors on our District, SungJa Moon from Salem Church in Barrington) will be presiding.

In addition to Conference business, there will be a special emphasis on children and youth as our neighbors. We are being asked to consider the following questions:

  • Who are the children and teens to whom we can be/are in ministry?
  • What does it mean to welcome these children as teens?
  • What do children and teens bring with them?
  • What can this congregation do to reach and welcome neighborhood children and teens?

We invite you to think about these questions, and come to the Church Conference meeting on December 2 to share your thoughts.

Because these are questions about children and teens, Jacki Bogolia is using a different set of question for children and teens.  Thus there will be input from our children and youth as part of the meeting.

The official business of the Conference consists of reflections on ministry in the past year and the reception of reports, including those establishing our leadership for the year ahead and setting the pastor’s salary.  The rest of the budget for 2015 will be set at the end of 2014, and is not part of the Church Conference agenda.

This meeting is open to everyone, and we hope that you will plan to attend.

Peace,
Pastor Dan

Perhaps we need more grace

William Winans

William Winans

I have been reading about two men with impeccable moral  credentials.  William Winans was born in Pennsylvania, raised in Ohio, and became a prominent Methodist preacher in Mississippi.  John Bewley was raised in Tennessee and served as preacher in various places in the old southwest, including Texas.  They were contemporaries in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Biographers of each man spoke glowingly of their character.  Upright, gentle, never knowingly telling an untruth, never going back on their word, sensitive almost to excess about living right and doing the right thing.  I would imagine that both men, like many of their time, could put most of us to shame in their diligent practice of the Christian life.

In one area, they differed.  Though born and raised in the South, Bewley was antislavery.  Indeed, he was killed by a mob in Texas for being an abolitionist (though technically, his opposition to slavery was of a gentler, Methodist kind).  Though born and raised in the North, Winans gave his heart to Southern Methodism and the preservation of the Southern way of life, including the institution of slavery.

abolutionistsHoliness can be a tricky thing.  Both men would have been considered excellent examples of Methodist Christian character.  Both men were pilloried (and one killed) for their position in a matter of social justice.  Though there are folks who would meliorate Winan’s connection with slavery, the general view today would have it that he was wrong, and blameworthy in his error.  In one respect of holiness, Bewley would be seen as the better man.

In our membership vows in The United Methodist Church, we are asked to uphold the Church by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness.  This last was added to the vows at our last General Conference, and places us squarely in the Bewley/Winans dilemma.  Holiness does not just consist of how much we pray, how regularly we at-tend the means of grace, how generously we give, and how much we serve, but also where we stand and why.

This is not new.  Christians have always struggled with issues both great and small, both per-sonal and pertaining to the world.  We all succeed in a degree, and fail in a degree, whether in living up to our own best selves, of living into what God would have us do in the world.  In the midst, we sometimes are tempted to miss our own failures and dwell upon the failures, or downright wrong headedness of others.

Perhaps we need more grace—for ourselves and others.  In grace we may admit our areas of falling short, and in grace perhaps see that others may have something right that we have not even considered.  In this way we may be drawn to a holiness that involves all of our lives, in-cluding the knottiest issues that we face.

Peace
Pastor Dan

Spirituality Will Escalate

sunriseworshipIn Philippians, Paul writes about striving to lay hold of the upward call of God.  There is a sense that, no matter how spiritual he may have become, he can go further.

We live in a world where many things escalate.  Usually, they are bad things; violence, war, revenge, anger, conflict, confrontation.

O, that we had more spiritual escalation.  If we escalated God’s love instead of violence; God’s peace instead of war; God’s forgiveness in-stead of revenge, what would our world be like?  If we strove in God’s Spirit for the better way with as much passion as we strive for other, less valuable, even negative pursuits, how much better would we be?

In recent years, people have tried to counteract the senseless violence with the bumper sticker encouraging us to commit random acts of kindness.

Perhaps we also need to plan and carry out intentional spirituality.

John Wesley talked about holy habits.  We could use more of those.

C. S. Lewis encouraged a young man who asked him how to be com-pletely devoted to God.  He said, when you get up in the morning, ask “how would I live today if I were completely devoted to God,” then go and live that way.  The young man asked, “isn’t that hypocrisy, to do something I don’t feel.”  Lewis said no.  Hypocrisy is pretending to be something I never intend to be.  What he suggested was living into what you want to be.

If we follow this advice, we might just see some spiritual escalation.

Peace,
Pastor Dan

History of Greensky UMC

greenskyOver the past two Sundays, I have talked about and shown pictures of the Greensky United Methodist Church, Charle-voix, Michigan, near Petoskey.  Here is the information that I gave in a more complete format.

Greensky United Methodist Church was founded by Peter Greensky (1807-1866). He was also identified as Shagasokicki, an Ojibwa chief converted to Christianity and serving as a Methodist preacher. He was converted under the preaching of John Sunday (Shahwundais) in 1833. Sunday, also an Ojibwa chief, was noted as a hard case before his conversion. It was said he knew only three English words—pint, quart, and whisky. He became an influential preacher in upper Minnesota, and was a leader of his tribe in negotiations with the Canadian government. Following his ordination, Greensky came to Michigan to reach out to his people and other tribes in the area.

Greensky started the Church in 1844.  A building was erected in the early 1850’s.  Timber was brought from Traverse City across Traverse Bay in canoes.  The building was erected close to areas that had been used for inter-tribal councils.  The congregation continues to worship in the building erected in the 1850’s.

Today, Greensky identifies itself as an interracial congregation, with both native and European members.  They also continue to use traditional Ojibwa language and native customs as part of their congregational life.  They are dedicated to maintaining a high respect for the grandfathers and grandmothers of the Church, by which they mean all who have gone before.  Their ministry of memory is a ministry of respect, including respect for those buried on both sides of the Church, including Peter Greensky and his wife.

Trinity is a mere babe of a Church compared to Greensky.  Our ministry is vibrant and full of God’s Spirit.  Like Greensky, we are a Church that does well what God has called us to do.  Re-markably, we are both part of the same denomination, and seek to be faithful to God’s call on our lives and ministry.  Though we are different in age, composition, location, and activities, we are part of God’s great Church.

Thanks be to God.

Pastor Dan

 

 

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