IV Press Article 4-26-19 ### VIEWPOINT: In the end, love will win

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Easter Sunday is one of the most joyous days of the year for Christians all over the world. We celebrate the triumph of life over death, love over hate, inclusion over exclusion. But, this year, in the midst of our celebrating, we also felt the shock, pain and anger, over the bombings of churches in Sri Lanka. 

Very much like the feelings we felt when Muslims were killed while in prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand, not so long ago.

The reality of the world we live in is that no one gets away clean when it comes to our actions that divide, and judge, and turn to violence. We are all guilty. I know we don’t want to admit that. We’d rather be the victim all the time, blame the other for all that is wrong in the world, hide behind our self-righteousness. Again, no one get away clean here.

Sometimes I think the worst response we make in response to this reality is to say, “Well, that’s just the way things are.” Which is to say, things can’t change, God really has no power in the world, faith is just naive, or simply a way of checking out, giving up, smothering the pain with a false sense of security.

And the violence continues.

Some ask, perhaps many ask, “Why does God let these things happen? Why does God allow suffering in the world?” It’s a valid question.

The scriptures are clear on two things regarding suffering. The first is found in Genesis, when we learn that humanity, represented by Adam and Eve (the Hebrew word Adam literally means humanity), in its desire to acquire the knowledge of good and evil, we acquired the power to choose between the two.

This powerful knowledge was the risky thing God allowed in order to have a relationship with us humans, a relationship based on choice. The risk was, obviously, we could choose evil. But a true relationship with God had to allow that freedom to choose otherwise it was not possible for us to have a true relationship with God.

Evil, then, is the turning away from a relationship with God.

The whole of the scriptures is the story of how God works to make things right in light of that risky allowance. From Noah, to Abraham and Sara, to the prophets, God works to make things right. In the end, God makes the decision that the only realistic way of making things right with the world is to enter the world. Emmanuel. God with us. The Word becomes flesh. Jesus of Nazareth.

That’s the second thing. Jesus confronts the powers of evil represented in the civil authority and the religious authority, both evil in the systematic oppression and violence they have come to believe are the real powers in the universe. And those powers do exactly what they always do. They violently destroy the one who challenges their authority, their world view.

And so God suffers.

Just like we do. Just like we have. The depth of love God has for us humans is that God was willing to suffer so that we would never be alone in our suffering. God is right there with us. Walking with us through the difficulties and the pain. God was with those Muslims murdered in New Zealand, was with those Christians who were murdered in Sri Lanka. Wherever there is suffering there we will find God, in the midst of it all, working to bring something life-giving out of it all. That’s the true meaning of Easter. The cross of Good Friday has been neutered. Death has lost its grip on us all.

No matter what else happens, in the end, love wins.

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/viewpoint-in-the-end-love-will-win/article_27b81912-67c0-11e9-8f2a-a73aae769e5c.html

IV Press Article 4-12-19 ### The power of mystery

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The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.

—Albert Schweitzer

 

I remember reading about the life of Albert Schweitzer, a remarkable person of many talents. He was a well-known organist, theologian, physician and author. His book, “The Quest for the Historical Jesus” was on many seminary professors must read list. The interesting thing about the book, which was Schweitzer’s doctoral thesis, is that, in the end, all Schweitzer could say about the historical Jesus is, “He comes to us as one unknown.”

Albert Schweitzer had read every book ever written about Jesus, had read Scripture throughly, and concluded that the historical Jesus was difficult to pin down. One of the characteristics of religion, of any religion, is the practitioner’s sense of mystery. The element of mystery is what draws us into relationship with the divine.

Another early 20th Century theologian, Rudolph Otto, in his book, “The Idea of the Holy,” wrote that any encounter with the divine is both terrifying and fascinating. We want to run away, but can’t because we are so drawn to it.

The ineffability of God is what draws us to God. The mystery of God is what draws us to God.

I mean, if we knew all there was to know about God how exciting would that be? Some of you might be saying, “But we do know all there is to know about God,” or at least our preacher does! If that is the case, let me ask you a question. We just read or heard about the first photo of a phenomenon in space called a black hole. Einstein predicted they were present, but we never had visual proof until now.

We know a lot about the universe, but we don’t know all there is to know about the universe. So if that is the case, and God created the universe, how can we claim we know all there is to know about God, but can’t say the same about the thing God created?

And what about the fact that God says over and over again, “See, I’m doing a new thing.” How can we know God completely if God is always doing something new, something we didn’t expect?

Jesus is a great example of God doing a new thing. No one expected Jesus. Oh there were clues scattered throughout the Scriptures. But no one expected Jesus.

That is why this next week is so important for Christians all over the world. It’s the week we call Holy. In fact, early Christians thought it so important they took 40 days to prepare for it, took a week to enter into its mystery, celebrated it for three days, and reflected on it for 50 days beyond that. Almost one out of every three days each calendar year is spent on Easter, whether preparing, or celebrating, or reflecting on.

But sadly, in our hyper-busy, overly networked lives we Christians might barely spend one day, Easter Sunday, celebrating the most significant event in human history. And that event?

God has entered into human history, revealed to us that death is not the ultimate power in the universe, showed us how to be truly human, gave us the opportunity to participate in the work of creating communities of agape love (agape love — a love for, and active work on behalf of, the least and lowest).

The mystery of this all comes to us in the actions of washing each other’s feet, sharing a meal of bread and wine, standing in the presence of the power of death, a death we enter into ourselves in order to experience the fullness of life as God intended for us.

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/the-power-of-mystery/article_69c7627a-5cbe-11e9-8d47-db6bf7621654.html

Enote from Pastor Ron 4/8/19

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Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Yesterday I shared my “Call Story” with the congregation. It’s how I described my call from God to be and do what I am and do to people while I was a candidate for ordination some 25 years ago. The reason I shared it, and I’ve done this a few time while serving you here in El Centro, is, that, once I was ordained no one asked me to tell them my Call Story. 

So I tell it every so often as a reminder of who I am and whose I am.

I closed by asking the congregation, “What is YOUR Call Story?”

We all have one you know. We have all been called to be Christlike in our ways, in all we are and do. We have answered that call by means of our Baptism. And we now prepare for a renewal of those Baptismal promises beginning with Palm Sunday, April 14th.

And then we enter into Holy Week. 

This year we will have a Labyrinth in the Olive Street Center. Labyrinths are an ancient form of meditative prayer. The Olive Street Center will be beautifully set up so your experience will be inspirational. The labyrinth will be open to the public on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 16-17 from 6-8 p.m.

Maundy Thursday will be April 18. Our worship will be at 7 p.m. It is a celebration of the Last Supper as witnessed by the Gospel of John.

Good Friday will be April 19. This year we will experience a dramatic reading of the Passion of Christ in a service called Tenebrae, or “Darkness” based on a 12th Century late night/early morning meditation on the Passion.

Our Tenebrae service will begin at 7 p.m. Prior to that you can join us at the cross beginning at 6:30.

The Labyrinth will be open each night as well.

Easter Sunday will begin with a Sunrise Service at 6 a.m. followed by breakfast in the Olive Street Center. Breakfast will be served from 7:45-8:30

Our Easter Sunday worship will begin at 9 a.m. in the sanctuary followed by an Easter Egg hunt for the children. 

Calendar Events

Saturday, April 13 Men’s Prayer Breakfast at Pastor Ron’s home. 8 a.m.

Sunday, April 14 Palm Sunday Worship at 9 a.m.

Thursday, April 18 Maundy Thursday Worship at 7 p.m.

Friday, April 19 Good Friday Worship beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Sunday, April 21 Easter Sunrise Worship at 6 a.m.

Easter Worship at 9 a.m. followed by               Children’s Easter Egg  Hunt

Shared Prayers:

For Healing: For Caroline Stinson. For Pastor Ron. For Bertha Morris. For Gil Perez who fell and broke two ribs and fractured his skull. For Pat Sandbom. For Lindsay Jean (6 year old granddaughter of Francis Rice)

In thanksgiving for the Autism Support Group serving the needs of our community for the past 20 years, as we celebrate National Autism Month.

For recovery efforts in the Mid-west.

For those in need: The poor and the hungry. Victims of violence. Migrants seeking asylum.

For First Responders, for Teachers, for Public Servants. 

For our church family.

We praise your name, O Lord.

See you Sunday!

Grace and Peace, Ron

-- 

Rev. Dr. Ron P. Griffen
Lead Pastor
First United Methodist Church, El Centro

760.352.2942
760.554.5520 (mobile)

www.giveusanhour.com

firstumcec@gmail.com

Blog: drgriffen.wordpress.com

@rongriffen

Facebook: First United Methodist Church El Centro

"You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth."
--Jesus of Nazereth

IV Press Article 3-29-19 ### MY VIEW: Recognizing the power of a whisper

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Do not fear to hope tho’ the wicked rage and rise,

our God sees not as we see, success is not the prize.

Do not fear to hope for tho’ the night be long,

the race shall not be to the swift, the fight not to the strong.

—    Rory Cooney

I remember hearing this song’s refrain way back in 1985. It’s a really good hymn/song. But, like a lot of things, over time, the words slipped from my memory. Until today. What triggered my memory was an article I was reading in the paper that said, in part, “while hope can be inspiring, rage (caused by fear) is intoxicating.”

Hope can be inspiring, but rage/fear is intoxicating.

Think about that for a moment. What do you fear? What do people tell you that you should fear? The news we read is often fearful, the news we watch is often fearful, the conversations we have are often fearful. Even some Christians preach fearful messages. Which strikes me as odd since God says, “Do not be afraid” or words to that effect quite often in the Bible.

In fact there are some who suggest the Bible says “Do not fear” or “Do not be afraid” 366 times, one for each day of the year, and an extra time for leap year. My own search of the Bible came up with only about 145 times the phrase is found in scripture.

But here’s the deal. I don’t think it really matters how many times God tells us not to be afraid. Once would be enough for me. But God says it often. Often enough that we Christians ought to take it seriously.

Fear is a powerful emotion to be sure. I do believe it is intoxicating. One of the reasons it is powerful is its aggressiveness. And, conversely, God is not aggressive. Some of you will probably disagree with this, but if God is as aggressive as fear, why is fear so dominant in our cultural discourse?

What I have come to know, and believe, in my own faith journey is that God prefers to whisper while fear has to shout. The irony is fear has to shout because it knows it is the weaker power. The scriptures tell us that God is love. Not, God is like love, or, is close to love. God is love. That being the case, Love (God) is the greatest power. And love has no need to shout.

Another hymn/song, written by Gregory Norbet, is based on words from the Prophet Hosea. “Come back to me with all your heart. Don’t let fear keep us apart.” It is a beautiful, gentle song. Like a whisper. “Long have I waited for your coming home to me, and living deeply our new life.” This is God speaking to us through the prophet.

We are now in the midst of the Season of Lent, a time of deep reflection on the mystery of God’s love expressed through the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. For Christians it is the holiest time of year. It can be a homecoming of sorts.

We live in a world that shouts at us all the time that we must live in fear. God speaks to us again and again, softly, gently, like a whisper: Come back to me with all your heart. Don’t let fear keep us apart. Live not in fear, but choose to live in hopefulness. It is a choice you can make every day.

Do not fear to hope.

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/my-view-recognizing-the-power-of-a-whisper/article_872deef8-51b8-11e9-aa49-4f118b3c467e.html

Enote from Pastor Ron 3/25/19

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Dear Friends,

 As the church continues to move forward, the Western Jurisdiction leadership has met and issued a statement of faith in response to the decisions made at the Special General Session last February. Here is what they said.

 A Statement by the Western Jurisdiction Leadership Team

Trusting in the Author of Life
   who understands the blessings of diversity we fail to comprehend,

Inspired by the nonconforming Christ
   who teaches us to defy oppression in all its forms, and,

Guided by the Holy Spirit
   who continually leads us by grace into abundant life,

We, laity and clergy, of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church,
   as one body, deeply saddened and greatly harmed

   by the rending actions of the 2019 General Conference,

Reaffirm our commitment to a radically hospitable church in two converging ways.

 I.

As United Methodists, we must resist injustice and insist that the Church repent of the exclusionary principles of the Traditional Plan. 

We remain committed to the connectional ministry of The United Methodist Church and to working for an open and inclusive Church for all God’s people. We understand that the unity God intends for us binds us not by uniformity, but by love, for God is love. Ever obedient to Christ’s commandment to such radical love and extravagant hospitality, we cannot comply with the actions of the 2019 General Conference. 

Instead, we will celebrate the fullness of God’s creation in all its differences. In this moment we especially celebrate the lay and clergy leadership of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual children of God. And we will maintain the rights for our clergy and local churches to serve all people, which includes honoring the covenant of marriage for couples of all identities and orientations.

II.

Grounded in our Wesleyan heritage, we will foster a new movement to gather the energy of inclusive United Methodists throughout our global connection.

God calls us to recognize that a “new thing” is being born—a new expression of what it means for the Church to be truly inclusive. As we continue to search for ways to serve with integrity within The United Methodist Church, we offer our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and our witness to the emerging movement, seeking to join others in realizing the full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ persons today.

As we begin to develop this new thing, we divest from institutional patterns that perpetuate racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, and other structural sins. We remember that injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere, and seek to deepen our understanding of the intersections of suffering and hope. We strive to center voices from the margins in this new thing that God is doing. We will carefully follow more leaders who are people of color, young people, and our LGBTQIA+ siblings as we pursue God’s “way in the wilderness” (Isaiah 43:19).

I’m also including the ad that appeared in the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Tribune yesterday that represents the position our Bishop Hagiya and the Cabinet adopted.

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At the heart of our own statement of belief, which is symbolized by our being a Reconciling Congregation, is that all people are welcomed into our church. We strive to practice openness—openness of our hearts, minds and doors—to all people. And we live that out by affirming the dignity and worth of each and every person. Every one of you matters. 

Scripture is clear: You matter to God.

 Worship reminder, we are going to make a change in our worship time beginning in April. Worship will begin at 9 a.m. beginning April 7th.

The reasons for this are twofold. First, it’s getting warmer and an earlier worship time lets us stay a little cooler. Secondly, the Vineyard congregation will begin using our sanctuary in April and their worship time is 11:15 so the change accommodates both congregations when it comes to parking, etc.

Another change we are making is office hours. The church office will be open from 9-noon Monday through Thursday. That allows Cristy to take a lunch break before she continues work in the afternoon.

Shared Prayers:

For Healing: For Caroline Stinson. For Pastor Ron. For Bertha Morris. For Gil Perez who fell and broke two ribs and fractured his skull.

Travel mercies for Mary Ann Kline’s grandson.

Celebrating the 100th Birthday of Jean Brock.

For those in need: The poor and the hungry. Victims of violence. Migrants seeking asylum.

For First Responders, for Teachers, for Public Servants. 

For our church family.

We praise your name, O Lord.

See you Sunday!

Grace and Peace, Ron

-- 

Rev. Dr. Ron P. Griffen
Lead Pastor
First United Methodist Church, El Centro

760.352.2942
760.554.5520 (mobile)

www.giveusanhour.com

firstumcec@gmail.com

Blog: drgriffen.wordpress.com

@rongriffen

Facebook: First United Methodist Church El Centro

"You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth."
--Jesus of Nazereth

Enote from Pastor Ron 3/18/19

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Dear Friends,

One of the observations I have made about worship attendance is that we have a core of people who worship pretty much every week, and that we have a group of you that worships regularly, but not every Sunday. In other words, we have an average attendance of about 50 in worship, but it’s not the same 50 from week to week.

Sara and Cynda did a study during January and February this year and Sara shared the results yesterday in worship. Sure enough, what I thought was happening was indeed happening.

In actuality 80% of our church members worship on a somewhat regular basis. 

Speaking of worship, we are going to make a change in our worship time beginning in April. Worship will begin at 9 a.m. beginning April 7th.

The reasons for this are twofold. First, it’s getting warmer and an earlier worship time lets us stay a little cooler. Secondly, the Vineyard congregation will begin using our sanctuary in April and their worship time is 11:15 so the change accommodates both congregations when it comes to parking, etc.

Another change we are making is office hours. The church office will be open from 9-noon Monday through Thursday. That allows Cristy to take a lunch break before she continues work in the afternoon. 

Speaking of Cristy, please keep her in prayer. She is having tests today that might necessitate surgery. If you are willing to pitch in should that happen, and we will know today, we will need phone coverage in the office for a short period of time.

And finally, we have been reminded once again that violence and hate are still active in the world. The attack on the mosques in Christchurch New Zealand were brutal and premeditated. Hatred and violence will never overcome hatred and violence. Love and compassion are what will overcome hatred and violence. We pray for the victims and their families, and for a nation that now mourns. 

I am reminded of a meme I saw that depicted Jesus sitting on a bench with a young man asking why Jesus would allow such violence and hate to exist in the world. Jesus’ reply was to say he was about to ask the young man the same thing.

Shared Prayers:

For Healing: For Caroline Stinson. For Pastor Ron. For Bertha Morris.

For Clyde Caseman, Diana Fansler’s uncle, who is under hospice care.

For those in need: The poor and the hungry. Victims of violence. Migrants seeking asylum.

For First Responders, for Teachers, for Public Servants. 

For our church family.

We praise your name, O Lord.

See you Sunday!

Grace and Peace, Ron

-- 

Rev. Dr. Ron P. Griffen
Lead Pastor
First United Methodist Church, El Centro

760.352.2942
760.554.5520 (mobile)

www.giveusanhour.com

firstumcec@gmail.com

Blog: drgriffen.wordpress.com

@rongriffen

Facebook: First United Methodist Church El Centro

"You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth."
--Jesus of Nazereth

IV Press Article 3-15-19 ### MY VIEW: Doubt is an aspect of faith

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Question. Who said, “Love your enemies”? If you said, “Jesus,” you are correct, but, who said it first? If you said, “Mo Tzu, the Chinese contemporary of Confucius,” you would also be correct. Who knows? There might be several others who have said love your enemies. The prophet Jeremiah comes close when he tells the people to pray for the welfare of the city, when the city in question is actually the city of the Israelite’s enemy. Does the possibility that there might be multiple answers to the question challenge what you thought to be the one true answer?

Does it raise doubts about what you know, or think you know?

Is doubting such a bad thing? Put another way, is it acceptable for a person of faith to have doubts about his or her faith?

I would submit that doubting is an important aspect of one’s faith. That’s because faith demands that we trust in things we cannot explain or prove, or even understand at times. Rev. Eugene Peterson paraphrased Hebrews 11:1-2 this way:

“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.”

Faith, this firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living, is what sustains people despite all the evidence to the contrary. Faith allows room for doubt.

Yet many who claim to have faith seem to have based that faith on the assumption that facts and proofs are available. In other words, some base their faith in certitude. They are certain about what they believe. They make no room for doubt. And too often this leads to judgmentalism and hypocrisy.

Something I have said, and written before, is that I have “bet my life” on the teachings of Jesus. For me that is a statement of faith. My faith tells me that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. Emmanuel. God with us. My faith tells me that Jesus was crucified, and died and that three days later he rose from the dead, a sign that humankind’s bondage to the sin of idolatry and death had come to an end. My faith tells me that God continues the work of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, building God’s kingdom here on earth, because one day God will make God’s dwelling here on earth, a renewed and transformed earth, and we humans will reclaim our original work of caring for creation.

I cannot prove that any of this is true. To be sure, there is evidence that this is true. But what is often evident is not always based in fact or proof. (Maybe that is why Jesus told us we must approach God like little children).

On my desk, and it has been on the desks I have sat at for the past 20 years of ministry, is a poem by Robert Frost. It is a constant reminder of the wonder and mystery of God. A God we can only know through faith:

 

I often see flowers from a passing car

that are gone before I can tell what they are.

I want to get out of the train and go back

to see what they were beside the track.

I name all the flowers I am sure they weren’t;

not fireweed loving where woods have burnt—

not bluebells gracing a tunnel mouth—

not lupine living on sand and drouth.

Was something brushed across my mind

that no one on earth will ever find?

Heaven gives its glimpses only to those

not in position to look too close.

—    Robert Frost

 

 The Rev. Ron Griffen is lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Centro.

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/my-view-doubt-is-an-aspect-of-faith/article_1b321b68-46b2-11e9-8b6e-4f46a4438543.html

Enote from Pastor Ron 3/11/19

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Dear Friends,

During this Lenten Season I have asked you to become more intentional about prayer, alms-giving, and fasting. Each week I will give you something to think about in each of these areas of our Spiritual growth. This week I want to focus on prayer.

There are many ways one can pray. An ancient form of prayer/meditation is called Lectio Divina. It works like this:

Pick a passage of Scripture. It can be one of the reading for Lent, a favorite passage, or something random.

Read it, out loud, three times.

The first time through take time to reflect on the words or phrases that jump out at you as you read.

The second time through ask, “What does this passage have to do with me?” 

The third time through ask, “How am I to respond to this passage?”

That’s it.

The Calendar this Week:

Men’s Prayer Breakfast. Saturday, March 16 at 8 a.m. at Pastor Ron’s home.

Autism Support Group, Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Olive Street Center.

Shared Prayers:

For Healing: For Caroline Stinson. For Pastor Ron. For Carol. For Ron Sandbom and wife Pat.

Celebrating the wildflowers!

For the 15 students who successfully completed their Citizenship classes!

For the love of our congregation. For the healing of our global church.

Prayers for Sam, and all who struggle with college.

For George Lara, who fell and broke his collarbone. For healing.

For those in need: The poor and the hungry. Victims of violence, and human trafficking. Migrants seeking asylum.

For First Responders, for Teachers, for Public Servants. 

See you Sunday!

Grace and Peace, Ron

-- 

Rev. Dr. Ron Griffen
Lead Pastor
First United Methodist Church, El Centro
312 S. 8th St. 

760.554.5520 (cell)

Blog: drgriffen.wordpress.com
www.giveusanhour.com
Facebook: First United Methodist church El Centro

"Ring the bell that still can ring. Forget the perfect offering. There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." --Leonard Cohen

"You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth." --Jesus of Nazareth

IV Press Article 3-8-19 ### Our doors are still open to all

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As pastor of the United Methodist church here in El Centro I would like to add to the opinion piece in yesterday’s paper (March 6) by Celia Rivenbark (“Not even Methodists can limit God’s amazing grace”).

There were three plans submitted to the General Conference in St. Louis. The plan the Council of Bishops recommended, the One Church Plan, was defeated.

What does that mean for the United Methodist Church?

It means that, in the words of our Bishop: “By now you have probably all heard that the General Conference Special Called Session is now over, and the Traditional Plan prevailed (53 percent, 438 votes, to 47 percent, 384 votes). Although it does have repressive ramifications to our LGBTQI community, the Judicial Council has ruled much of it unconstitutional. At the same time, this decision is also symbolic in its implications because it signals a turn of the United Methodist Church to a more judgmental and political entity that is against inclusion and for exclusion.

“Put simply, the delegates voted against inclusion and for exclusion of certain people based solely on their sexual orientation. Keep in mind that, because we are a global church, the vote reflected the interpretations of scripture from very conservative members outside the United States. Sixty percent of the American delegates supported the One Church Plan that allowed for churches and conferences to make their own decisions on scriptural interpretations of Biblical language about human sexuality.

“In a way, we could be violating the decision by putting up a sign that says, ‘All Are Welcome.’”

Ok then. What does this mean for us?

Our Bishop has also made it clear that, “We must lead our people within the geographical context we find ourselves in the West. We have been open and inclusive for decades, and I don’t see why we should change that about us. We live and let live and it is totally consistent with the theology of John Wesley.”

John Wesley, the 18th Century Anglican Priest, and leader of the reform movement that became known as Methodist, once said, “Though we may not be of one mind, can we not be of one heart? As to that which does not strike at the heart of Christian teaching we (Methodists) say, ‘Think and let think.’”

Wesley’s understanding of the heart of Christian teaching is Christ’s command to love one another, and detailed in the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew 25, indeed, the whole of the New Testament.

In the coming months and even years there will be more information available, and decisions made about how we define ourselves as Methodists. One thing for certain: We are not united. Having said that I am reminded by one of our own that we just need to keep on doing what we’ve been doing, and that is to be loving, compassionate, life-giving followers of Jesus Christ as we work daily to make our community and world a better place, a place where people will know God’s love and grace.

Our hearts, minds and doors are open. To all.

The Rev. Ron Griffen is lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Centro.

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/our-doors-are-still-open-to-all/article_3000dadc-413c-11e9-b73c-b34a4777f704.html

Enote From Pastor Ron 3/5/19

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Dear Friends,

 

Thank you Shirley, Hope, Bonnie and all who led our worship last Sunday!

 

Sara and I am back from a restful weekend in Phoenix where we spent time with two of my childhood friends and their wives. We played some golf and saw some Spring Training baseball games. Go Dodgers!

 

Today is Shrove Tuesday. Some call it Fat Tuesday. It marks the eve of the Lenten Season, which begins with Ash Wednesday, tomorrow, March 6th.

 

There are many traditions around Ash Wednesday. One is to have pancakes for dinner the night before. That might have come from the Jewish tradition of cleaning the cupboards of chametz, or leavening agents, in preparation for the passover meal of unleavened bread. The conclusion of Mardi Gras in New Orleans is Shrove or Fat Tuesday, the eve of Ash Wednesday.

 

We will have a Service of Ashes tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. in the Sanctuary. You are invited to come and spend time in prayer and reflection as we begin this important season in the life of the church.

 

The theme I want to focus on this Lent is “Into the Wilderness.” Obviously, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, facing temptations, before he began his mission on Earth. The earliest Christians spent 40 days in order to ready themselves prior to the celebration of Easter. For them is was much like a spiritual retreat, a time of prayer and fasting.

 

In some ways we associate things like fasting and prayer as times of deep reflection on the mysteries of our faith. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that! My choice of theme, Into the Wilderness, is an invitation to do just that. But, what does it mean to enter the wilderness? That’s the question we will be asking each week in various ways. Where have we spent time in the wilderness in our own lives? What did we learn, if anything? What is the role of the wilderness? Even more basic, how do we define wilderness? Is it even important?

 

One thing I know for sure. When we keep a good Lent, our Easter is all the more powerful and meaningful.

 

 

The Calendar this Week:

 

Ash Wednesday Service of Ashes. 8 a.m. in the Sanctuary.

 

Daylight Savings time begins this Sunday, March 10th. Turn your clocks forward one hour!

 

 

Holy Land Pilgrimage

 

Visiting the Holy Land is a once in a lifetime experience. Pastor Ron is putting together a trip to the Holy Land. 10 days. Visiting sites that include The Sea of Galilee and Jordan River, Capernaum, Cana, Nazareth, tel Megiddo, Jericho, Qumran, Caesarea, Masada, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Mount of Olives. 

 

Prices run from 3400-3700 depending of time of year, and include airfare, ground transportation, tour guides, breakfast and dinner, taxes and fees. 

 

If interested please contact me at (760) 554-5520. Leave a message!

 

Shared Prayers: 

 

 


 

Our dear Ashley has now made the journey to be completely with our Lord. I know you have been praying for her and now I ask you to please keep her parents Lorena and Gabriel as well as her siblings and the community of faith that has sustained them in your prayers. My heart grieves with them.

ashley.jpg

Mercy

 

For Healing: For Caroline Stinson. For Pastor Ron.

 

For those in need: The poor and the hungry. Victims of violence. Migrants seeking asylum.

 

For First Responders, for Teachers, for Public Servants. 

 

See you Sunday!

 

Grace and Peace, Ron

-- 

Rev. Dr. Ron Griffen
Lead Pastor
First United Methodist Church, El Centro
312 S. 8th St. 

760.554.5520 (cell)

Blog: drgriffen.wordpress.com
www.giveusanhour.com
Facebook: First United Methodist church El Centro

"Ring the bell that still can ring. Forget the perfect offering. There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." --Leonard Cohen

"You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth." --Jesus of Nazareth

IV Press Article 3-1-19 ### MY VIEW: What's wrong with good enough?

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“The trick, it seems, is to be able to hold both things very close — the gratitude and the misery — and then, with a semblance of faith, to let them fly.”

—Elizabeth Aquino

The tendency in our culture is to think everything as binary. Good or bad. Black or white. Up or down. Winners or losers. Which is why the concept of greatness is, de facto, the thing we are told we should strive for. From Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” to Ronald Reagan’s “Make America Great Again,” the ideal is greatness. In fact, the notion of greatness as a worthy goal is not debated. What constitutes greatness may be debated, but not the worthiness of greatness itself.

But what about that which is ordinary, that which is everyday? Christianity has lived with a liturgical calendar for centuries. It outlines the days and seasons of the church year (which begins, by the way, with the First Sunday in Advent each year, and ends with the Celebration of the Reign of Christ the Sunday before Advent) with different colors and biblical themes. There is the Season of Advent/Christmas/Epiphany which lasts about 40 days, give or take. The Season of Lent/Easter/Pentecost lasts about 97 days, give or take.

The rest of the church year is called Ordinary Time.

And since we Christians spend most of our time in ordinariness, the question might be, “What does it mean to live ordinarily?” It almost seems to fly in the face of our quest for greatness. But, what if living an ordinary life is actually healthier than striving for greatness?

Said another way, “Why not strive for the good enough life?” In my Wesleyan Christian tradition I was taught to live by three simple rules. First: Do no harm. Second: Do good. Third: Stay in love with God. Each day I try to live by those rules. Through good times and bad, when I’m full of life and when I’m dog tired. At the end of the day it might not be considered great by some, but it is good enough. Sometimes my best is better than other times.

You see, ordinary is not really a measure of adequacy or ability, but, rather the effort to take on the difficulties of daily living, extending oneself for the benefit of others. I think that is what Jesus meant when he said the greatest commandment is to love God, self and others. As a parent, I want to be the kind of father that exemplifies and teaches my children to be resilient, compassionate and loving despite all the evidence to the contrary, that they are able to make their way, and leave the world a better place than they found it.

Writer Avram Alpert adds this, “Being good enough is not easy. It takes a tremendous amount of work to smile purely while waiting, exhausted, in a grocery line. Or to be good enough to loved ones to both support them and allow them to experience frustration. And it remains to be seen if we as a society can establish a good-enough relation to one another, where individuals and nations do not strive for their unique greatness, but rather work together to create the conditions of decency necessary for all.” (“The Good Enough Life,” New York Times, Feb. 20, 2019)

Eastern faith traditions are centered in this middle way or good-enough lifestyle. It’s goal is to achieve a balance in life. But I also believe Jesus offers the same kind of balance, a way of living in harmonic relationship with the divine, with self and with others.

Wouldn’t it be great if we focused each day on living a good-enough life?

The Rev. Ron Griffen is lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Centro. 

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/my-view-what-s-wrong-with-good-enough/article_aa86b398-3bc5-11e9-998e-7fda9d28c678.html

Enote From Pastor Ron 2/26/19

Pastors-Desk-FUMC.jpg

Dear Friends,


I promised an update on my doctor visit to City of Hope, which was yesterday. Here is a recap of the last few months. Last December I met with the hematologist at City of Hope and he indicated that the disease is progressing. While I mostly looked at the white cell count, there are so many other indicators of where the disease is going. Two other important indices are hemoglobin and platelets.


In January I had a normal follow up with my hematologist in El Centro and my labs were similar to what they have been for two years. With one exception. My platelets had plummeted. Normal is around 140. Mine were at 60.


By the end of January I was feeling “out of sorts.” Low energy, and loss of appetite were the major symptoms. I had my annual physical with my Primary Care Doctor at the beginning of February and my labs were way out of whack. Which explained my symptoms.


I made an appointment with Dr. Aribi at City of Hope for February 25th. It was not a regularly scheduled appointment.


Again my labs were all over the place. Which Dr. Aribi said was typical of CMML. The numbers are not linear. They can fluctuate from month to month. The one serious change was my platelets. They are at 40 now. Not good.


So, the result is we are now preparing for 1) transfusions, if needed (platelets drop to 20=platelet transfusion; red cells drop any more=red blood cell transfusion) and 2) my eventual bone marrow transplant. The survival rate for the 3 month procedure is about 90%.


Dr. Aribi explained that it’s hard to speculate when all of this will happen, but best guess, it will be in months not years. I remember thinking when I was first diagnosed that it would be great if I had the transplant during the summer months. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.


The plan now is I visit my doctor every three weeks, which will alternate between Dr. Razzaque here in El Centro and Dr. Aribi at City of Hope.


In the meantime I am feeling a little better. The doctor said that is normal as my body adjusts to the changes it’s going through. I pace myself and take regular naps. 


Sara and I am in a good place with all of this. We continue to live with the gratitude that you all love us and keep us in prayer. We continue to walk in faith.


Love to you all,


Ron and Sara




The Calendar this Week:


Rummage Sale! You can help out any morning this week. The sale is Saturday, beginning at 8 a.m.



Holy Land Pilgrimage


Visiting the Holy Land is a once in a lifetime experience. Pastor Ron is putting together a trip to the Holy Land. 10 days. Visiting sites that include The Sea of Galilee and Jordan River, Capernaum, Cana, Nazareth, tel Megiddo, Jericho, Qumran, Caesarea, Masada, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Mount of Olives. 


Prices run from 3400-3700 depending of time of year, and include airfare, ground transportation, tour guides, breakfast and dinner, taxes and fees. 


If interested please contact me at (760) 554-5520. Leave a message!


Shared Prayers:


For Healing: For Caroline Stinson. For Pastor Ron.


For Ashley, a 12 year old with terminal cancer. And for her family.


For those in need: The poor and the hungry. Victims of violence. Migrants seeking asylum.


For First Responders, for Teachers, for Public Servants. 


See you Sunday!


Grace and Peace, Ron

--

Rev. Dr. Ron Griffen
Lead Pastor
First United Methodist Church, El Centro
312 S. 8th St. 

760.554.5520 (cell)

Blog: drgriffen.wordpress.com
www.giveusanhour.com
Facebook: First United Methodist church El Centro

"Ring the bell that still can ring. Forget the perfect offering. There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." --Leonard Cohen

"You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth." --Jesus of Nazareth

Enote From Pastor Ron 2/18/19

Pastors-Desk-FUMC.jpg

Dear Friends,

 

Each year, in June, I head to Redlands University, site of our Annual Conference. As you may or may not know, our denomination is organized by conferences, jurisdictions, districts, and local churches. 

 

There is a General Conference, held every four years. Delegates from the global church meet and make decisions that impact our Book of Discipline, the book that contains our history, theological understanding, structure and social principles.

 

There are currently five Jurisdictions: Northeast, South, Southeast, Western and Central. Each Jurisdiction is responsible primarily for electing Bishops and meets every four years, usually after the General Conference.

 

Each Jurisdiction has several Conferences. Our conference, the California-Pacific, stretches from the Mexican border to Paso Robles, out to Hawaii, Guam and Saipan. (There is more water than land in our conference!)

 

There are about 350 local churches in our conference. Our conference has five Districts, North, South, East, West and Hawaii. We are in the South District, which includes Imperial County, San Diego County, parts of Orange, and Riverside Counties. there are 79 local churches in our South District.

 

So we are the First United Methodist Church of El Centro in the South District of the California-Pacific Conference in the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church.

 

There are about 9 million members of the United Methodist Church.

 

One of the main issues we discussed at our Annual Conference in 2018 was existential. Are we going to remain the United Methodist Church? The issue is how we interpret the language of the Bible that talks about human sexuality. Mind you we are arguing about interpretations of the English language, as it is translated from the ancient, original languages of Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew, Coptic and a couple of others.

 

At the 2016 General Conference we almost experienced a schism. At the 11th Hour the Council of Bishops came up with a plan for a “Way Forward” that led to forming a study group that would make recommendations to the Bishops on how to move forward.

 

Special General Conference will be held this week to decide what we will do. Three plans were given to the Bishops and the Bishops are recommending one of them. 

 

It is called the One Church Plan. The plan would remove the restrictive language against the practice of homosexuality in the Book Discipline, the denomination’s policy book. The plan also adds assurances to pastors and conferences who in good conscience cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy that they don’t have to do so. Central conferences — church regions in Africa, Asia and Europe — could maintain current restrictions.

 

The other two plans on the table are:

  • The Traditionalist Plan, which would affirm the current language in the denomination’s Book of Discipline, the denomination’s governing document, and seek to strengthen enforcement.

  • The Connectional-Conference plan, which would allow conferences to choose among three connectional conferences for affiliation. The connectional conferences would align based on theology or perspective on LGBTQ ministry — be it traditionalist, progressive or allowing for a variety of approaches. This plan would require multiple amendments to the denomination’s constitution.

 

One of the outcomes will involve churches voting to decide how they will align with the denomination. Some will choose to leave the denomination. While all of this may seem very disrupting, the reality is not a whole lot will necessarily change at the local level, especially here in The Valley. We will still have the work of Christ to do, work that is embodied in our practice of open hearts, minds and doors.

 

So there you have it. It seems all my colleagues have an idea how this will end. For my part I want to continue to be open to the Holy Spirit. I think as long as I do that we will be who and what God calls us to be. 

 

We pray that what will be will be what is best for all concerned.

 

 

On the Calendar for this Week:

 

Special General Conference, in St. Louis, begins on the 23rd.

 

Citizenship Classes on Thursday

 

ESL Conversation Group on Friday

 

Prayer Joys and Concerns

 

Prayers for Shirley Bonillas’ mother.

 

Healing prayers for Toni Andrews.

 

Prayers for Sam Tyler.

Prayers for Carolyn Stinson. 

 

Be well. See you Sunday!

 

In Christ’s love, Pastor Ron

 

-- 

Rev. Dr. Ron Griffen
Lead Pastor
First United Methodist Church, El Centro
312 S. 8th St. 

760.554.5520 (cell)

Blog: drgriffen.wordpress.com
www.giveusanhour.com
Facebook: First United Methodist church El Centro

"Ring the bell that still can ring. Forget the perfect offering. There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." --Leonard Cohen

"You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth." --Jesus of Nazareth

IV Press Article 2-15-19 ### MY VIEW: What’s love got to do with it?

Rev Ron Griffen.jpg

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Many of us celebrated by doing romantic dinners with significant others, buying roses, or champagne, or chocolate. Rich food, especially desserts.

All in the name of love.

St. Valentine has come to represent the essence of love and all that love means to us. On the other hand, I’ve been at Vons while men line up with flowers or chocolate or balloons (that say “I love you!”) or maybe all three. On their way home from work. I know I’ve spent last-minute time putting together something I hope would be meaningful for Sara, something that let her know I loved her. This year we planned ahead and decided we would have a nice dinner, a nice bottle of wine, and we would get each other a card. That’s it.

But, for us, that is enough for now.

So the question I have is about love, what it means for you, and how love makes sense in your life. Because if you know anything about St. Valentine you know that love for him meant his martyrdom. Which is why he is a saint.

St. Valentine lived in the third century near Rome according to some accounts. He was arrested for marrying Christians (which was forbidden) primarily so that they would not be forced to serve in the Roman Army. He was arrested, and when he would not stop his work (and also because he apparently tried to convert the Caesar to Christianity), he was beheaded. He was canonized late in the fifth century.

Feb. 14 was the day he was martyred, which is why that is the date we celebrate his sainthood.

What kind of love motivates someone to give their lives for another? What does that have to do with romance? As the song says, “What’s love got to do with it?”

In the Greco-Roman world in which Saint Valentine lived, there were three words for love. In English there is only one. While context is very important in English (I can say I love ice cream and I love my wife, and mean two different things, and most will get that.), the Greek language is more specific. The three words for love in ancient Greek are eros, philios and agape.

Eros is, generally, thought of as romantic love. You know, the flowers, chocolate kind of love. What we mostly celebrate on St. Valentine’s Day. And there is nothing wrong with romance. In fact, Sara and I have a mini celebration of our anniversary every 15th of the month, which is the date we got married. It’s always a special evening in some way. We also have “date night” on Fridays as often as we can. Busy lives often distance people from the intimacy they need, so it’s good to build in specific times to step back and simply spend time together without distractions.

But eros love is not for anyone but my wife.

Philios might be best understood as a love for one’s brothers and sisters, including those we are not directly related to. The City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, is a compound Greek word meaning just that. That kind of love is not romantic, but is a genuine concern for the welfare of those we are connected to.

And then there is agape. Often called God’s love. Jesus used agape in his command to love one another (John 15:12). It’s a love that is willing to lay down one’s life for another. For Christians it is the active advocacy that we have for the well-being of creation and all that live in it. It’s a love transcends all other loves, allows other loves to exist. It’s how God loves us.

Whether we like it or not.

 

The Rev. Ron Griffen is lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Centro.

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/voiceofthepeople/my-view-what-s-love-got-to-do-with-it/article_aef35cec-30ad-11e9-bc24-dbac94b2dda7.html

Enote From Pastor Ron 2/12/19

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Dear Friends,

 

If you weren’t in worship last Sunday, it was extraordinary. Extraordinary is, obviously, a compound word: extra ordinary. So if you think of Sunday worship as ordinary (normal), then last Sunday had a little extra going for it. Not on purpose, mind you.

 

As you are aware, I was diagnosed with CMML, a rare form of leukemia, about two years ago. For the most part the disease has been in check. My lab numbers have been pretty steady, and I haven’t had any real symptoms during that time.

 

That all changed, or began to change about three weeks ago. I noticed I was tired almost all of the time. My appetite lessened. At times I had a slight fever. And then came last Sunday.

 

I had an appointment with my doctor for this week so I wanted to wait until I had some information I could share with you all, as opposed to saying I was not feeling very well, but not have much more to say than that.

 

I did my usual lab work for the appointment, and in this digital age, I received the results last Saturday. Results in the color red indicate something out of normal, either high or low. In this case my labs were nothing but red numbers, unlike any previous lab report. I was, needless to say, a little surprised an a little nervous about them.

 

Still, I didn’t want to alarm any of you until I had some answers. The disease thought otherwise.

 

During the opening music I reached a point I was so faint/weak I needed to sit down. And with that action I knew I had to share what I was going through. And in the midst of my sharing Rick Barnes said something like, “Ok, enough of the explanation, you need prayer!” 

 

He and Mercy came forward, as did the whole congregation! They laid hands on me and prayed for me. It was extraordinary.

 

My first thought was, “How Baptist!” My Methodist upbringing never experienced something like that. But then my next thought was, “How grateful I am Lord!” For such extraordinary people. Friends. Companions on the journey of faith together. People who love me very much. (And I try to show them every day that I love them right back).

 

Since then I’ve met with my Primary Care doctor who says I need to start some kind of treatment, and I’m waiting for a call from my hematologist here in EC for an appointment. I also have an appointment with my hematologist at City of Hope on the 25th.

 

Sara and I walk in faith, knowing we’re covered in prayer and love. Thank you for that.

 

The Calendar this Week:

 

Men’s Prayer Breakfast Saturday at 8 a.m. We are meeting at the home of George and Audrey McFaddin, 225 Wake Ave. #99 in El Centro. It’s in the Desert Trails Mobile Home Park.

 

 

Holy Land Pilgrimage

 

Visiting the Holy Land is a once in a lifetime experience. Pastor Ron is putting together a trip to the Holy Land. 10 days. Visiting sites that include The Sea of Galilee and Jordan River, Capernaum, Cana, Nazareth, tel Megiddo, Jericho, Qumran, Caesarea, Masada, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Mount of Olives. 

 

Prices run from 3400-3700 depending of time of year, and include airfare, ground transportation, tour guides, breakfast and dinner, taxes and fees. 

 

If interested please contact me at (760) 554-5520. Leave a message!

 

Shared Prayers:

 

For Healing: For Caroline Stinson. 

 

Celebrating improvement for Pat Sandbom.

 

For Ashley, a 12 year old with terminal cancer. And for her family.

 

For Diana who had a tooth extraction on Monday.

 

Celebrating the birth of a Great Grandson, Micah Moreno. (Lauryl Driscoll) 

 

For those in need: The poor and the hungry. Victims of violence. Migrants seeking asylum.

 

For First Responders, for Teachers, for Public Servants. 

 

See you Sunday!

 

Grace and Peace, Ron

-- 

Rev. Dr. Ron Griffen
Lead Pastor
First United Methodist Church, El Centro
312 S. 8th St. 

760.554.5520 (cell)

Blog: drgriffen.wordpress.com
www.giveusanhour.com
Facebook: First United Methodist church El Centro

"Ring the bell that still can ring. Forget the perfect offering. There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." --Leonard Cohen

"You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth." --Jesus of Nazareth

Enote From Pastor Ron 2/4/19

Pastors-Desk-FUMC.jpg

Dear Friends,

 

Well, we finished our study of the letter to the Ephesians yesterday. I emphasized the language of darkness and light in chapter 5. Darkness and light are often used symbolically to contrast good and evil. 

 

We are called to be children of the light in 5:8. As long as we live as children of the light, that is as children of God, evil will have a tough time taking root. But, if we don’t?

 

Go into a dark room and flip the light switch. Immediately the light takes over, right? But where does the darkness go? It cannot exist in the presence of the light so it goes to the outer edge of the light. And waits for the light to go out.

 

Goodness is stronger than evil. 

 

But that makes evil even more aggressive in our midst. Ephesians goes on to say we. Just live as people who are wise, and not as people who are foolish. But how are we to know the difference? Our situation today is different from the time Ephesians was written, yet the issue was the same. How do we know what is true and what is not.

 

The characteristic of our modern day question is driven by the fact that we have more information available at our fingertips than any time in human history.

 

We have information, but little credibility. To quote the New York Times,

 

“The volume of data is exploding, and yet credible information is harder to find,” Zegart wrote. “Why? Because the barriers to entry are so low.” You don’t need a printing press, a book contract or the approval of some gatekeeper to have your say and share your thoughts. You just need an internet connection. And while there’s obvious benefit to that — judgment and permission aren’t the exclusive province of a discriminatory elite — there’s obvious danger, too. Good filters disappear with the bad ones. Cyberspace is at once a smorgasbord and a junkyard.

 

A Facebook post on climate change by a Nobel winning scientist looks exactly like a post of someone paid by the Koch brothers to refute climate change.

 

This is what we face every day, and THIS is what Ephesians is talking about. So, what is truth? There are lots of versions of truth. And then there is God’s truth. And how do we get to that truth? Through study of scriptures, worship, living within a faith community, focusing on the things Jesus taught us.

 

And we put on the armor of God.

 

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  

—Ephesians 6:13-17

 

The Calendar this Week:

 

UMW meets Tuesday morning at 11:30 at Sobe’s

 

 

Holy Land Pilgrimage

 

Visiting the Holy Land is a once in a lifetime experience. Pastor Ron is putting together a trip to the Holy Land. 10 days. Visiting sites that include The Sea of Galilee and Jordan River, Capernaum, Cana, Nazareth, tel Megiddo, Jericho, Qumran, Caesarea, Masada, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Mount of Olives. 

 

Prices run from 3400-3700 depending of time of year, and include airfare, ground transportation, tour guides, breakfast and dinner, taxes and fees. 

 

If interested please contact me at (760) 554-5520. Leave a message!

 

Shared Prayers:

 

For Healing: Pat Sandbom. For Caroline Stinson. 

 

For all who are grieving the loss of loved ones, Especially the family of Teresa Hale.

 

For Ashley, a 12 year old with terminal cancer. And for her family.

 

Celebrating a successful Ride the Yuha bike ride, raising funds for the Cancer Resource Center of the Desert. The ride was organized by our own Brian McNeece..

 

Celebrating 50 years of presence by the San Diego-Imperial County Regional Center for People with Disabilities. 

 

For those in need: The poor and the hungry. Victims of violence. Migrants seeking asylum.

 

For First Responders, for Teachers, for Public Servants. 

 

See you Sunday!

 

Grace and Peace, Ron

-- 

Rev. Dr. Ron Griffen
Lead Pastor
First United Methodist Church, El Centro
312 S. 8th St. 

760.554.5520 (cell)

Blog: drgriffen.wordpress.com
www.giveusanhour.com
Facebook: First United Methodist church El Centro

"Ring the bell that still can ring. Forget the perfect offering. There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." --Leonard Cohen

"You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth." --Jesus of Nazareth

IV Press Article 1-18-19 ### MY VIEW: A man who knew the secret

Rev Ron Griffen.jpg

“The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.”

— Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

This weekend we remember one of the saints of the church, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Above, and within my commentary, are some of his many quotes.

He talked a lot about justice. Justice is talked about a lot in the Bible as well. In fact, the words righteousness and justice mean virtually the same thing.

So anytime you hear the word righteousness, you might remember that righteousness is justice. And vice versa. But, is righteousness/justice a fixed condition? Or does it have the capacity to evolve?

 

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” 

 

I raise the question because there seems to be a lot of confusion about what righteousness/justice means in our culture, indeed throughout the world. Build the Wall. Lock her up. Impeach. Me too. Times up.

I would argue that even the Bible reveals an evolution in the concept of what constitutes righteousness/justice. Or perhaps a better way of saying this is the Judeo/Christian Scriptures are aware that humans have the power to bend their interpretations of them in order to support their particular applications of righteousness/justice.

 

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

 

Similarly we might ask whether the Declaration of Independence claim that “All men are created equal” means only men, or are women included?

With apologies to Seth Godin (one of my favorite bloggers), there was a time when righteous men, settled their differences with swordplay, or with pistols. There was a time when women bound their feet, and shamed those who didn’t. There was a time when righteous men owned slaves.

Over time those so-called righteous behaviors have become unrighteous, these so-called just behaviors are now considered unjust. But here’s the rub. We live in a culture that, even as most people have come to recognize the human capacity to act with compassion, to embrace diversity and inclusion over singularity and exclusion, to believe we humans are capable of much more than we often realize, there are those who insist that the former ways are the correct ways despite the harm caused by those ways.

 

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

 

And so, on this weekend of remembrance and celebration, there are some who will show contempt and disdain. While many want to share their gift of abundance, a gift and not an entitlement, there are those who want to build higher walls to keep others out. When many welcome others, not because they look or act like them, but because there is the belief that all means all, there will be those who firmly believe they are superior, that their way is better, that they are chosen.

This is the world we live in. But hasn’t it always been like this?

 

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

 

One of my favorite jazz albums is called Land of Make Believe, by Chuck Mangione. The title track has a verse that goes like this: “In your world there was a King / Who once said, ‘I have a dream,’ / Now there’s a man / Who knew the secret.”

That man died, was assassinated, 50 years ago. For what he said he knew. This weekend we remember him. But what he knew is not a secret.

Is it?

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/my-view-a-man-who-knew-the-secret/article_256586aa-1acb-11e9-a7c8-fbc79eac3a0a.html

IV Press Article 11-9-18 ### Viewpoint: Being blessed doesn’t mean a care-free life

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The Beatitudes is one of the better known passages from the New Testament. They are the beginning, or prelude, to what we call the “Sermon on the Mount.” They are in the Gospel of Matthew.

Jesus’ primary mission was to announce the arrival of the Kingdom of God, and that Jesus was the personification of what it meant to live life in God’s Kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount outlines what we can do to live the Kingdom life. The Beatitudes are the prelude, or summary of what it means to recognize someone living in God’s Kingdom.

The nine Beatitudes, or “blessings,” are broken into three sections. Contrary to the notion that they represent characteristics of different people on their faith journey, they describe the process by which we become followers of Christ.

The first three are:

•          “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

•          “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”

•          “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”

When we realize we have put our faith into many different places, or things such as money, power, prestige and so forth, and we realize that we are still left wanting for something more, we come face to face with our poverty of Spirit. Recognizing our poverty of Spirit leads us to mourn, to mourn what we have lost, mourn what we have become, mourn what we have missed in life.

But we find comfort in our mourning, which leads to humility, or meekness. Now meekness is not being a doormat! It is recognizing that without God we can do nothing, and that placing our trust in other things to find meaning is ultimately lacking.

The next three are:

•          “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness sake for they will be satisfied.”

•          “Blessed are the merciful for mercy shall be theirs.”

•          “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.”

In response to this new awareness, we begin to hunger and thirst for righteousness. In Scripture the words righteousness and justice mean the same thing: God’s desire for healing and reconciliation, forgiveness and restoration of wholeness for the human community.

And that leads to the practice of mercy. To be merciful is to emphasize with and advocate for the well-being of all those who are in need, physically and spiritually. Acts of mercy lead to purity of heart. To be pure in heart is to place your life completely into God’s hands. It is the affirmation of the one God. There is no room for other gods in our lives.

The last three are:

•          “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.”

•          “Blessed are those who are persecuted for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

•          “Blessed are you when people revile you on my account.”

We are called to be peacemakers. It isn’t enough that we have peace. The peace of Christ is something to be shared. But this takes courage because there will always be pushback from the powers of violence and hate. We will face persecution of some kind. People will revile us, and oppress us because of our faith in Jesus. After all, isn’t that what happened to Jesus? Should we expect any less?

In our day and age we won’t necessarily experience physical violence, although some of our brothers and sisters truly do. Ours is more often the loss of friendships, public humiliation, marginalization, disrespect.

And when that happens what does Jesus say to do? Rejoice! He says to rejoice! Because we have been welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven. Here and now. Not later on when we die. Here and now. God is here and now.

And we are blessed.

 The Rev. Ron Griffen is lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Centro.

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/viewpoint-being-blessed-doesn-t-mean-a-care-free-life/article_69fbb962-e3c4-11e8-a09a-971fb979f7a1.html

IV Press Article 9-14-18 ### MY VIEW: How to practice a politics of compassion

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Politics. Mostly yelling. Deep divisions. Both sides challenging the other. Polarization. Which lead to paralysis. And nothing gets done. Jesus actually lived in a similar time. But he challenged people to practice a different kind of politics — a politics of compassion.

The challenge of living compassionately is embedded in the Shema, the ancient Jewish command to love God with everything we have, to love our neighbors, as we love ourselves. It was the answer Jesus gave to the scribe who had asked what the greatest commandment was. And Jesus went so far as to say the whole law and the prophets rested on that command.

So, what does a politics of compassion look like? One of my seminary professors, Dr. Frank Rogers, described it this way:

Rabbi Lea Rosen and her lesbian partner recently had moved into a town where Lea was to be the new rabbi for the Temple there. They moved into a home that was kitty corner from Jack, an angry kind of person who, it became clear, was very anti marriage-equality.

One day Lea came out to her car to find a flyer attached to the car’s windshield by a huge stone, one that could easily shatter the windshield. The flyer said, “Anti Marriage Equality Rally this Saturday at the Park at Noon,” and scribbled on the flyer was a note to Lea that said, “I dare you to try and stop us!”

Rabbi Lea was shaken, and for the first time felt physically threatened. Her first thought, one many of us might have in a moment like this was to fight back. To threaten back.

But she knew deep in her heart that that kind of response would not change anything. So she and her partner prayed. And listened. And then Lea acted.

She wanted to know more about Jack, what his story was. Jack was a Catholic, a deacon in the local parish. He also thought himself the “best chili-maker in the whole state!” Jack was also active in the work of the animal shelter.

Lea came up with an idea. She got all of her friends together and planned a chili cook-off for the Saturday of the marriage equality protest. The proceeds from the cook-off would go to the animal shelter. Saturday came and the two groups, the protesters and the chili cookers, came to the park.

Now, the chili cookers were having such a great time that the protesters really wanted to join them. Lea went over and invited Jack to join them saying, “I understand you are the best chili-maker in the town,” to which Jack replied, “in the whole state!”

Lea continued, “I wonder then, maybe you could come over and taste some of the chili and give your opinion.” Reluctantly, Jack went.

To make a long story short, Jack and Lea, over the course of the next year, became friends.

One day at the coffee shop Jack asked Lea how she knew she was a lesbian. She shared her story, and then asked if Jack had ever known a gay person. “My younger brother was gay,” he answered. “He had AIDS, and when he told our parents, they ostracized him. The church ostracized him. He went to another town where he died alone. That was 10 years ago.”

“In my tradition, when someone dies, we say a Kaddish for him. I would be honored to say a Kaddish, our prayers for the dead, for your brother. Would you join me?”

So Jack joined Rabbi Lea in the Temple, and, together, they said the prayers for Jack’s brother. And a wound from long ago began to heal. Two people, once politically opposed, shared their humanity.

The politics of compassion.

The Rev. Ron Griffen is lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Centro. 

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/my-view-how-to-practice-a-politics-of-compassion/article_a1882a5a-b7af-11e8-aac2-cfd08aff99e3.html

IV Press Article 8-31-18 ### MY VIEW: Live like a champion today

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In the 23rd chapter of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus addresses the crowd concerning the actions of the church leaders. He tells the people that the church leaders do not practice what they preach, and then goes on to speak directly to the church leaders.

“Woe to you hypocrites!” says Jesus. More than once. It is the focus of the entire chapter.

As a church leader, a pastor, I must take this chapter to heart. We pastors all have to. Anyone in church leadership has to.

Because the hypocrisy Jesus addresses in Chapter 23 is a problem still today.

Many of you know I am a Notre Dame fan. I was in graduate school there in the early '80s, in their summer sessions, studying liturgy. If you have ever watched a Notre Dame football game, you might have seen the players leave the locker room for the field and touch a sign that says “Play like a Champion Today.”

Well, a few Christmases ago, Sara gave me a gift that hangs in my office. It is the same sign design the players touch as they head out to play. Except mine says “Pastor like a Champion Today.”

I share this because I need to be reminded of the work to which God has called me. And this reminder — that I’m called to be a champion — is one we all need to be reminded of. We are all called to be champions. Every one of us.

“What kind of champion?” you ask.

Each of us has to decide that, but as one who has committed to follow the teachings of Jesus, my decision is already made. It comes down to three things, three biblical mandates that I call the Great Requirement, the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission.

You can find the Great Requirement in Micah 6:6-8. Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with God.

God’s sense of justice is not punitive. It is restorative. It is about making things right through Jesus’ death, a death that reveals the stupidity of thinking violence is the way to peace, or that death is the ultimate power in the universe. Justice is about healing and restoration to wholeness.

Kindness is about doing no harm, acting with compassion, putting others above self interest. Walking with God, humbly, is a proper response to knowing God loves us, and we cannot earn that love, or lose that love.

The Great Commandment is in John 13:34-35. Love one another. Here’s the part some miss. As Jesus has loved us, so we, too, must love one another. As Jesus loved us.

The Great Commission is found at the end of each Gospel. Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father. Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age.”

Some interpret this passage as a means to denigrate other faiths. And in doing so they are violating the very command to love one another Jesus gave them. They are the hypocrites Jesus talked about in Matthew 23. If that is not convincing, try Matthew 5:44. (He says to love even our enemies there.)

A requirement. a commandment, and a commission. Not the “Great Suggestions,” or the “Great If You Have Time.” In the end, and I’ve said this on many occasions, they are easy to do. But — they are also easy not to do. That is why I know I need a reminder. That is why I have to make the choice to follow the teachings of Jesus every day. And you?

Be a champion today.

The Rev. Ron Griffen is lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Centro.

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/my-view-live-like-a-champion-today/article_f0daaf46-acc5-11e8-a582-7b717a72a5d0.html