Newsletter – February 13, 2018

February 13, 2018

Pastor’s Letter – February 13, 2018

What are you giving up for Lent? This week I heard from a priest colleague that people in his parish are each donating one item from their homes for each of the forty days of Lent. The church distributed large trash bags imprinted with “40 days, 40 items.”

This is an excellent discipline for the season of preparation for Easter. It’s a very creative way to remind us each day about what “giving up” something means. I have begun Lent with my own household “purge” and have accumulated items to donate, but I don’t think there are forty.

I think, with the item-a-day discipline, as the season progresses my sense of “sacrifice” will grow, as I say to myself such things as “I really like this, but just have no use for it.” Or, “I can fix this up and give it as a gift to a friend. But how long have I been saying that to myself?” Or, “I spent a lot of money for this, even though I have never used it.”

As Lent begins, St. Mark’s has big goings-on! On the first Sunday of the season, February 18, we are “driven” into the wilderness during the 9:30 church service.

After church, everyone is invited to the social hall for a “Tea Party Potluck” organized by our youth. Here’s the division of contributions, if you are able: By last name beginning with: Letters A through G, please bring a salad; Letters H through N, a savory item (such as tea sandwiches, deviled eggs, cheese and crackers, crudités, etc.); Letters O through Z, a dessert or fruit. Sounds tasty! If you are unable to donate anything, that’s okay—just come!

As you enjoy the Tea Party, you’re also invited to help with a service project! Help decorate and assemble Birthday Boxes, which will brighten the birthdays of Meals on Wheels recipients around San Diego County. It’s helpful if you RSVP for the box assembly to Director of Youth and Intergenerational Ministries Kris Nieder: kris@StMarksUMCSD.org. There is no charge to participate—all supplies will be provided. If you’d like to sponsor a box, a $10 donation at the event is appreciated.

Later on Sunday, at 4 p.m., all are invited to come to Deft Brewing Company, which is owned and operated by St. Mark’s member Morris Nuspl, with the support of his wife, Robin, and son, Elias. Deft is located in the Morena area at 5328 Banks Street (off Sherman Street.) Join Rev. Jeri, Kris Nieder, event organizer and Bible trivia host Kirk Hinkleman, and me! Kids are also invited—there’s a nice play area. If you would like to order an early dinner, Dos Bandidos, a gourmet food truck serving upscale Mexican food, will be there! As Lent begins, let’s take the spirit of St. Mark’s into the community, with some good beer, good food, good fellowship, and good times!

See you in church!

Craig

Newsletter – February 6, 2018

February 6, 2018

Pastor’s Letter – February 8, 2018

The Sunday of the Super Bowl is the first holiday in February (not counting Groundhogs’ Day, which doesn’t have much celebration attached, especially for groundhogs).

Super Bowl Sunday is not formal or official, but it is very much a holiday.  Even people who don’t care for football anticipate the day.  Perhaps they make plans for parties and activities around the afternoon game.  They may have family members who are devoted to the game, and they are going along for the ride.  Also, it’s no secret that it’s an especially good time to shop, eat out, or go to the movies.  Or go to church!  There are fewer crowds and less hassle.

There are many reasons we need these big events and holidays in our lives.  Some are practical—we just need something different to do or think about or simply as a break in our routine or to provide perspective or to mark the passage of time—another year has gone by!

On this first Sunday in February, when the playing of the football championship dominates the culture, we will first gather to share communion, remembering who we are as a community—a community that lives into the power, promises, and protection of God.  If you wonder what that means, read the poetic portrait in Isaiah 40:21-31 (“Have you not known, have you not heard?”).

After church, we will look out and reach out as Jack Carpenter and Brad Cannon lead a conversation on the issue of homelessness in San Diego.

As an architect and active participant in community planning, Jack brings significant experience and deep knowledge of housing issues.

Brad is president of the Community Christian Service Agency and has years of practical, hands-on experience in dealing with the needs of homeless persons, and those who just can’t make ends meet without help.  The number of persons coming to CCSA for help continues to grow, and one reason is the fast-increasing cost of housing.

This will be an informative and important conversation—if you can spend a little extra time at church this Sunday, you’ll be glad you did!  Also, this will be a special opportunity to contribute to CCSA—we call it  “Souper Bowl Sunday,” and invite you to bring to church one or more cans of soup to donate.

We are less than two weeks from the start of Lent, leading to Holy Week and Easter.  The dates for Lent are interesting this year—the season begins on on Ash Wednesday, February 14, which is also Valentine’s Day, and ends on Easter Sunday, April 1, which is also April Fools’ Day.  This is just a coincidence, but it provides great fodder for inspiring conversation!

During Lent, you’re invited to join Rev. Jeanette for a weekly prayer exercise, on Wednesday mornings at 10.  Also, on Thursdays at 1 p.m., I will be leading a discussion group about the most-prolific writer in the New Testament entitled “The Challenge of Paul.”  Plan to participate in  a small group!

See you in church!

Craig

Newsletter – January 29, 2018

January 29, 2018

Pastor’s Letter – January 29, 2018

The Sunday of the Super Bowl is the first holiday in February (not counting Groundhogs’ Day, which doesn’t have much celebration attached, especially for groundhogs).

Super Bowl Sunday is not formal or official, but it is very much a holiday.  Even people who don’t care for football anticipate the day.  Perhaps they make plans for parties and activities around the afternoon game.  They may have family members who are devoted to the game, and they are going along for the ride.  Also, it’s no secret that it’s an especially good time to shop, eat out, or go to the movies.  Or go to church!  There are fewer crowds and less hassle.

There are many reasons we need these big events and holidays in our lives.  Some are practical—we just need something different to do or think about or simply as a break in our routine or to provide perspective or to mark the passage of time—another year has gone by!

On this first Sunday in February, when the playing of the football championship dominates the culture, we will first gather to share communion, remembering who we are as a community—a community that lives into the power, promises, and protection of God.  If you wonder what that means, read the poetic portrait in Isaiah 40:21-31 (“Have you not known, have you not heard?”).

After church, we will look out and reach out as Jack Carpenter and Brad Cannon lead a conversation on the issue of homelessness in San Diego.

As an architect and active participant in community planning, Jack brings significant experience and deep knowledge of housing issues.

Brad is president of the Community Christian Service Agency and has years of practical, hands-on experience in dealing with the needs of homeless persons, and those who just can’t make ends meet without help.  The number of persons coming to CCSA for help continues to grow, and one reason is the fast-increasing cost of housing.

This will be an informative and important conversation—if you can spend a little extra time at church this Sunday, you’ll be glad you did!  Also, this will be a special opportunity to contribute to CCSA—we call it  “Souper Bowl Sunday,” and invite you to bring to church one or more cans of soup to donate.

We are less than two weeks from the start of Lent, leading to Holy Week and Easter.  The dates for Lent are interesting this year—the season begins on on Ash Wednesday, February 14, which is also Valentine’s Day, and ends on Easter Sunday, April 1, which is also April Fools’ Day.  This is just a coincidence, but it provides great fodder for inspiring conversation!

During Lent, you’re invited to join Rev. Jeanette for a weekly prayer exercise, on Wednesday mornings at 10.  Also, on Thursdays at 1 p.m., I will be leading a discussion group about the most-prolific writer in the New Testament entitled “The Challenge of Paul.”  Plan to participate in  a small group!

See you in church!

Craig

Newsletter – January 22, 2018

January 22, 2018

Pastor’s Letter – January 22, 2018

Mission is presence, relationship, witness and sharing.
Mission is refusing to turn away
when the tears of God are being shed

over the violence and injustice and suffering of God’s wayward creation
.

There have been few mottoes more true than that of United Methodist Women:

Faith, Hope, and Love in Action.  United Methodist Women do not just talk, they do.  And, as of next year, they will have been “doing” for 150 years, improving the lives of millions–quietly, faithfully, and with hope and love.

Their excellent website, unitedmethodistwomen.org, explains that “the entire program of United Methodist Women focuses on mission.”  Their definition of mission is at the top of this letter.

UMW lists these five ongoing initiatives, with a special focus on women, children, and youth:

  • Providing opportunities to grow spiritually
  • Equipping women & girls to be leaders
  • Providing transformative educational experiences
  • Organizing for growth & flexibility
  • Working for justice through service & advocacy

It all started in 1869 when eight women in Boston organized the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society in response to the desperate needs of women in India.  Among other things, male doctors were not allowed to treat women.

St. Mark’s is blessed with a very active and inspiring chapter of UMW, always lifting up and supporting each other and those around them, and plunging fearlessly into meeting local, national, and international mission needs.

This Sunday at St. Mark’s we have the honor to celebrate the legacy and work of UMW, on United Methodist Women Sunday.  Members will greet you as you come to church and will help lead our service.  We will install officers for the new year and hear about their current work.  Minister of Visitation Rev. Jeanette Bragunier will preach.

See you in church!

Craig

Newsletter – January 17, 2018

January 17, 2018

Pastor’s Letter – January 17, 2018

If Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today, would he use Twitter?

The other day on Facebook, I ran across King’s Letter From the Birmingham Jail.  It is an extended meditation on the vital necessity of actively resisting evil and injustice in whatever form they present themselves, and it is among his best-known writings.

The open letter was a response to a well-meaning group of clergy who had initiated a response to active resistance called “A Call for Unity.”  They argued that King’s non-violent protests were doing more harm than good for the cause of civil rights.  They contended that by actively resisting, King unnecessarily stirred things up, made many people uncomfortable, and motivated those whose cause was to keep things as they were.  They suggested that the best place to fight for civil rights was in the courts.

Could the contents of King’s letter be effectively tweeted?  The maximum length for a tweet is 140 characters.   This sentence from the letter is 132 characters: “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

And this is 262 characters:  “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

Several questions come to mind:

  1. Would anyone send such serious tweets in 2018?
  2. Would anyone pay attention?
  3. Would anyone pay attention beyond an hour or two after the tweet?
  4. Except for generating lots of arguing back and forth on Twitter, would this have any effect on anyone or anything?

I don’t have answers to these questions.  Rather, I think we are beginning to see the answers unfold.  Are ideas mere objects that we bounce off the wall, or each other?

What is it that opens us to a serious, well-thought-out idea (way beyond Twitter length) for constructive social change, whatever that idea may be?  What makes us spend time with it, and consider it, and make it part of ourselves for a while?

In the gospels it has to do with the movement of the Spirit.  That’s why the membership vows of the United Methodist Church includes this:  “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?”

That’s 136 characters.  Perfect length for a tweet.  See you in church.

Craig