IV Press Article 10-4-19 ### Time enough for some perspective

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L’Shanah Tovah! Literally “for a good year,” it is a traditional greeting Jews make during Rosh Hashanah, which ended earlier this week. It is the beginning of the new year on the Jewish calendar. It says we are now living in the year 5780.

“But wait,” you say, “this is 2019.” Yes, it’s 2019. On the Gregorian calendar, a calendar that was made official by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. The Gregorian replaced the older Julian calendar, dating to around 64 CE, because the Julian Calendar never accounted for what we now call a “leap” year.

By the way, the Chinese calendar says we are living in the year 4717, the Year of the Boar as of Feb. 5. And the Muslim Calendar says we are living in the year 1441 as of Aug. 30.

There are probably more calendars with varying years in which we now live, but, 2019 is recognized as the more universally accepted calendar. Time is pretty relative if you ask me. (I know, you didn’t ask me.)

Last Monday was the Harvest Bowl Committee meeting at the Imperial Valley Food Bank. Throughout the year I cook dinner for them at those meetings. It’s my small way of thanking them for all the work they do to put on such an amazing event, an event that celebrates the fact that you all have said, “No more hunger here!” No more hungry seniors and children, our most vulnerable folks. No more hungry families who have met with financial difficulties, or whose parents work, but can’t quite make it through the month on what they are paid.

Anyway, Monday was Rosh Hashanah, and I cooked up a meal similar to what many in our Jewish community would be sharing. The highlight for the committee was the Kugel.

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of a new year. It leads into 10 days of repentance that culminates with the celebration of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I think we all could use a little repentance and atonement right now. As one of my friends said, “It’s been a long year this week!”

Many are experiencing a time of confusion, or anger, feelings of dislocation, or depression, or helplessness. Or maybe feelings of entrenchment, of conviction, of persecution. And accompanying these feelings we might question whether we will ever feel better. A recent New York Times article questioned why many of us just aren’t very happy.

When I read that I thought, “I’m happy.” Not Pollyanna-like happy. More like a deep sense of joy. Every morning I wake up I say, “Thanks!” for one more day, one more day to try to make our community a better place. One more chance to say, “Hi” to the elderly woman who sits outside of Vons, waiting for, well, I’m not sure what she’s waiting for. One more day to be present with a friend who struggles with life itself, or to celebrate an accomplishment, a goal achieved, a life’s milestone.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have doubts, or concerns, or questions. It doesn’t mean everything goes my way. What is does mean is I have come to know and believe that, no matter how bad things might get, God is always in the middle of it bringing something life-giving to it. Always.

When you think about it God, who is timeless, was present before any of our calendars. 5780 may seem like a long time, but it pales in comparison to the 14 billion years the universe has been around, a universe God created and called good. Called us good. And still does. We are made of the stuff of creation. We are stardust.

A long year this week? Really?

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/time-enough-for-some-perspective/article_9157ce6e-e649-11e9-bb2e-eb5781b2858d.html

IV Press Article 9-20-19 ### Viewpoint: Questions for everyone to think about

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“Who are these people, and how can I be with them,

so that they can become what God wishes to make of them?”

—Eugene Peterson

 

I really like it when someone comes up with a clear, concise way to say something I feel deeply and am lacking the words to express. They are the kinds of quotes I wish I had come up with!

Nevertheless, I am always grateful for the insights of others, and the ways they are able to get to the point. And the point here seems to be one about our humanity, a point that resonates through our entire human history. Peterson came to this question, what he calls the “pastor’s question” through years of biblical study and reflection, years of pastoral ministry and years of living in relationships with others. And the point was an important one for Jesus, so we’re looking at a 2000-year-old question, at the least.

But it’s really an existential question, one that has existed from our very origins. And persists today.

I think there are three parts to the question.

The first is, “Who are they?” When we talk about others, especially others who are not like ourselves, we commonly use words like them, those or these. How is “these” used in the question? Context helps. They are people. Not things. People. Maybe not people that look, or act, or speak like you, but people.

And in order to find out who they are one must take time to be with them, which is the second part of the question. It’s like the adage to walk in another’s shoes in order to understand who they are. While walking in another’s shoes sounds right, it can still be difficult to understand them. I’ve never had to think about when my next meal would come. But I know one person in three in this county has those thoughts every day.

In order to be with someone, it makes sense to me that I must first acknowledge that I don’t know how they feel, or what they’ve been through, but I can choose to empathize with them, meaning I am willing to accept their feelings and actions as theirs.

Isn’t that how we all want others to accept us?

To answer the third part of the question requires movement from my desires to God’s desires. That can be tricky. Especially when we think we know what God’s desires are, but, in reality, they are really our own desires, which often protect our self interest, and not the interest of others.

In other words, we too often want to help others, but only on our terms. We too often see others as, and here’s a scriptural phrase, “the least of these,” but are they least in God’s eyes? Or ours?

And just what does God’s wish to make of them? Apparently the same thing God wishes to make of you and me. For that answer we can turn to the one who provided the answer. Jesus of Nazareth. The life and death of Jesus is God’s way of being with humanity so humanity can know what it is we have always been intended to be.

Human.

That’s what Jesus models for us. What it means to be human. What are the words he used to describe what it means to be human? Loving. Accepting. Forgiving. Reconciling. Compassionate. Giving. Self-sacrificing. Peacemaking. Grateful. Thankful. To name a few.

Who are these people? How can I be with them? So they can become what God wishes to make of them? Pastoral questions to be sure. They get to the point of what it means to be the bearers of Jesus’ Good News.

But are these questions only for pastors?

 

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

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/viewpoint-questions-for-everyone-to-think-about/article_55f07406-db55-11e9-8979-db34e7a3d529.html

IV Press Article 9-6-19 ### Viewpoint: What church is really supposed to look like

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On Aug. 29, 2005, I got up, made coffee, and turned on the television. I don’t think I was much different from many folks that day. Hurricane Katrina was making landfall near New Orleans. It was, to that point, the biggest hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast in our lifetimes. The most devastating area hit by Katrina was Gulfport, Miss.

I was pastoring a church in Orange County at the time, and one of our members, Bob Ullerich, came to me and suggested we send a work team to Gulfport to help out in the recovery. I agreed. We created a team of volunteers, and under the tutelage of Bob (He was a wildcatter, working on oil rigs, and sometimes the geothermal wells here in Imperial Valley — his nickname was “Big Dog.”) were trained in basic construction practices.

We made our way to Gulfport, and connected with the Methodist Church there, Trinity UMC. There we met John Kelly, church member and retired Army officer. That day, Aug. 29, 2005, John Kelly showed up at the church to see what damage had taken place. So did a lot of others. People checking on their friends and neighbors, wondering how they had fared. In the midst of the destruction, they came together to help out any way they could.

The first thing John Kelly realized was, with power out, there was no way to save any food these people had. So, he got them organized, got out the church barbecues, fired them up and began to cook.

Lines formed. The word went out. The church had food.

Two days later a semi rolled up to the church. “I’m supposed to deliver this food to the local market, but the market isn’t there any more. Can you use this food?” And so it went, like this, for several days while the Red Cross and FEMA began responding to the disaster.

Our work team worked on half a dozen homes, helping restore them. Helping families get back into their homes. We slept in the church hall, and John Kelly kept us fed along with all the other volunteers, and survivors.

All in all we sent four work teams to the Gulf Coast over a period of three years. After the immediate response to the situation FEMA asked UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) to coordinate the long-term recovery of the Gulf Coast. Our last team stayed at Camp Hope, set up on another church property in Gulfport by UMCOR. It consisted of a barracks for men and women, a dining hall, and storage area for building materials. On that last trip we restored three homes. That was 12 years ago.

On each of these mission trips I heard at least one of the volunteers say, “This is what being the church is all about.”

Big Dog and his wife, Nancy, two amazing, dedicated Methodists, moved right after our last trip to Gulfport in 2007. They now live in Columbia, S.C.

I emailed Nancy to let her know we were thinking about them and keeping them in prayer. Columbia won’t catch the brunt of Hurricane Dorian, but they will get some serious weather. And knowing Bob and Nancy the way I do, they will be out there somewhere, helping in any way they can, making things better for others.

Like lots of other people — people who get it, people who understand that alone they might be faster, but together we are stronger. Despite our differences. There are many John Kellys in the world. And Big Dogs. And Nancys. Thank God for them. They are the ones who remind us every day that helping others in times of need is what the church is all about.

Indeed.

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/viewpoint-what-church-is-really-supposed-to-look-like/article_bea92f9a-d053-11e9-bc50-f3874d4db2b8.html

IV Press Article 8-23-19 ### VIEWPOINT: Finding peace with justice

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You might recall a bumper sticker that reads, “No Justice, No peace — Know Justice, Know Peace.” I’ve also seen the Christian version of it that says, “No Jesus, No Peace — Know Jesus, Know Peace.” Jesus is often called the Prince of Peace. But what kind of peace are we talking about? It seems that everywhere one looks there is scant evidence of peace. And despite my belief there are far more good and peacemaking things going on in the world than bad things, there still are violence, disruption, contention, polarization, and injustice.

Where is the Prince of Peace when we need him?

At least part of the answer lies in this scripture, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53)

What is this fire Jesus speaks of? And division? Well, if Jesus is the Prince of Peace, then fire and division must be part of the process. In other words, the initial work of peacemaking will be dangerous. You see, if there is to be peace there must be justice, God’s restorative justice. The issue of justice always has been an issue of power. The prophets are clear that those in power don’t always seek God’s justice, but, rather, seek their own consolidation of power.

So Jesus comes along and begins his work, not as a “law and order” guy, but as an agitator, a fire starter, a disruptor of the status quo. Jesus was always getting into trouble, not with the poor or the disenfranchised, but with the authorities, the law and order folks. In fact, it is the law-and-order folks who had Jesus executed. For being an agitator.

But being an agitator, a fire starter is what we needed then, and, sadly, what we need now.

Given this reality of Jesus’ mission, it follows that the work of the church (meaning the work of Christians) is to work for God’s justice, knowing that it will cause disruption of the status quo. In other words, the work of the church is to stand against those who oppress those in need.

And I have come to believe the best way to do that is to simply stand with those in need, working for their good will, advocating for their well-being. I believe that if we are not doing that, then we need to quit calling ourselves Christians and start calling ourselves something else.

Ironically there have always been those who get this. Oscar Romero. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dorothy Day. Cesar Chavez. All of them labeled troublemakers. Or worse.

The Rev. Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor, sums things up this way:

“Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and who are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign. When chaplains start wearing guns and hanging out at the sheriff’s office, watch out. Someone is about to have no king but Caesar.”

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/viewpoint-finding-peace-with-justice/article_cb9e7c66-c525-11e9-b7c8-87f5c898de6d.html

IV Press Article 8-9-19 ### VIEWPOINT: Diversity is a gift of God

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Paul Tillich was a well-known 20th Century Christian theologian. He published his “Systematic Theology” in 1951. “What is a systematic theology?” you ask. It represents the totality of one’s beliefs, from A to Z. It’s a big book. I read it.

Late in life, Tillich spent a year living in Japan. When he came back to the States, he was asked about the yearlong experience. His reply was, “I have to re-write my systematic theology.”

What changed in that one year? He experienced a way of life, a worldview, unlike anything he had experienced to that point. You see, he had lived a pretty homogeneous life focused on his theological work. What his Japan experience revealed to him was the pluralistic nature of the world.

And that experience made him a better theologian. “Dynamics of Faith” and “The Courage to Be” are two later publications that are widely reviewed as important theological works.

I wanted to share that because it seems to me that the heart of the deep divisions within our country, the harmful polarization, the demonization of “others” is a result of homogeneous thinking that cannot acknowledge diversity as a gift from God.

For example. I was stopped by a friend while I was taking my morning walk. She had noticed our new church sign and the fact we had removed the word “United” from our name. We simply said we are the El Centro Methodist Church. I explained that, due to the deep divisions within our denomination over interpretations of scripture regarding human sexuality (there are actually only six references to the topic, and none are conclusive when the original languages are taken into account) we decided that saying we were united was inaccurate. What we do say is we are Methodists, a centuries-old Christian tradition founded on the life and work of John Wesley.

She also asked about the other sign, one that says Imperial Valley Vineyard Church. Vineyard is a global church that is more recently founded on core values of historical, Biblical orthodoxy—embracing the authority of Scripture, and the activity of the Spirit. Imperial Valley Vineyard is a growing Hispanic congregation that had run out of space where they had been worshipping. For the past year, we have been in dialog with them, honoring the activity of the Spirit, believing that the Spirit was calling our two congregations to bear witness to the gift of God’s diversity.

And so, in May, we began a covenant relationship with Vineyard Church.

And I believe that as congregations we are both better witnesses of God’s presence in the world. Vineyard has an energy and focus that is different from our energy and focus. But our differences do not keep us apart. In fact, our energies and focus are both derived from the same place — the activity of the Holy Spirit. So, while we respond differently to the Spirit in one sense, we bear witness to God’s love much better together than we can by remaining apart.

Think about salsa. How many places in the Valley can we get good salsa? Do they taste exactly the same? Same basic ingredients. Different recipes. Still salsa.

Doesn’t it make sense that Christianity would be a much better witness to God’s love in the world if Christians actually took seriously Paul’s description of who we are: The Body of Christ? We Methodists are one aspect of the Body. Vineyard is another aspect of the Body. Different approaches. Same Body.

And if you can imagine how God is working with us, can you imagine what God is trying to do through everyone? I don’t simply mean all Christians. I mean everyone. Why would anyone think God can’t work with everyone?

How narrow-minded is that?

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/viewpoint-diversity-is-a-gift-of-god/article_835e1a04-ba55-11e9-a16e-8fb0164ad28c.html

IV Press Article 7-19-19 ### What do you believe?

“Childlike surrender and trust, I believe, is the defining spirit of authentic discipleship.” — Brennan Manning

 “When I take a knee, I am facing the flag with my full body, staring straight into the heart of our country’s ultimate symbol of freedom — because I believe it is my responsibility, just as it is yours, to ensure that freedom is afforded to everyone in this country.” — Megan Rapinoe

 “I believe alien life is quite common in the universe although intelligent life is less so. Some say it has yet to appear on planet Earth.” — Stephen Hawking

 “I believe that the greatest form of prayer is praise to God.” — Billy Graham

 “I believe that a man is the strongest soldier for daring to die unarmed.” — Mahatma Gandhi

 Belief. Faith. Conviction. There are many words that we use to define the things we hold to be true, to be right, to be important. The above quotes are examples of the variety of ways people declare what they believe.

Religion is a word that tries to describe the behaviors, practices, world views, texts, morals, ethics, holy places and times, and structures that connect humans to things transcendent, supernatural, spiritual.

The word religion, from the Latin religare, literally means to connect or bind. It is where we get the word ligament, the connective tissue between bones.

So it can be argued that when we say, “I believe,” we are connecting to those things beyond ourselves that guide us, inspire us and challenge us.

Our beliefs guide us. You’ve heard the sayings, “Practice what you preach,” or “Walk the talk.” They imply that we can recognize when someone says they believe something, but their behavior doesn’t affirm their words. Words and actions go hand in hand.

“But if we say we love God and don’t love each other, we are liars. We cannot see God. So how can we love God, if we don’t love the people we can see?” (1 John 4:20)

Our beliefs guide us. And we cannot hide our beliefs behind our words.

Our beliefs inspire us. When I was ordained, a friend of mine gave me a print of Picasso’s Don Quixote. It reminds me of the song “The Impossible Dream,” from the musical “Man of La Mancha” that says, “To fight for the right without question or pause to be willing to march into Hell for a heavenly cause.” My belief in Jesus’ example of self giving love for others inspires me to do the same. Even when it’s hard.

Our beliefs challenge us. Did I mention that the things that guide me and inspire me are often really hard to do? Case and point. Jesus said we need to love even our enemies. I’ve never really thought of people that have hurt me as enemies, but they certainly have said and done things to me that have hurt. And it seems to me that the way to loving them is to begin by forgiving them.

I believe the ultimate act of love is forgiveness. It’s what God did. God loved us enough to forgive us even when we weren’t asking to be forgiven. That’s something difficult to get my head around sometimes — that God loves you and me, that we didn’t earn that love, and that we cannot lose that love. God’s love is what guides me, inspires me, challenges me.

I never thought about this until recently when, reading a book called “The Good and Beautiful God,” I realized that the uniqueness of Jesus’ message, his good news, is we don’t earn God’s love. We don’t earn our way to eternal life. Not sure about that? Read the story of the Prodigal Son. Anyway, that is what I believe.

And you? What do you believe?

 

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

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/what-do-you-believe/article_a6bea1a6-a9a9-11e9-b4f5-37abdcae82ea.html

IV Press Article 7-5-19 ### Don’t get too caught up in the fireworks

The Old Testament reading for last Sunday, according to the Revised Common Lectionary, was about the ascension of Elijah. To those not familiar with the story, Elijah was one of God’s prophets, who didn’t die, but was “taken up to heaven by a whirlwind in a chariot of fire and horses” (2 Kings 2:6-14). Stories like these were often told about great leaders in ancient times. 

Taken up in a whirlwind of fire. Sounds a lot like fireworks, doesn’t it?

The problem Elijah faced was how to mentor Elisha, his follower and newly anointed prophet concerning the fireworks of Elijah’s ascension. The problem was a common one. All too often people focused on the fireworks, and not the life and message of the one they were remembering.

It’s like the story of Jesus’ ascension where the disciples are standing there, watching Jesus ascend into the clouds. It took two men dressed in white to snap the disciples out of their looking up into the clouds, reminding them that Jesus had given them work to do, the work Jesus had begun and had entrusted to them (Acts 1:9-14; 2:14-21).

The question facing Elijah, and Jesus as well, was how to make sure their followers paid attention to the mission that God had called them to. Prior to Elijah’s ascension, he spent time with Elisha teaching him to focus on the prophetic mission to which God had called them and not to be distracted by his fiery ascension. Jesus spent 40 days after his resurrection teaching the disciples all that the scriptures had said about his ministry, death and resurrection.

The question for Christians today is whether we are truly focused on the mission Jesus called us to, or are we simply enamored by all the fireworks around us.

One of my favorite stories about Jesus captures the essence of his mission, of what he came to teach us about our place within God’s creation, and how we grow in our relationship with God. It’s a pretty familiar story.

In a confrontation between Jesus and some of the church leaders Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was. Everyone knew the answer. Jesus responded with his own question. “You know the scriptures,” Jesus said, “what do they say?” The church leader said, “Love the Lord you God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.”

“Good answer,” replied Jesus. But in order to show Jesus up the church leader said, “But who is my neighbor?”

Jesus told a story. A man was attacked on the road, beaten, robbed, left for dead. A priest came by and ignored the man. Likewise a priest’s assistant. Both leaders in the church. Then an enemy of the Jews, a Samaritan of all people, saw the man and took care of him. He bandaged his wounds, took him to an inn and paid for his stay.

Jesus asked, “Who was the neighbor?” The church leader reluctantly replied, “The one who showed compassion.” Jesus said, “Then go and do the same.”

The one who showed compassion.

Something that often gets missed in the story that, to help the man would have made the two church leaders unclean, that is, they would not have been able to continue with their church duties until they had gone through the process of becoming clean again, which involved ritual washing, and time.

So the question they asked about the man was, “What will happen to me if I help him out?” The question the Samaritan asked was, “What will happen to that man if I don’t help him out?”

In the midst of all the fireworks this week I hope we are all asking the right question.

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/don-t-get-too-caught-up-in-the-fireworks/article_5701018a-9eab-11e9-babc-97109aea0e94.html

Enote from Pastor Ron 6/24/19

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Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Yesterday in worship we handed out a Fact Sheet and FAQ about our Olive Street Shelter. The shelter is something the Church Council decided to pursue several months ago as an extension of our immigration ministry. UMCOR (the United Methodist Committee on Relief) heard about our work and wanted to help out with financial support. So, now, months later, and with the support of our Bishop, we are about to open the shelter. 

I know many of you have questions, which is why I’m sending you copies of the Fact Sheet and FAQ. In addition we will have a church meeting after worship this coming Sunday to provide up to date information. 

One thing I want to emphasize is we will only be receiving families, the average size being two to three persons. They have legally been released into the US, and have a court date to determine their asylum request. The average stay is 36-72 hours, and is time spent arranging transportation to their final destination in the US. 


It is encouraging to me that we have always been willing to do the difficult things God ask of us Christians. You know, things like welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting those in prison, accepting all people. The same things Jesus did.

That doesn’t mean the things we do are easy. In fact they can be hard. They mean change. They call us into unknown experiences. But Jesus never said following him would be easy.

He just said it would be worth it.

In Christ’s Love, 

On the Calendar

Please keep in mind that we have instituted a new policy for putting events on the calendar. The Master Calendar will be kept by Cristy, and three months of events will always be on display in the church office. There are forms you can fill out to put an event on the calendar in the church office as well.

If there is a conflict on calendar dates we will honor the event that has been posted through the proper procedure.

Events beyond the three month window that is posted can also be set once a request form is submitted.

All of our traditional dates (Women’s Luncheon, Rummage Sales, etc.) will automatically be placed on the calendar.

This Coming Week

All church meeting after worship this Sunday. 

Pastor Ron is providing music at Older Elementary Church Camp In Julian (Camp Cedar Glen) this week. 


Looking Ahead


Sunday, July 7th will be “Camp Sunday.” Come dressed as you would to attend Church Camp! We’ll be singing camp songs, holding a camp Chapel Service for worship and celebrate with S’mores afterwards.

Sunday, July 14 will begin our Summer Series, “Practical Christianity.” The central question of the series will be how our faith informs our everyday actions, and interactions. 


Shared Prayers:

For Caroline Stinson. For Pastor Ron. For Bertha Morris. For Pat Sandbom. For Susan Newland. For Mercy’s sister Wanda.

For all those looking for jobs.

For those affected by the destructive weather.

For those in need: The poor and the hungry. Victims of violence. Migrants seeking asylum. For all those feeling hopeless or lonely. For women who are oppressed.

For First Responders, and for soldiers and sailors throughout the world; for Teachers, and students; for Public Servants. 

For our church family. For our church. 

We praise your name, O Lord.

Grace and Peace

--

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

760.352.2942
760.554.5520 (mobile)www.giveusanhour.comfirstumcec@gmail.comBlog: drgriffen.wordpress.com@rongriffenFacebook: 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 6-21-19 ### Viewpoint: Memories of my father

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“Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”?” — John 14:8-9

 

Last Sunday, Father’s Day, was a time to remember the full meaning of fatherhood, and that no matter what kind of relationship we have had with our fathers, an ever-present God longs to be in relationship with us as witnessed by the life of Jesus. I know I have come to my faith through the love and care of both my mother and my father.

In May, I wrote about my mom. Today, I want to write about my dad. WWII Navy veteran, engineer, quiet, well read, inquisitive — that was my dad. These are some of the memories of my dad, who died in 2004, that I’ve been thinking about recently.

I remember when I was a teenager, and beginning to surf, I wanted to get a St. Christopher medal to wear as a necklace. All the guys had them. I told my dad and he asked me why I wanted to do that. More importantly he also asked me whether I knew who St. Christopher was.

I confess I had no idea. But I realized I had better find out if I was going to wear a medal bearing his image. So I did.

That was dad. Something else he used to say to me was, “Always tell the truth. That way you don’t have to remember what you’ve said.”

When he would wrestle with my brother and me he would say, “Someone’s going to get hurt, and it’s not going to be me!” I remember the first time I said that while wrestling with my son I distinctly heard my dad’s voice, and not mine.

One time in church I was sitting between Mom and Dad, and when we got up to sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” my dad broke into a bass harmony while my mom began to sing the alto part. I was completely taken by the sound of musical harmony. I think that was the beginning of my interest in music. “Holy, Holy, Holy” remains one of my favorite hymns.

Dad was pretty patient with us kids for the most part. I was in high school when the first Super Bowl was played. Being played at the LA Coliseum, the game was blacked out locally. My brother and I decided we could take the small black-and-white TV we had, carry it up the huge pepper tree next to the house, and set it up on the roof, which was flat. Dad kept a watchful eye, but never said we couldn’t do it.

We set up an aluminum antennae guaranteed to get the San Diego station, and we sat there for three hours watching nothing but snow. And an occasional ghost of a figure move across the screen. Dad never said we were stupid, or crazy. He just let us figure it out.

Among my favorite times were Sunday afternoons making homemade ice cream. We had this wooden bucket and crank. We’d get a 25-pound block of ice and break it up, pack the bucket, throw in the rock salt. Mom made the custard and we would put it in the bucket and crank. One time I wanted to crank, so Dad let me. I made it around about four or five turns and couldn’t go any more. Then I felt dad’s hand on mine.

And together we made ice cream. I have the feeling that’s just like God’s love for us.

 

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

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/viewpoint-memories-of-my-father/article_e4170800-93c3-11e9-b427-5344a350a1f2.html

Enote from Pastor Ron 6/10/19

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an enote from pastor ron

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

 Hello from Scotland! Specifically from St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf. I’m here with two good friends, David Tyler and Bill Plourd, playing in the 65th annual St. Andrews Rotary Club golf tournament. Bill and I are past Presidents of the El Centro Rotary Club, and David, despite being a Kiwanian (his dad is a Rotarian) are truly enjoying this once in a lifetime experience.

 

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 STANDING ON THE SWILCAN BRIDGE ON THE 18TH FAIRWAY OF THE OLD COURSE.

If you were in church on Sunday you witnessed the wonderful inclusionary witness of our church where five extraordinary women led worship. My heartfelt thanks goes to them. Rev. Carolyn Price, Shirley Bonillas, Dr.

Hope Davis, Joan Tyler, and Rev. Mercy Gonzales-Barnes continue to remind us all that God calls each of us to leadership in various ways, and that we are all loved equally by God.

 Summer is here! Beginning in July I will be teaching/preaching on Christianity for Grown-ups Part 2. We will,focus on the practical nature of our loved faith, which is embodied in our daily practices of faithful living. You  might call them “Practical Practices.”

 This coming Sunday is a celebration of Father’s Day, which along with Mother’s Day provides us insight into the full nature of our God, Parent of us all. See you then!

 In Christ’s Love,

 Ron

 

On the Calendar

Please keep in mind that we have instituted a new policy for putting events on the calendar. The Master Calendar will be kept by Cristy, and three months of events will always be on display in the church office.

There are forms you can fill out to put an event on the calendar in the church office as well.

 If there is a conflict on calendar dates we will honor the event that has been posted through the proper procedure.

Events beyond the three month window that is posted can also be set once a request form is submitted.

 All of our traditional dates (Women’s Luncheon, Rummage Sales, etc.) will automatically be placed on the calendar.

 

This Coming Week

A Celebration of Life for Barbara Macci will be held on Monday, June 17th, at 2:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary. A reception will follow in the Olive Street Center.

 

Shared Prayers:

For Mary Ann Kline’s successful hip surgery, and for a speedy recovery. For Barbara Macci.

For Caroline Stinson. For Pastor Ron. For Bertha Morris. For Pat Sandbom. For Susan Newland.

 For Holly Caseman and her family as she is hospitalized with congestive heart failure.

 For students preparing for end of year exams. For those affected by the destructive  weather.

For those in need: The poor and the hungry. Victims of violence. Migrants seeking asylum. For all those feeing hopeless or lonely. For women who are oppressed.

 For First Responders, and for soldiers and sailors throughout the world; for Teachers, and students; for Public Servants.

 For our church family. For our church. We praise your name, O Lord.

Grace

IV Press Article 6-7-19 ### What golf can teach us about God

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“Jesus asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all

and servant of all.’”

—Mark 9:33-35

 

I realize this might sound a little weird, but my golf game helps me understand the fullness of this passage in Mark’s Gospel. No, really. Anyone who plays golf knows that the harder they try to hit the ball, the more difficult hitting the ball becomes. That the harder they swing the less success they have in hitting the ball farther.

Golf is counterintuitive.

I think being a follower of Jesus is also counterintuitive. The desire to be first, to have power, to be independent, and self-serving is not what Jesus asks of us. And he models it for us in his life, and death.

One of the things I’ve noticed about the Gospels is that, while Jesus is always moving toward Jerusalem, he is mostly dealing with interruptions. Someone is asking him to do something for him or her, or the disciples are in need of another lesson in what it means to be a disciple, someone is sick, or outcast, or has died. Interruptions.

But Jesus always takes them into account. He listens. He heals. He brings life. He welcomes and embraces. He forgives. He puts the needs of others ahead of his own, knowing all the while that those interruptions are actually the heart of his teaching about greatness, about what it means to truly be first.

“First where?” you ask. “First in the Kingdom of God” is his answer. And there’s the rub. There are those who claim God, but market in lies, putting themselves at the front of the line, excluding those they don’t like. They thirst for power in order to elevate their own status usually at the expense of others. They talk about greatness as if, well let me give you an example: There used to be a T-shirt that was popular that said, “The one who dies with the most toys wins.” The toys, of course, were usually expensive things.

God’s reign is never boastful or demeaning. God’s reign does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. You see, it’s counterintuitive to what we might be led to believe about greatness and power.

Counterintuitive. Like golf.

So here is the other thing golf has taught me that helps me understand what it means to be first by being last, and a servant of all. Too often we golfers focus on outcomes. Scores. Our handicaps. “What did you shoot today?” is often the first question asked of us. But is that all golf is? Is it just an outcome? Most of the times that I’ve really enjoyed a round of golf were focused less on outcomes, whether I break 90, or 80, but on the friendships with those I am playing.

I’ve learned an acronym recently that I think just might help my game. N.A.T.O. Not Attached To Outcome. That’s it. Not attached to outcome. The connection between this and my Christian faith, especially my vocation as an ordained person in the church is one I had never realized until now.

When I was first ordained I was ready to go out and save the world. It didn’t take long for me to be reminded that saving the world was already done. And Jesus has invited me to take part in the ongoing work of salvation he started. You’re invited, too!

The outcome is not my responsibility. N.A.T.O.

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/what-golf-can-teach-us-about-god/article_04c7b372-88c2-11e9-b341-a7a326d9537f.html

IV Press Article 5-24-19 ### Finding community in an age of fantasy

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I confess, I have not watched one episode of “Game of Thrones.” Not one. But I have seen most of the Marvel Super Hero movies, including the recent “Avengers End Game.” What these blockbuster shows have in common is what I think attracts so many fans to them. Both are fantasies. So, why are fantasies so popular in our culture?

Stories of fantasy have always had an important place in our lives. Supernatural events, creatures, miracles, magic, they were the stuff that allowed us to make sense of the world and the events that seemed to control our everyday living. This worldview existed until the rise of modernity, which began with the Enlightenment.

The Age of Enlightenment, and its resulting secularization of thought offered a worldview where political discourse and reason replaced belief in things like miracles and magic. But the stories remained, raising questions whether this transition was permanent or reversible, that we might be thrown back into the premodern world.

And despite our best efforts to have some control in our lives, we live with the uncertainty of changes in our climate, the needless gun violence that pervades everyday living, and has now entered into our sanctuaries, and the general sense of the need to belong. Things have become relative, uncertain. All this is to say we live in a pretty anxious time. We didn’t go back to a pre-modern era, we entered the post-modern era. Enter the superhero.

There is a direct correlation between our anxiety about the future, and the rise in popularity of stories about super heroes and fantasy.

I mean, wouldn’t it be nice if there really was a Justice League or Avengers that protected us all from evil and harm? Wouldn’t it be great if, after years of betrayal, war, killing, and palace intrigue, people came to the realization that peace is achieved only through democracy? (I haven’t seen a GoT episode, but I have read a lot about the concluding two episodes)

And wouldn’t it be great if we could elect someone who would single handedly solve all of our problems?

I believe one of the failures of Christianity in the last 80 years or so is the shift from inviting people into communities of compassion, to simply offering a personal escape vehicle in the form of a confession to Jesus that earns a ticket to heaven.

In the invitation to community people are challenged to live together, self interest is replaced with a concern for the other, and “I” receives its identity through the “we.” A “ticket to heaven” mentality has led to how the church in general often talks about God as “out there” somewhere, always judging our behavior, rewarding the “good” people and “punishing” the bad people.

But, according to scripture, God is not “out there.” And God’s desire is not to punish people. To the contrary, God’s revelation through Jesus is that God’s judgment is a judgment of love. And that the greatest act of love is forgiveness.

Entering the world of fantasy through books and movies, and comic books can be a much-needed break, but it is the work of community building, building communities of compassion that will give meaning to our lives. In fact, if you have seen the Avengers movie you might have noticed that most of the film was about the relationships of the people that mattered, the sense of family that mattered, the sacrificial love that lent meaning to what it is to be fully human.

Within the community Jesus creates we are offered what he calls an abundant life. It is a life centered in having compassion for others. These communities do exist although we don’t hear much about them.

But they are no fantasy.

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

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/finding-community-in-an-age-of-fantasy/article_35382776-7dbe-11e9-97d4-873c8eb39680.html

IV Press Article 5-10-19 ### Memories make Mother’s Day special

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Sunday is Mother’s Day in the United States. Traditions honoring mothers go back centuries, and virtually every country in the world holds Mother’s Day celebrations.

Our modern Mother’s Day holiday began in 1907 when Anna Jarvis held a memorial celebration for her mother at St. Andrews Methodist Church, in Grafton, W.Va.

The celebration became official by the presidential proclamation of Woodrow Wilson in 1914.

My mom grew up in Yakima, Wash., one of five children. Her nickname was “Captain” given to her by her dad because she was the one who kept the other siblings in line. She met my dad in Tacoma in 1945. They were married soon after, and she gave birth to their first child, a son, in 1947.

That would be me.

Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008. She died in 2012. She was 88. Every one of us has a mom story. Maybe more than one. Some are sad, some hilarious, some poignant. Mothers Day for some is not a big deal. For others it is a major gathering of family. I get that. There is no “one size fits all” for anything we do.

I have three very distinct memories of my mom. The first one is her chili. She was a pretty good cook, and her ground beef chili was a favorite of mine. Good chili flavor, a little heat, she would fry tortillas flat, like a tostada, and we would pile on cheese, tomatoes and lettuce and dig in.

I still make her chili.

The second memory is from the time I was in college. I was involved in theater productions, and got the part of the ingenu in the play “The Fantastiks.” There is a part in one act where the boy (me) encounters a couple of scoundrels along his journey. One is a Shakespearean actor, and the other is an Indian. They looked and acted like Laurel and Hardy. Anyway, these two made their entrance out of a large trunk, first the actor, and next the Indian. My friend Ernie Hood played the Indian. Tall and thin, he wore a Long John dyed brown, a breechcloth and a one-feather headdress.

While the Shakespearean actor was bloviating, Ernie would sneak up to the side of him. Now Ernie had a “bit” where he would clean his horned rim glasses using his breechcloth while the actor carried on. It usually got a laugh. One night when Ernie came up out of the trunk, his breechcloth got caught somehow on the trunk, and unknown to him was back in the trunk. When he got to the “bit” with his glasses, he bent to clean them, realized the breechcloth was not there, and stood straight up with eyes wide open, in shock.

My mom, who had attended EVERY performance, was the only one who laughed. I’ll never forget her laugh.

And lastly, I took Sara to meet my mom right after we were married. By then mom had Alzheimer’s and would spend time with my sister living in Torrance. We got there, and as we visited, my mom started telling Sara about her son, who was a pastor in Laguna Hills, and that she might want to go to church there. She was talking about me.

I was sitting right next to her at the time.

My mom still remembered me even though she didn’t recognize me. It was quite a moment. It was also the last time I saw my mom.

Sunday is Mother’s Day. I’ll be thinking of my mom, and all she has been for me, her love, her laugh, her chili. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

 

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

https://www.ivpressonline.com/opinion/columns/memories-make-mother-s-day-special/article_073b1dfc-72c8-11e9-aa6b-cbd62446ddaa.html

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

Pastors-Desk-FUMC.jpg

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