United Methodists and the Special General Session, Feb 23 – 26

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

That is one of many peoples favorite snippets of Scripture.  It is from Paul in one of his many letters to the early church.  How strange it is to contrast this against the ‘other’ scripture, the one that will be debated in St. Louis next week.  I’m talking about Romans 1: 26 – 32 or since what will be debated ignores most of that scripture then we focus on Romans 1: 26 & 27, where, by some, people claim this means that God hates homosexuals.

In 1972, the United Methodist Church added discriminatory language specifically against homosexuals to the ‘rules of the UMC’ in the book called ‘The book of discipline.’  They were very thorough in there additions citing everything from calling it a sin, to prohibiting gay marriage and gay clergy.  There was also language prohibiting clergy from supporting gay rights, and prohibiting financially supporting anything to due with gay and lesbian issues, with a single exception, the “HIV epidemic.”

Of course, there was no mention of the other things Paul wrote in the next section… “They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents,  foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”  Imagine if they had included ‘inventors of evil?’   My dad worked for the defense industry, certainly people who make weapons would be considered ‘inventors of evil’ as would many, many others in 1972 but they were the majority…..

All this is to say, I am happy to have been sent to this church, West Springfield UMC to be their pastor.  Early on WSUMC joined an organization called ‘Reconciling Ministries‘ – a voluntary group who focus is on acceptance of all God’s children.  WSUMC planted their feet firmly in the 1 Corinthians 13:13 soil long before I arrived.

 

I preached a sermon on Feb 3rd, 2019 based on Paul’s Corinthian writings.  If you’d like to read it, you can find it here.

 

In closing I ask each of you to pray for the delegates to the General Session in St. Louis.  Pray that they are overwhelmed by God’s love and grace.

 

Blessings,

 

Pastor Rick

 

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Women’s Retreat this Saturday, January 19th from 8:30 to 12:30

This Saturday Rev Sam Wilde, will lead a women’s retreat at the church in the morning. It is this Saturday morning, January 19th from 8:30 to 12:30. There is a *free* breakfast followed by three hours of prayer, meditation, dialogue, introspection. This is a *free* event. It is the United Methodist women’s retreat held at the West Springfield United Methodist church, 800 Amostown Road, West Springfield, MA. You do not need to be a Methodist to come! You could be anything! There will be Christian language and a universal message. The theme is: living a renewed life.

Epiphany (with a capital ‘E’)

There was a funny, not-so-funny, event at our church between Christmas Day and January 6th, we had a building inspection done by our town inspector. I want to say first of all that we take safety as an important part of our ministry, especially because we have a preschool with 70 children attending. I am grateful for the expertise that comes to our door from the town’s offices at no additional expense to us to ensure we operate our building in as safe a manner as possible.

Our inspector was thorough, thoughtful, courteous, and provided not only comments but also suggestions. As I as said, we are fortunate to have an outsider’s view of the building. I wish I had been there at one particular point though, not to rebuff or challenge an issue of safety, the inspector was right-on with all the things he pointed out to us, but to educate and provide an opportunity for understanding our faith.

Our inspector, upon finding a manger with a little hay in it, rightfully pointed out that we should be careful with this lying around and probably use a fire resistant substitute instead, all good advice. It was the other comment as related to me though that I think we all tend to fall into, he said something like “after all, Christmas is over..”

OK, this was a few days after Christmas Day but before January 6th so here is the opportunity. Christmas, the Christmas Season, actually does not end until Epiphany (notice the capital ‘E’, more on that in a moment). I wish I had been present during the meeting to provide a moment of reflection for our industrious inspector.

If you have ever heard the song, “Twelve Days of Christmas’ then you might begin to see the clue to the error in the statement ‘after all, Christmas is over.’ Yes, the BIG day, Christmas Day, with all the presents and family and friends and food and all has past but the season of celebration isn’t over. In the song, the courting partner offers his or her true love gifts on each of the twelve days of Christmas. You know, a partridge, some pipers, maids a milking, etc.

Epipihany, with the capital ‘E’ is according to the online dictionary from Mirriam-Webster, “January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.” (www.merriam-webster.com).

We as Christians really begin preparing for Christmas Day with the four weeks of Advent prior to Christmas Day and don’t have “Christmas over” until the Magi arrive bearing gifts. That’s a long time. Perhaps had I been there, our friendly inspector would have had his own ‘epiphany’ with a small ‘e’ which is defined (again from Mirriam-Webster) as “an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure, a revealing moment.” Merry Christmas!

Pastor Rick

Tomorrow – Christmas Eve

Monday, December 24th we will light the final candle of Advent (the service starts at 6pm, all are welcome).  We’ve been on this journey through the words of the hymn ‘Silent Night’ (it is the 200th anniversary of this wonderful hymn).  Now we are about to complete it.  Below is the reading we will use as we light the candle.

There was a darkness, a deep darkness.
Yet they found their way.
The night was quiet and it was beyond quiet.
So they traveled in the silence.
Afraid to break the stillness.
They’d left their flocks at the angels beckoning
Now they are following nothing but…
A star, a hope, a folly, a dream perhaps.
We all are on this same journey this silent night,
We are all in the darkness, seeking the light.
We hope with the morning will come a new light
We pray the silence of tonight will give way
to the sounds of Peace, Hope Love, and Joy.
Let us light this last candle of Advent, the Christ Candle
To light our way to morning,
To light the way to the manger
To light our way to new life!

 

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