February Pastor’s Reflection (2016)

The Weaving Grows …

How many turning points have you had in your life time? How many forks in the road have you encountered? How many crossroads have you stood at and pondered the multiply directions you had to choose from? How many times has the road ahead of you taken an unexpected turn or a sharp curve and you could not see what would lie ahead. How often has the road remained straight?

Our lives are filled with turns, twists and curves. Some of them we control, many we do not. Turning points can lead to wonderful changes in our lives or be filled with difficult challenges or often a combination of both. Sometime when we take the wrong turn, we can make a u-turn and revisit our decision. Other times the only choice is to keep moving through it.

Our Lenten Season will focus on the theme “Turning Points.” We will look at various stories where Jesus was in the midst of a turning point and faced both the blessing and challenge of answering the call of to love unconditionally. The image of the labyrinth will be part of our journey with its turns that lead us deeper into relationship with God.

The other images that come to mind as I contemplate “Turning Points” are road signs. Take a few moments and reflect on the various road sign pictured. When in your life have you found yourself at such a point? How did you experience the presence of God? How did you make a decision? How did you move through the challenging turns? How did you faith grow and deepen? Blessings, Wendy

January Pastor’s Reflection (2016)

The Advent and Christmas Season is behind us and we are now in the midst of the season of Epiphany.  I am grateful to the many people people who made our worship so meaningful in December ~ the Choir and Joyful Noise, the Cantata that Sam selected, our soloists Robin Gough and Brace Langenwalter, the families who lit our Advent Candles and those who adorned our sanctuary with the Christmas Trees.

As I reflect upon the importance of worship for our community at Morningside, I have been thinking of how it represents the heartbeat of our congregation.  How we worship reflects who we are, our vision of faith and our passions for ministry.  As our worship identifies us, it is also the time our community comes together in gratitude to God, to be inspired and to grow deeper in our faith.  We use music, prayers, scripture and a message as our vehicle.  From time to time, it is important to take a step back and reflect on how we are worshipping and does is it communicate who we are and allow us to grow as a community of faith.

The worship committee is inviting you to engage in such a conversation on Sunday, January 31.  We will have two times of discussion following each worship service.  We will begin at 10:15 and 12:15, gather in Herman Hall during the fellowship time, allowing people to get there coffee, snacks and be seated. We want to hear what is meaningful to you in worship and how we can better communicate who we are as we worship.  We realize that there will be many opinions shared ~ worship is very personal and each one of us will have our unique perspective.  The worship committee will listen carefully, debrief the feedback and discern what will remain the same in our worship and what, if any, changes we will make to enhance and deepen our worship at Morningside UMC.  

During this season of Epiphany ~ this time of seeking illumination and focusing upon the theme, “Called to Courage” ~ take time to reflect upon our worship at Morningside, prayerfully consider what is meaningful to you and how we can best reflect who we are in our worship experiences.  Blessings, Pastor Wendy

Living a Courageous Faith for Our Time

   “Be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

December Pastor’s Reflection (2015)

The Weaving Grows …

 

Happy New Year!!!  I know I am a little ahead of the game in terms of the new year beginning with January 1st.  But November 29th is a new year when it comes to our our Christian year and the lectionary calendar.  On that date, we begin a new preaching year with the First Sunday of Advent.

Back in September, I, along with the other UM clergy in the Salem-Keizer area, worked on our preaching themes for the coming year.  Our overall theme is “Living a Courageous Faith for Our Time,” and is reflected in the passage from Joshua, “Be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  For Advent, I will be working with the theme, “The Courage to Hope.”

Given the tragic events that have happened in our own state this fall and the terrorism in various places in our world, particularly Paris, I am stuck by how much we need to have courage and hope in our lives of faith.  The problems and challenges we face are complex and do not have easy solutions.  It is easy to let fear take over and loose hope that anything will ever change. 

Yet I am reminded through words of Madeleine L’Engle, that Jesus was born in such a time as this.  Take a moment to reflect on a portion of her poem, “First Coming.”

He did not wait till the world was ready,

till men and nations were are peace.

he came when the Heavens were unsteady,

and prisoners cried out for release. 

He did not wait for the perfect time.

He came when the need was deep and great.

He dined with sinners in all their grime,

turned water into wine.  He did not wait

till hearts were pure.  In joy he came

to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.

To a world like ours, of anguished shame

be came, and his Light would not go out.

Jesus comes into our time of a world that is in anguish.  Jesus comes bringing us courage and hope to face the challenges and to know we do not face them alone.   My prayer for this season of Advent is, “Come, Lord Jesus come, instill in me courage to live my faith and hope that we can bring forth your peace.”  Blessings,  Pastor Wendy

 

November Pastor’s Reflection (2015)

Black_and_white_treeThe Weaving Grows …  An image that has always been a part of my journey of faith has been the tree.  Trees take me back to my childhood of climbing trees, raking their leaves and watching birds make their homes in their midst.  My family would take our annual walk in Mill Creek Park in the Fall among the beautiful array of colors.  Trees speak to me of the changes of seasons both in the natural world throughout our lives.  There is the cycle of birth, growth, and death that makes room for birth once again that reflects God’s message of hope to us. Some day I plan to make a tree of life quilt or perhaps a quilt with a watercolor tree, my quilting friends will know what I mean. 

So it is not surprising that when I saw Diane Butler Bass’s new book, Grounded, with a tree on its cover that I bought it immediately.  I bought the hardcover, not the electronic version nor I am waiting for the paperback version.  I want to see and touch the embossed tree on the cover.   

The complete title is Grounded: Finding God in the World; A Spiritual Revolution.  She points out a shift that is happening or more accurately has happened in the spiritual lives of many in our society who no longer find traditional church meaningful.  This shift is from a distant God to God who is with us.  In the summation of the book it states, “This shift, from a vertical God to a God found on the horizons of nature and human community, is at the heart of a spiritual revolution that surrounds us — and that is challenging not only religious institutions but political and social ones as well.”   

At first glance I find myself saying I have been preaching “God is with us for years.”  Yet, I also realize that I hold both aspects of God, one who is Holy Other, beyond us and our comprehension and God who is as close to us as our breathing and in our midst through all the struggles and joys of life.  I also realize that many of our hymn, songs, and prayers lift up God as one who is up there is heaven.  Part of me is ready for this revolution and even living it to a certain extent, and another part of me holds on to the God who is otherworldly.   

I am anxious to read her book and plan to do so as part of a morning devotional time.  As the book explores the question, “Where is God?”  I realize it is not a question to be rushed, but one to slowly go deeper and deeper into the revelation.  Each chapter has many smaller sections, which I plan to read only one per day.  I foresee a study on this book being offered in the future, perhaps next spring or summer, stayed tuned.  In the mean time, I leave you with this quote from her, “There is a pattern of God all around us — a deeply spiritual theology that relates to contemporary concerns, provides meaning and hope for the future, and processes surprisingly rich ties from the past.  Blessings, Wendy

 

 

August Pastor’s Reflection (2015)

The Weaving Grows

 Times of transition and prayer go together, for that matter, prayer goes with just about everything. As Morningside UMC has some transitions happening, I ask you to be in prayer.

Mary Ellen has informed SPRC that she is retiring, effective August 15. We will have a chance on Sunday, August 16th to express our appreciation for Mary Ellen’s years of service working with education ministries and many other behind the scene’s endeavors. I have appreciated Mary Ellen’s commitment, depth of spirit and the relationships she has with the people of Morningside that expand across all of the age groups. The good news is, Mary Ellen plans to have Morningside continue as her church home and place of worship and ministry. We need to hold her in prayer as she makes this transition.

 With Mary Ellen’s retirement and our Youth Ministry staff transitioning out the beginning of this summer, we are in the process of hiring program staff. This process needs your prayers. Members of SPRC and Education Ministries are seeking the best candidates who feel called to this type of ministry and will be a great fit for Morningside UMC. We desire a person who will bring creativity to our programs and ministries, build relations with families and our youth and children and will build a volunteer team to be part of these program areas. Connecting with the UM Ministries of Salem-Keizer will also be part of the job. We are also looking at the possibility of being part of an internship program for youth ministry which will be overseen by the Youth Director at First UMC, Heather Hawkins. I have met with Heather several times and she has much to offer both as a Youth Director and an one who would oversee the internship program. Your prayers during this time of transition are vital. I know that with patience, the Spirit will guide us in a direction that will allow us to move forward in living out our vision of faith.

I also seek your prayers as we begin this journey as part of the United Methodist Ministries of Salem-Keizer (UMMSK). We have had our first clergy rotation Sunday and the clergy are all preaching from the same texts and themes most Sundays. In this newsletter, you see the opportunities to be part of Stephen Ministry and/or a Visitation Team. Look for news of a training on September 12 for “Messy Church” – an interactive and intergenerational worship, education and fellowship experience for families. If that sounds interesting to you, please let me know. We are in the beginning stages of being in ministry in a new way and the real work has just begun. Keep all the clergy, churches and laity in your prayers.

Transitions and prayers ~ they go together ~ in our individual lives of faith ~ in Morningside’s journey as a community of faith. Let us pray!     Blessings, Wendy

July Pastor’s Reflection (2015)

The Weaving Grows

It has been a time of tears ~ especially on Friday.   The tears began with the fatal shooting of those gathered for for a time of prayer and sharing the week before. Tears flowed because of the violence, the death, the hatred, the loss ~ they flowed because those who welcomed the stranger in love were killed by hate.

Tears were then shed when the families of the deceased shared words of forgiveness as they faced the one accused of the killings. How could they find such words in the midst of such hate and violence and so soon, when the grief still tasted of their salty tears. Hearing of their words of forgiveness brought tears. It revealed something greater at work. It brought to light the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives and the pervasiveness of God’s steadfast love and grace that they experience and felt compelled to share. The tears flowed no longer because of hate, injustice and grief but because of forgiveness and love.

Then on Friday, the understanding of love and marriage was expanded to include everyone in our country. The Supreme Court decided that the right to marry is fundamental and that “couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and liberty.” The decision brought tears, but more so, the beautiful words that were written in the decision by Justice Kennedy, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.” Tears flowed not only because justice prevailed but because love was honored.

Later on Friday, the service for Rev. Pinckney was held and President Obama in his eulogy brought forth tears once again. Not because of the profound sense of loss and grief that was present, but because of the reminder he gave of the power of God’s grace. Grace that gives us the ability to realize when we have been lost, the willingness to examine when our “past injustices continue to shape the present” and the courage to open our minds and hearts to the hard work of bringing lasting change. Before singing “Amazing Grace,” he closed by saying: “If we can find that grace, anything is possible. If we can tap that grace, everything can change.”

 The shedding of these tears reminded me that we need not be controlled by hate, unjust laws, and acts of violence, but rather through the presence of God and the power of the Holy Spirit love and grace prevails. It is what Jesus lived out in his life; love, forgiveness and grace were the tears that he shed. It was through those tears that he was able to feed the hungry, bring healing to those who were broken, offer mercy and give us all the gift of abundant and eternal life anew.

Thanks be to God, for these holy tears.   Pastor Wendy

June Pastor’s Reflection (2015)

I had no idea when we decided to incorporate Brian McLaren’s book, We Make the Road by Walking, into our worship themes and study groups ~ calling our focus, “New Roads” ~ that we would be coming towards the end of the book and find ourselves voting to take a new road as part of the United Methodist Ministries of Salem-Keizer.

When we began this “New Roads” study last year, using McLaren’s language, we said it would be a “year-long quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation and Activation.” I have certainly experienced and witnessed spiritual formation throughout this study, especially in the small groups I have led. There has been an unfolding of deep sharing and comments like, “I haven’t thought of it that way before.” I have seen relationships with each other and God strengthened and faith deepen. I have been challenged to preach on themes like “Getting Slavery Out of the People” and preached my first sermon ever related to hell with the chapter, “Jesus and Hell.”

We are presently embarking on a process of reorientation as join together with our other United Methodist Churches in this area to be in ministry as partners. When I glanced through the chapters of this book, I never thought “The Uprising of Partnership” would hold such meaning and end up being the topic on the day we took our vote (I didn’t even know there would be a vote this year.) We are reorienting ourselves to work in cooperation with the other churches, to see how we can do current ministries together and to see how we can create new ministries to reach out to those who are not part of our communities of faith. We will pool together the gifts and talents of our clergy and laity and “be united in making new disciples of Jesus Christ by intentionally sharing our faith through worship, service, outreach, Christian education, and social justice.” The reorientation is taking our connectional church one step further by being in an intentional partnership.

Activation will not be just a year-long quest (honestly, neither is spiritual formation or reorientation.) It will be a road we walk for years to come. We will continue to discern how to best live out our Vision of Faith at Morningside: We are all God people! We are called by Christ to ministries of love, justice and reconciliation to our church, community and world along with our passions for ministry: Inclusive Ministry, Community Connection and Progressive Christianity. We will listen for God’s call for new ministries we will create with our area churches. Activation will take time, courage, patience, boldness; there will be successes and failures. At the heart of activation will be the movement of the Spirit calling us to work together to share God’s love, justice and grace that we have experienced in the ministry of Jesus.

May we all be in prayer as we begin this “New Road.”    Blessings, Wendy

 

 

May Pastor’s Reflection (2015)

Twenty years ago this May, Morningside UMC made an important decision to become a Reconciling Congregation. Morningside was one of the earlier churches to make this bold statement for inclusivity and has been living into what it means to welcome all of God’s children into our community of faith. It was a decision that came through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I find myself wondering if the Holy Spirit was present that day through “the rush of a violent wind” ~ did it fill the entire church ~ did it rest as “tongues of fire” on all those present as on that day of Pentecost we read of in the Book of Acts? Or did the Spirit make itself known in quiet times of prayer as each person listened for God’s guidance? I suspect both aspects of the Spirit were experienced.

 We have the opportunity to celebrate that movement of the Holy Spirit both on May 17th when we celebrate our 20th anniversary and May 24, Pentecost Sunday. We also have the opportunity to invite the Holy Spirit to guide us as we make another important decision in the life of Morningside UMC.

 You have received a proposal for Morningside UMC to be part of the United Methodist Ministries of Salem-Keizer. For the last few months we have been talking about this concept in committee meetings, hearing information at forums after our worship services, reading the full proposal and engaging in question and answer times. Now it is time to prayerfully consider this opportunity that is before us.

 I am both excited and challenged by the possibilities that this new way of being in ministry brings to us. With intentional and hard work, I see both our local churches growing in vitality and reaching out to new populations of people throughout all of Salem-Keizer. It will not be easy, but then again, nothing worthwhile ever is. We will not be alone in our efforts. We will be united with the other faithful United Methodists in this community. Most importantly, the Holy Spirit will be our guide ~ sometimes as the rush of the wind and tongues of fire and other times as the still voice of God. I have faith in the ministries we can do together ~ I have faith in the important ministry that Morningside will continue to live out as a Reconciling Congregation ~ I have faith that the Holy Spirit will be in our midst.

 Our All Church Meeting at Morningside will be May 3 following our 10:00 worship service and is open to members and constituents.   If you cannot be at that meeting, there is a second All Church Meeting for all the Salem-Keizer churches on May 6 at 6:00 at Englewood UMC.

Let us be in prayer ~ Come Holy Spirit, Come. Guide us, encourage us, fill us, excite us, calm us and lead us into ministry that proclaims your love and grace for all your sons and daughters.

Blessings,  Pastor Wendy

April Pastor’s Reflection (2015)

The disciples walked with Jesus for three years. They heard his teachings and stories, watched as he brought healing and spoke words of forgiveness. They saw him walk on water and feed the multitudes. They shared Jewish practices including Passover with Jesus. It was after sharing one such Passover followed by the singing of a hymn and time spent praying in the garden that walking the road with Jesus came to a screeching halt with his arrest, trial and crucifixion.

 The disciples struggled to walk that road during those days. They denied him, deserted him, and hid in fear. They were convinced that the road had come to a dead end – literally and figuratively. That would have been true if all Jesus was about was walking, sharing a few stories along the way and healing. Others prophets had come before and done the same. Jesus was about more; he was about walking and creating an uprising!

 As the disciples began to experience the presence of the Christ Spirit, they began to realize that the journey was not over and that the road they were walking with Jesus had not come to a dead end. It was just changing course a bit; now they would be walking and creating an uprising. They would be continuing the uprising that Jesus began.

 Brian McLaren in We Make the Road By Walking, has us imagine the experience of the disciples as they encountered the risen Christ in their midst. This is what he writes:

            Resurrection has begun. We are part of something rare,

            something precious, something utterly revolutionary. It feels

            like an uprising. An uprising of hope, not hate. An uprising

            armed with love, not weapons. An uprising that shouts a joyful

            promise of life and peace, not angry threats of hostility and death.

            It’s an uprising of outstretched hands, not clenched fists. It’s the

            “someday we have always dreamed of, emerging in the present,

            rising up among us and within us. It’s so different from what we

            expected so much better. This is what it means to be alive,

            truly alive. This is what it means to be en route,

            walking the road to a new and better day.

As we celebrate Easter, are we willing to keep walking with the Risen Christ and the disciples? Are we willing to join the uprising of hope and love? Are we willing to continue the uprising that Jesus began? I pray that as fervently as we sing our “Alleluias” on Easter Sunday is as fervently as we are ready to proclaim that we are part of God’s uprising of grace through Christ Jesus.    Easter Blessings,    Pastor Wendy

“New Roads” – March Pastor’s Reflection (2015)

photo(6)

“What was I thinking?!” That is what my mind was screaming when my alarm went off at 6:00am on Ash Wednesday. I pushed the snooze button, I reset it for 6:30 and then 7:00 when I did manage to get up – sort of. I am not an early morning person. But I have been trying to work on a schedule that will give me space for personal and spiritual self-care and it seems that an earlier start to the day will help accomplish that. So to reset my clock, I have decided that during Lent, I will set my alarm for 6:00am Sunday-Thursday and give myself a bit of a break on Friday and Saturday and go for 7:00am. It is my hope that this will be a pattern that continues beyond Lent and that it will be a new road that I walk.

It will not be the most difficult road I walk during Lent. The most difficult road will be our journey though the various themes found in Matthew 5-7, The Sermon on the Mount, as Brian McLaren, in We Make the Road By Walking, has this as our Lenten focus. In the first week we have already heard that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world and the challenge to get out of our comfort zone. Now in the remaining four weeks, we will wrestle with anger, forgiveness, retaliation, reconciliation, enemies, love, our inner spiritual lives, worry, anxiety, God’s care, judging others, and being hearers and doers. It is easy to find all of those themes overwhelming, especially when we read Jesus’ challenging teachings about each one. There is also the realization that this is not simply something we can look during Lent and then forget. As we grow and deepen in our understanding of these texts, we are to grow and deepen in the way they shape how we live out our journeys of faith from this time forward. The road will get more challenging the deeper we go into Jesus’ words.

Just as I begin to think this is too much – too many themes – too much expectation, I took some time this morning to read a poem by Mary Oliver from her book, Thirst, called “Messenger.” Her first line pulls it all together, “My work is loving the world.” Her poem goes on to share how this work includes being astonished, rejoicing and telling of the eternal.

Somehow it now seems more manageable … our work is to love the world, be grateful and share how we live forever. Jesus’ challenging words in the Sermon on the Mount is about loving the world. I am glad my alarm went off at 6:00 am this morning and that I got up and read this poem.
Blessings upon your Lenten Road,
Wendy