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

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.

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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

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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

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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?

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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

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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

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“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

IV Press Article 8-17-18 ### MY VIEW: There are rules to live by

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“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men...” — John Dalberg-Acton, in a letter dated 1887

Two recent news events have rocked Christianity. Bill Hybels, founding pastor of Willowcreek Church a 25,000 member church near Chicago, was accused by several women of sexual harassment, leading to an early retirement for Pastor Hybels and the resignation of the entire Willowcreek board of elders as well as the two senior pastors.

Two days ago, a grand jury in Pennsylvania revealed that hundreds of Roman Catholic Priests had engaged in various forms of sexual assault and harassment that had been covered up for decades.

In past reflections, I have written about how non-Christians view Christians, and the views aren’t very positive. But those views are from the outside, and Christians could more easily dismiss them as unfounded.

But now it is Christians, Roman Catholics and Protestants, who are questioning their belief, and trust, in the church.

This sobering news must not be a time of denial, nor must it be a time of defensiveness. The fact is there have always been improprieties among clergy, both Catholic and Protestant.

Unfortunately, it is easy to see how all of this can happen. From my perspective as a pastor I have, no matter where I have been appointed to serve, been welcomed and trusted. From the very beginning. Without question. Without having to earn that trust. Sure, trust can be lost over time, but from the beginning there is an unquestioning trust by the church for its clergy.

That has always been a profound awareness for me, one that I challenges me every day to be worthy of such trust. I haven’t always hit the mark. I have always tried. And, for the most part, whenever I have come up short, I have asked forgiveness, acknowledging my failure.

And I am forever grateful for a merciful God who taught us that forgiveness is the ultimate act of love.

So what are we to do? How, you might ask, do we go about recovering (or maybe achieving for the first time) authentic communities of faith? Especially as we acknowledge that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely?

I was taught, and try every day to live by three rules, simple rules. They come from an Anglican priest named John Wesley who lived in the 18th century. He started a reform movement in Great Britain that led to the birth of the Methodist Church.

The first rule is, “Do no harm. That’s it. Do no harm. To anyone or anything. Imagine what it would be like if we all lived by that rule alone. How about this: We live by this rule while on Facebook or Twitter.

The second rule is, “Do good. It’s been attributed to Wesley that he said, “Do all the good you can, in all places you can, in all ways that you can, to all people you can, at all times you can, a long as ever you can.”

The third rule is, “Stay in love with God.” People in love do loving things. Jesus said to love one another. Loving God creates moral character, care and concern for our neighbor, sustains us in times of trouble, moves us from despair to hope. Studying scripture, acts of service, worship, community and fasting are all a part of loving God.

Yes, I said fasting. Prayer and fasting. Think of all the ways we can take a deep breath and disengage. There are so many ways one can fast. We can fast from TV, or all things electronic. Fast by disengaging from work and spending more time with those we love.

Three simple rules. They’re what I try to live by. How about you?

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

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/my-view-there-are-rules-to-live-by/article_df03706c-a1d7-11e8-b326-a76c943b328d.html

IV Press Article 8-3-18 ### MY VIEW: The Four Rs

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I wonder why we Christians can be so inflexible at times. Not that other religions don’t do the same. But for us Christians it is especially, —what’s the word — ironic, that we are so. I say ironic because we claim to believe in the ongoing redemptive work of God through Jesus, empowered by the Spirit as the Body of Christ.

I know. That is a mouthful.

Put simply, we Christians are carrying out the mission of building God’s kingdom, begun by Jesus but not completed yet. By the work of the Spirit we affirm that we are now the Body of Christ, the physical presence of Christ in the world, doing that work.

That is the core of Christian belief outlined in the New Testament.

Now it is none other than the Apostle Paul who reminded us that a body is one, but has many parts. The feet don’t tell the hands they are not necessary, or the ears tell the eyes they are not important.

So how did we get to a point where the Body of Christ is so dysfunctional that we are seen by most people as “judgmental, hypocritical, and old fashioned,” as described in David Kinnaman’s book, “unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity, and Why it Matters”?

I’m sure there are lots of reasons. I believe there is a process that leads to it, but also provides us with a way out of it. I call them the Four Rs.

Christian belief begins with the personal experience of Jesus, dead and risen from the dead. How do we know this is true? It has been revealed to us by God the Creator. All of our experience begins with God’s revelation. God is the first actor. We love because God first loved us. We act in response to God’s actions.

Revelation and Response, the first two Rs are essential to a healthy faith. The third R is that after we have responded to God’s revelation, whatever it might be, we pause at some point and reflect on it all. We reflect for two reasons. First, we have the need to unpack what took place, to make sense of it, and second, to figure out a way to explain it to someone else.

You see, our response is always spontaneous. We don’t think about it and then respond. We just respond. We respond with movements, words, songs, and actions filled with gratitude. They are often joyous, and can also bring us to our knees. They can be profound responses that bring us to tears, tears of unexplainable joy and peace.

That is why reflection is important. It helps us attain a deeper understanding, a deeper meaning that can be shared. It also helps us recognize that we are not the only ones who are having these experiences! We are not alone!

Our shared stories form us into community. Family. One Body.

But then, and history bears this out, we add the fourth R. We make rules. In church language, we call them rubrics. Rubric is a Latin word that means red which actually indicates the color of the instructions (rules) to follow in worship and, by extension, life.

I believe the problem is that, over time, the rubrics have become the most important of the four Rs. And that’s a shame.

Worse than that, our inflexibility actually leads to violence. In God’s name. Physical. Verbal. Judgmental. Violence.

Rubrics have their place, I know. We need rules. But if they supersede God’s ongoing revelation, haven’t we become the Pharisees of the 21st Century?

We can be better than that. We must be.

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

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/my-view-the-four-rs/article_ec135bf2-96db-11e8-a8e5-bba59a9e37cf.html

IV Press Article 7-6-18 ### MY VIEW: The heart of community

One of the first things Jesus does as he began his mission was to create a community. He called a community into being. The core of this community was made up of 12 disciples. The scriptural Gospels often refer to them as The Twelve. But there were many more who were a part of this community.

The Christian theological understanding of God as being one, that is to say monotheism, yet experienced in three distinct entities, that is to say trinitarianism, is difficult to explain even for Christians. In Christian infancy the concept of a triune God that was actually one was ridiculed by outsiders.

But I think the idea of God as being one yet three reveals the true nature of God as communal. To experience God is to experience community.

The reason I bring this up is I believe the idea of community is under assault today. It has been for some time. In its place is a kind of tribalism that pits one tribe against all others that has led to demonization of others, isolation, polarization.

And a lot of shouting hurtful, damaging things at one another.

Some time ago, I read about a medical scientist who developed a way of listening to human cells. It turns out healthy cells make a noise that sounds much like music. Diseased cells on the other hand make a noise that sounds much like screaming.

It’s time to do less screaming at each other and do more singing together.

Ironically a primary reason we are experiencing the disintegration of community is the demand for individual liberty. Ironically because there cannot be individual liberty absent of institutions that protect and encourage it. Government, Education, Religion, Justice, the family. These institutions have been attacked so continually that they are in the process of losing relevance.

In their place we find a widening gap between those who are safe no matter what happens, and those who are at risk. Those who are safe believe they do not need institutions. They believe they are above them.

As Jesus began his mission, the human condition was very much like what we are experiencing today. Two percent to 3 percent of the population was safe. The rest were at risk. He confronted this by showing people how to become a community.

The Twelve were a pretty diverse group. A parallel today would be to say they were made up of Republicans and Democrats. Some were well off, and others were blue collar workers; some were educated, and others weren’t. They didn’t agree on most things. One even turned out to be a traitor. They all abandoned Jesus at one point.

But in the end, they came to understand the meaning of community. One body. Many parts. Working together for the good of all concerned. Those who had much never had too much. Those who had little never had too little.

I cannot say I am filled with optimism when I think about what is happening in our world right now. The voices of the safe deliver a message that sounds great even to many who are at risk. But it is a message, when looked at critically, that does not create community.

Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, I am hopeful. Hope is different from optimism. Hope is what allows us to dream big dreams, to take on big challenges, to live in community together when none of those things make sense in light of our reality. Hope is a choice. When all is said and done there are three things that remain. Faith. And Hope. And Love. These are at the heart of community.

And in the end, they win.

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

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/my-view-the-heart-of-community/article_9243ed4a-80d2-11e8-a395-ab1979990fae.html

IV Press Article 6-22-18 ### MY VIEW: Putting Romans 13:1 in context

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What do Loyalists opposing the American Revolution, European Christians defending Nazi rule, conservative religious South Africans defending Apartheid and the Attorney General of the United States have in common? 

They have all cited Romans 13:1 as a justification for their actions.

It happens all the time. People use passages from the Bible to support their positions on abortion, immigration, LGBTQA persons, spousal abuse. Unfortunately those who do this betray their ignorance of the most important Biblical calls to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God and to love one another.

Yes, Mr. Sessions used Romans 13:1 to justify the policy of separating children from their parents who have entered the country illegally, but only if you take the verse out of context.

Mr. Sessions apparently didn’t read the whole letter.

For example, Paul writes in chapter 12 of Romans, “Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. Love each other like the members of your family. Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home. Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart. Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good. If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people. If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head. Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.” (Romans 12 9-10, 13, 16)

I would add that if we treat our enemies in this manner, we no longer have enemies.

So, what is Paul saying to the church in Rome about Christian living and civil authority? Chapter 13:1 though verse 7 is the second part of a two-part exhortation on Paul’s part. The first section begins in Chapter 12:14 through verse 21, most of which is quoted above.

It is a given that civil authorities have been corrupt. But it is also the desire of God that there is civil order within the world. Christians are called to be among those who strive for that civil order. By acting out of compassion and love for others.

It is also mistaken to think Paul would have understood our contemporary concepts of separation of church and state. In fact, Jesus whole ministry was to announce the reign of God, a kingdom. Or, as a friend pointed out to me one time, it is not the Democratic Republic of God. It is the Kingdom of God. There are things we don’t get to vote on. Micah 6:8 for example. As well as John 15:12.

And so how do I, someone who claims Christ as the Savior of the world, respond to the current situation involving the policy of incarcerating entire families who illegally try to enter the country? First, I want to respect the authority that is vested in our elected officials. We have a process for making changes when they act out of their own self-interests and not the welfare of the people.

It’s called voting.

Second, I continue to pray for the welfare of our elected leaders, that they will govern with compassion, acting justly, loving tenderly and walking humbly with God. It is God’s desire that we all live in that manner. As Christians it is our obligation to do no less than that.

“Whatever you do to these, the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.” — Jesus of Nazareth.

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

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/my-view-putting-romans-in-context/article_6e0643c8-75ac-11e8-b561-c740368991aa.html

IV Press Article 4-27-18 ### Viewpoint: The true meaning of the words ‘God Bless America’

Rev Ron Griffen.jpg

One of the benefits of traveling outside of one’s comfort zone is the broadening of one’s thinking about the world and one’s place in it. I am reminded of that truth every time I am lucky enough to travel. On our recent vacation I was reminded again and again that, despite all we hear and read about that is wrong with the world, the world is still essentially a really good place, with really good and decent people simply trying to make their way in life.

I think one of the gravest dangers we face today is the hyper-yet-hollow patriotism that is cloaked in the so-called Christian garment of self righteousness.

Take, for example, the phrase, “God bless America.” What exactly does it mean to say “God bless America?” Actually, the phrase is from a very famous song by that name. But, do you know the history of the song?

The original version was written by composer Irving Berlin during World War I, in 1918, and revised/updated in 1938, the eve of World War II. Kate Smith is credited with the most famous recording of the song, and it became her signature song.

Woodie Guthrie criticized the song and, in response, wrote “This Land is Your Land.” The Ku Klux Klan, a prominent anti-Semitic Christian sect rejected the song because it was written by a Jewish immigrant.

Irving Berlin gave his royalties from the song to the Boy Scout and Girl Scout organizations in New York City. The manuscripts of the song show that it evolved from the theme of victory to the theme of peace. The manuscripts are in the Library of Congress.

The song is in the form of a prayer. The little known opening lyrics begin with, “While the storm clouds gather far across the sea/ Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free/ Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, / As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.”

The song was sung during the Civil Rights Movement and at labor rallies. Franklin Roosevelt claimed it as his campaign song. The Philadelphia Flyer hockey team had it sung often as a “good luck” charm during their Stanley Cup winning season of 1974.

“God Bless America” is sung at all kinds of sporting events now, most notably it rose in use during the Vietnam Era, and as a response to 9/11. My Rotary Club sings it almost every Thursday at our luncheon meeting.

If we think of it as a prayer, the words take on a special meaning:

“God, bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her, and guide her through the night with the light from above. From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam: God, bless America, my home sweet home. God bless America, my home sweet home.”

Next Thursday is the National Day of Prayer. God Bless America just might be sung a lot on that day. We will be holding a prayer service that evening, at 6 p.m. in our Olive Street Center. Our National Day of Prayer service is an Interfaith Service, recognizing the strength of unity we Americans have because of our diversity. I just believe that all Americans ought to be able to gather together to pray for our nation, the land that we love, our home sweet home.

A home where a Jewish immigrant can write a song that is sung by millions of Christians, a song sung by Americans of all faiths. Or maybe no faith preference at all. And our prayer will hopefully rise up that day with the affirmation that our national motto, E pluribus unum really still means something. Especially now.

Out of many, one.

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

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/viewpoint-the-true-meaning-of-the-words-god-bless-america/article_736d46ee-49bb-11e8-9e13-fb94b3605fba.html

IV Press Article 4-13-18 ### Viewpoint: The people of Cinque Terre give me hope

Rev Ron Griffen.jpg

Right now I’m on vacation with my wife in Italy. I call it our second second honeymoon. When we got married we agreed we would take a big vacation trip every five years. For the past year we have been planning and saving for this.

Vacations can be a lot of things. Adventure. Discovery. Insight. Rest. I think a good vacation has all of those things. So far it’s been all of that and more for us. Especially our time in the Cinque Terre. Travel guide Rick Steve’s calls the Cinque Terre (CHINK-weh TAY-reh), “a remote chunk of the Italian Riviera, a traffic-free, lowbrow, underappreciated alternative to the French Riviera. There’s not a museum in sight—just sun, sea, sand (well, pebbles), wine, and pure, unadulterated Italy.”

We stayed in a place called Luna de Marza, high on the hill overlooking the village of Manarola, in a village called Valostra. The views were spectacular. It was quiet and peaceful. A great beginning to our second second honeymoon.

And I also learned something about the people of the Cinque Terre that gives me hope.

You see, the first inhabitants of the Cinque Terre we’re looking for a place where they could live in peace, absent of the war and violence that existed a thousand years ago. The steep cliffs and rugged terrain protected them from invaders, pirates and bandits.

The downside was the terrain made it really difficult to make a home.

They realized it was through cooperation and sharing that they could make it there. This realization is what makes the Cinque Terre unique. You see, the Cinque Terre is a huge wine region in Italy. The vineyards grow on acres and acres of terraced land that stretches up the steep hillsides.

The terraces are held in place by rock walls of dry stone, that is walls that have no grout. Consisting solely of rock and dirt, these walls provide irrigation not only for the individual farmer, but allow drainage to the other farms below as well as help create a biodiverse ecosystem.

What makes this unique is the whole system of terraces was not built by slave labor, but by the cooperative effort of the people living there. A system that has lasted for a thousand years.

And, by the way, the wine is exceptional!

I’m talking about walls. Not the kind of walls that divide and exclude, but walls that give life. Walls not built out of fear, but walls that provided a way out from fear. Walls are not the problem. It’s how we use them that can be the problem.

Two thousand years ago a teacher, a rabbi taught that when people place value in things people suffer. But when people put value in sharing and cooperation everyone benefits. He gave an important example of this when his disciples, thinking they were doing the proper thing, warned him to send the thousands that had gathered to hear him teach away so they could get food before it became dark and the markets closed.

He said in response, “You feed them.” You feed them. They were stunned. How could they ever feed so many. They only had five loaves of bread and two fish between them. So the rabbi took what they had, blessed it, broke it and gave it back for them to share. And all were fed that day. And there were leftovers. But it turns out the world in general keeps saying “no” to the ways of this rabbi. Even many who claim to follow him.

But, because of the people of Cinque Terre I have hope for the world. And because of the people of the Imperial Valley I have hope for the world.

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

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/viewpoint-the-people-of-cinque-terre-give-me-hope/article_77b647be-3ec1-11e8-8442-67b9e23c769e.html