Holy Week 2019

St. Mark’s Messenger Newsletter 3.19.2019

3.19.19

From the Pastor 3.19.19

O God, you are my God, I seek you,

my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land

where there is no water.

Psalm 63:1

“‘God’ is the worst nickname ever.”

David James Duncan

We’re a few weeks into Lent and we’re really thirsty.  We’ve been in the wilderness awhile, and it’s a dry and weary land where there’s no water.  It never fails.  Give us a few weeks on our own, away from all the usual distractions, and we begin to recognize our need for something much more.  We look for long-term, life-giving sustenance such as a fresh, flowing stream.

Our tradition has a name for this sustenance.  Our culture has other names for it.  Sometimes, as with David James Duncan, “God” is not a good name for it.  He is active in Alcoholics Anonymous and understands and embraces the long-term spiritual principles that make it work.  But the name “God” triggers negative memories of church and religion.

For those of us with positive memories of love and acceptance in our church experience, Duncan’s statement can be very hard to understand.  We may think that it’s simply a matter of throwing a switch and just accepting the name “God.”  For us, perhaps it is.  For others, perhaps it’s not.

I guess, ultimately, it comes down to which we value more—the reality that we call God, or the name God. When I listen to how religion is talked about and debated in our culture, I hear almost exclusively about the latter.  

It’s ironic, really.  For many practicing Jews, saying or writing God’s name is considered blasphemy because it limits God.  It’s been understood for centuries that focusing on God’s name leads to respecting the name more than the reality that is God.

Lent is the season when we go deep into ourselves so that we can begin to see our need for God, or whatever else you want to call it.  

In his book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, writer Nicholas Carr says, “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on Jet Skis.”

He is pointing out the shift in how our minds work that has happened over the last generation.  It is not necessarily a bad thing, but we are spending most of our time jumping from link to link, reading headlines and paragraphs rather than books or lengthy articles.  This means we are exposed to a wider variety of perspectives but with less understanding of where any one perspective comes from.

Lent runs counter to this shift.  It asks us to strip away all the links, headlines, and clutter that prevent us from going deeply into ourselves, so that we may see clearly how thirsty we are for the reality that is God.  Whatever we call it.

We’ll be talking about Carr’s book and much more in the four-week study “Google, TV and Twitter are Everywhere—where is God?” which begins on Monday March 25, from 1 to 2:15 in the New Room. All are invited to come by, for one session or all. 

See you in church!  

Messenger 3-12-19

3.12.19

From the Pastor 3-12-19

Dear Friends,

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer it includes this petition “Give us this day our daily bread.” For many people their daily bread is not a guaranteed commodity.  As I look around my neighborhood and the neighborhoods around me, I see adults and children sitting on the streets, standing in lines, and going to school facing food scarcity. For many of us, we have the luxury of planning and shopping for meals, packaging up left overs, and in some cases, tossing them out when they are left in the refrigerator too long.  I include myself in this class of people.   However, this past week I witnessed the body of Christ coming together to provide food for the hungry in two different, yet life affirming ways.  

On Friday, I saw food move between an agency with surplus to an agency in need, as Community Christian Service Agency (CCSA) offered Christ Ministry Center (CMC) boxes of fresh produce that would spoil if not consumed.  When I visited CMC on Monday, I saw two boxes of fresh oranges set out for the residents and guests of CMC to get their fill.    

This past Sunday, I saw over 50 people come together in collaboration with Rise Against Hunger (RAH) and package 10,152 meals for neighbors in other regions.  People of all ages and stages worked together for people they would never meet to help fulfill the prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  And following the RAH event, together we shared in warm pizza and delicious salad before leaving St. Mark’s.

The prayer that Jesus taught the disciples is a mainstay of our Christian faith. Through it we find direction for our lives; who we worship and how we are called to live.  The Lord’s Prayer has guided the life and people of St. Mark’s for 65 years and will continue to do so for many years to come.  The breaking and sharing of bread is just a part of our tradition.

This Sunday we will celebrate St. Mark’s 65 anniversary.  We will remember the early days of the campus when it was an airfield and how we have soared into this new millennium through and with the love of Christ.  We will enjoy Sloppy Joes and side dishes while reminiscing our legacy and pondering our future.  Whatever St. Mark’s does in the future, I’m sure there will be food involved.  Thanks be to God!

See you in church,

Jeri

Messenger 3-5-19

3.5.19

From the Pastor 3-5-19

Weeping may linger for the night,

but joy comes with the morning.

—Psalm 30:5b

What a week it has been for the United Methodist Church.  What began as an earnest effort to find a way forward to transcend our divisions instead became a wrenching exercise emphasizing them. 

In the days since the meeting in St. Louis, I have seen and heard few expressions of relief and even joy (I’m not sure what that is about.)   Mostly I have seen anger, sadness, confusion, and manifold other expressions of grief.  Some people are understandably questioning their relationship with the church, and some are understandably questioning their faith.

At the root of this is a fundamental difference in life values—what, ultimately, determines our basic relationships with each other and with God.  This is expressed in sharp differences in how we read and interpret the Bible, and the role that religious faith has in our lives.  While right now feelings are raw, I hope that we can take time in the coming weeks and months to begin to better understand these differences, so that we can better understand each other.

Much has been spoken and written about the General Conference session, and there is a lot of inaccuracy about what actually happened there.  What matters to us is this: nothing has changed.  We remain an affirming and inviting congregation, open to all. 

I urge you to watch two videos online that clearly express the position of all the bishops of our Western Jurisdiction of the church, and our Annual Conference.  They are both available at calpacumc.org—one is a Sunday-evening presentation by Bishop Grant Hagiya (the main video on the page), the other is below, called “statement from the WJ College of Bishops.”

With all this in our hearts and on our minds, we begin Lent, the season of self-inventory.  The thing about Lent is that it’s not about someone else.  It’s about us.

The other thing to keep in mind about Lent is that it’s not about our search for God, it’s about God’s search for us.  We move into the wilderness for 40 days, to assess ourselves and to learn in some practical ways how we might be more open to God’s initiating love.

I do hope you will join with us in the Lenten journey, by coming to church, participating in a small group, or through personal devotion.

I’ll see you in church!  I’m glad you’re here.

Craig

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Messenger 2.26.19

2.26.19

From the Pastor

Dear Church, 

Boy, do we have an exciting Sunday service for you! In addition to it being Transfiguration Sunday, where we discuss that magical moment when Jesus ascends into the sky on the mountain top with Elijah and Moses, we are welcoming SIX new individuals into official membership at St. Mark’s! You know some of them as they have been attending and
serving regularly so it will be so wonderful to show our support and affirmation of this big step they are taking. 

It is also communion Sunday and yes, we will do a sung communion liturgy again. The worship team figured it was good to repeat this several times so that you feel more and more comfortable with this new style. But you’re liking it, right? It’s fun! and different! 

Oh, and I forgot to mention that I’m preaching as well! I hope that’s a draw (hehe). 

Have a wonderful week and see you soon,

Rev. Lydia