Audio podcasts of Pastor David’s weekly sermon may be found at sermons.net.
Seeing ALL The People
Recently, I got new glasses with an updated prescription. This is my second pair of glasses with progressive lenses. It takes a bit of time to adjust to progressive lenses. The lenses enhance reading with bifocals in the lower portion, computer work with the middle section and my near sightedness in the upper section. They are meant to help me see. Sometimes our eyes need assistance to see.
I will admit an annual eye exam isn’t quite adequate enough for me to see – especially when I try to use the eyes of my heart. Christian faith asks each of us to take a daily assessment of our vision. What impairs us from seeing others with the empathy of Jesus? What proverbial log-in-the-eye proh ibits us from seeing the ways we dismiss one another due to something superficial, on the surface, the exterior portion of their existence, skin color or clothing?
“Open the eyes of my heart, Lord” is a familiar worship song for FUMC. But what heart has eyes? We use this song in worship to open the service to acknowledge and receive the presence of God. “To see you high and lifted up, shining in the light of your glory.” As we sing, we ask God to “pour out your power and love” praying that God will give us guidance and grace for the living of our days. It is an inspiring worship song.
I’d imagine the songwriter Paul Baloche wouldn’t take great offense if a church such as ours were to add the following verse to include a reference to seeing the fullness of God’s people. “Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, open the eyes of our hearts, we want to see you. To see you in all the world, shining in the lives of your people; help us to share in your love, as we see a ll the people holy, all the people boldly…”
To see as the body of Christ we need eyes and hearts open to God’s steadfast love. Our vision of God’s people is enhanced by God’s grace. Christian faith invites us to see those we engage with every day in our homes, work places, gyms, schools and those who are new to us in our neighborhoods and the places we go with the eyes of Jesus who looked with kindness and compassion for their wellbeing and place in God’s kingdom.
September will be a month for seeing! With eyes and hearts, as the body of Christ, we will examine the capacity of our sight, how we can progress in our vision and improve in our work together to engage our communities & neighborhoods with the love of Christ. It is a love that sees all portions of us – mind, body and soul – and confirms “God has made us good.” Let’s tell and show those we see.
SEE you in church!
Summer Grace Notes
How did you spend your July? Much of my month was spent either prepping for or participating in our youth mission trips to Chicago. And you know what? The mission experiences were AWESOME! I feel very privileged to be the pastor of our middle & high school youth and in particular those who were able to participate in our July mission trips into the city neighborhoods. You may not know this but we shared God’s grace with those we served and we received God’s grace as we served too. I believe God would judge us faithful to the graceful way of Christ. Thank you Brianna, Grace, Rebecca, Adam, Kate, Rocky, Alexis, Rachel, Gavin, Katie and Judie for your graceful work with me.
Our July worship series “With God’s Grace” explored the presence and action of God’s grace as articulated by John Wesley, the 18th Century Anglican priest, his instructions on utilizing God’s grace in actions of mercy and the sacraments, too. The series began July 7 with the celebration of Holy Baptism of little Wesley Swan – grace in water and spirit – and the remembrance of Jesus’ supper – grace in mystery and meal. How cool is that?! Welcome Wesley!
Later on in that same week and towards the end of the month, I found multiple examples of God’s grace in our youth and their experiences of faith, the mission work we accomplished, the relationships we nurtured and in our times of fellowship, as well as the tough conversations about poverty and lack of resources in our city and the need for faith in action. Wesley would call these things the “means of grace and works of mercy.” Here are a few other examples of grace, too, experienced in July:
After attending the immigration/deportation rally at Daley Plaza on July 13, I made my way to Jefferson Park where two of our church kids, twins Joey and Evie Kessler-Flauto, hosted with their moms a lemonade and sweets stand at their home to raise funds for immigration justice. The donations received from neighbors and passersby and a few other FUMC folks will help students they know who may be living a very unsure existence. Joey & Evie’s work was a means of grace.
After taking a Guatemalan woman into sanctuary last fall, the congregation at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, submitted an application to the United Methodist Committee on Relief aimed at allowing their Spanish-speaking guest and friends to fully participate in worship. The grant provides for translation equipment and experienced translators. The congregation’s work was a means of grace.
On July 3, United Methodist Women announced it had awarded two grants for work to thwart suicide among LGBTQ youth. The organization awarded two $50,000 grants to The Trevor Foundation and the Tyler Clementi Foundation for their work to prevent LGBTQ youth suicide. Harriett J. Olson, United Methodist Women CEO, said the special grants were part of the organization’s response to the actions of the 2019 Special Session of General Conference. “The way children and youth understand the church’s stance taken at the 2019 General Conference is particularly harmful to LGBTQ youth who are already at higher risk for suicide,” Olson said. “Our board directed us to look for an exceptional opportunity to offer financial support to organizations working with LGBTQ youth to intervene and prevent suicides.” In the history of our denomination and its present debates, this is indeed the work of grace.
Just because August is arriving doesn’t mean we have to stop celebrating God’s grace, finding it, sharing it and using it to guide our living in this world. What opportunity might exist in your life today and the month and even the year ahead for you to do the work of grace? Like I asked on July 14 in my Sunday message, perhaps the work of grace needs to begin in your heart or home where God’s steadfast love is most needed. Grace has the power to nurture your love, restore your faith and give hope. Receive it once again in your heart and be willing to share. Pray in thanks for God’s grace in your life and in your future. Pray in trust for God’s grace to be heard in your words and seen in your works. Pray for the means of grace to be part of your daily life.
See you in church,
A Season for New Expressions of Love and Faith
As I write this article, I confess that I would rather be out on a boat or raft floating on blissful, calm waters, with plenty of sunscreen, cool beverages and friends within reach helping to paddle or simply to float and enjoy the scenery. Someday soon, someday soon! I hope your summer has included days of calm, friendship and fun on the water or elsewhere. We will be here at FUMC to share in the joys summer brings to you and your loved ones. Back to business…
As I shared with our Administrative Council on June 6 via email, it was a very good Annual Conference session for those who desire a more inclusive UMC. The annual meeting of the 350+ congregations, 800 clergy & laity took place in Schaumburg from June 2-June 4. (There is a longer story within the Koinonia.) Anne Marie Gerhardt, the Northern Illinois Conference Director of Communications writes “Much of the legislation that passed at Annual Conference reflected the disapproval of the Traditional Plan adopted at February’s General Conference Special Session, which emphasizes the current policies around homosexuality in the Book of Discipline for ordination and same-sex marriages while strengthening enforcement of those rules. Approved legislation included suspending payments to the General Administration Fund until changes are made to the structure and practices of General Conference. Also, a call to form a task force to explore a way forward for the NIC, including the possibility of a new Methodist expression, was approved.”
As I enter my 5th year of ministry as the appointed pastor to First UMC of Park Ridge, I find myself upon unchartered denominational waters but I am blessed to not be in the boat alone. I meet with a group of 12-15 clergy monthly in a covenant of peer support, idea sharing, and leadership development as it pertains to the new seas we are sailing in all things United Methodist post-special session of the General Conference. As a congregation we are not alone either.
We are part of a vast fleet, growing every day, of congregations who have found strength in not only being reconciling but actively welcoming of all persons and families, seeking justice in a variety of ways, serving in a number of ways, vibrantly sharing the gospel and loving with our whole hearts. The number of congregations declaring themselves to be fully inclusive of lgbtq+ persons grows daily. The number of annual conferences who are defying the traditionalist plan enacted by the General Conference grows weekly.
What is this “new Methodist expression” mentioned above? It is unknown, uncharted and yet to be fully envisioned. Does this cause me to turn back towards the shore from where we have come? No, it does not. There is no going back to the pre-special session United Methodism. We trust God will find us faithful as we set a course for something new, dynamic and wholly blessed. Our Administrative Council and I will keep you fully aware of opportunities for learning, discerning and setting a faithful course. Pray with me that God’s Spirit will give us direction, wind for our sails and joy along the way.
Be sure to go to www.umcnic.org for additional news.
See you in church,
Christ is alive! We are freed!
In such a complex world, how do we formulate beliefs, maintain our beliefs and live our beliefs in Jesus Christ? In such a difficult time in the life our United Methodist denomination, what hope for resurrection exists in the church of Jesus Christ? As we begin to conclude our Lenten journey of liberation, there may be moments when we feel as if we have more chains, more baggage, and more weariness than we could have anticipated in this time. One thing I’ve learned through our study of the Exodus is that the Promised Land is to be found under our feet and in our hearts at all times. The land is not so much a destination as it is a feeling of freedom and strength we possess within our souls and share by our hands and hope for one another.
In these last weeks of Lent and as we engage Holy Week, I invite you once again to imagine what you need to be freed from in your life. It could be a habit that has become destructive to you or a relationship that is troubled or broken or a myriad of other things: shame, bitterness, unmet expectations, or more. Trust that when you grow in awareness of these things and offer them to God’s counsel, there is hope made available to you that Christ Jesus, as your helper, will guide you to be free. The church is here for you, too. As Christians we are companions of one another into the freedom land of our need and life anew. As always, the church stands ready to accept, to pray and to be your strong support. We are blessed to be community – in ministries of love, nurture and healing for one another.
Even as the world spins with so many chaotic turns, and the United Methodist Church awaits decision making about its future, there is no time like the present to live into the promise of Christ’s resurrection. The world and the church need believers to believe out loud: “my chains are off, the tomb is empty, Christ is alive and I am freed!” Celebrate the promised land of new life is in sight!
See you in church,