The Heart of the Matter

This week the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church is meeting to discern the constitutionality of the Traditionalist Plan.  Next month, multiple groups will meet to discern where they think God is leading the United Methodist Church in the United States.  One group, the Judicial Council, works within the confines of what was and is legally binding for our denomination.  The others consider what might be, would could be, and what will define the people called Methodists as we move into 2020 and beyond.

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to compare this to the time after that first Easter as the disciples tried to figure out what it meant to follow Jesus after his death and resurrection.  Jesus appeared time and again to assure and reassure them, offering peace, his presence, and some glimpse of the direction ahead.  At the core of it all, love.  In his words and actions, in his very presence he reminded his disciples, then and now, that his mission, and ours hasn’t changed.  Love one another.  That is the heart of the matter.

This Sunday, as the Chimes ring out, we’ll begin a new worship series from Marcia McFee and the Worship Design Studio, “The Heart of the Matter.”  We’ll hear the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples, breathing his peace.  We’ll remember honest Thomas, who wanted more than words, but a holy touch.  We explore our own yearning for proof and our willingness to lean into faith.  Come hear the chimes play and a familiar story.  I’ll see you on Sunday.

Peace be with you,

Pastor Heather

A Time for Every Matter

When my daughter was very young, we enjoyed how easily she could remember and repeat any variety of prompts.  We taught her to say, “This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams, sing any number or songs, and this particular gem:

  We’d ask her, “What time is it?”  to which she would answer joyfully, “4:30.”

“It’s not late,” we’d prompt.  Her response, “No, no.  Just early, early, early.”  Ah, fun with the Spin Doctors…

What time is it?  Is it time for working, resting, playing, discerning?  It is time for doing or being?  Is it time to run, or maybe sit awhile?  Is it time for planning, implementing, starting over?

This week as we wrap up our Busy series, we consider the classic written by Pete Seeger made famous by the Birds, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” or rather Ecclesiastes 3, ” For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”  As you consider your calendar and daily schedule, is your time set by your responsibility to others, your desire for success or worthiness, or is it set to allow time for rest, growth, loved ones, soul tending?

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

Living Light

Are you a keeper of stuff, a collector, a saver, a magpie of memories, tokens and treasures?

If Marie Kondo came to visit, would you welcome her in or bar the door?  Is your home full of things that “spark joy” or is it just full of things?

Are you a keeper of stuff, or does your stuff keep you?

This Sunday, we explore the power of our stuff to hold us under and to set us free.  This Sunday we’re invited by Jesus, to let go, and live lightly.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

What do you really, really need?

The Lord is my shepherd…

So often when we hear the 23rd psalm we are mentally transported to funerals and death vigils where we’ve heard this psalm.  Powerful memories of comfort, often in the midst of deep pain, grief, and loss.

Once upon a time, during worship, in an effort to help us hear beyond our memories of this familiar and often funereal text, I invited the congregation to “play madlibs” as we re-translated this familiar psalm together.  It was a child’s interpretation that has stuck with me.  Forgive my faulty memory, but it went something like this,  “God is my daddy.   He holds me on his lap…He feeds me chocolate cake.”

It was the chocolate cake that sparked something in me.  Her image of God wasn’t a distant patriarch on a magnificent and untouchable throne.  Her image of God was close, present, protective, safe, affectionate, and shared the most decadent of desserts.  Her reverent re-imagining opened up something in me.  It invited me to hear beyond the still waters, green pastures, and over-flowing cup.  What did I really, really need from God?  What did soul-filling rest, restoration and joyful celebration look like to and for me?

This Sunday, we’ll hear the traditional psalm together, as we consider together what it means to pause, to rest, and reconnect with one another, and with God.  What does it mean to sit with God awhile beside still waters or to sit with God at a sumptuous dinner party?

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

Are you tired? Worn out? Come and rest.

I was a new, young pastor participating in the “First Parish Project,” a Lily Foundation program.  The idea was to bring young, new pastors together across denominational and geographic boundaries.  From New York, Illinois, Oregon and California and other far off places we made our weary way to a retreat center in western North Carolina.  In our opening session the convener gave the most beautiful invitation, “This week is for you.  Find what you need.  If you need rest, go take a nap.  If you need peace, go sit on the porch in the rocking chairs and stair at the mountains and the lake.  Go for a walk.  Join us for worship.  Sit in on the sessions.  This time is for you.”

It’s not a bad image for the season of Lent.  What if instead of focusing on what we’re going to give up, how we’re going to suffer, we instead thought deeply and intentionally about what we need as disciples of Jesus?  Are you tired, worn out?  Are you lost and directionless?  Are you heartsick and grief stricken?  Are you comfortable?  What do you need to follow Jesus faithfully: energy, courage, discernment, wisdom, faith, compassion, and on and on?

What if instead of rushing around trying to prove our goodness or faithfulness, we simply sat for awhile with Jesus?  Imagine, giving yourself the gift of ten precious minutes each day, to sit in the presence of the Holy, and consider together what it means to follow.  This Sunday, we’ll kick off the season of Lent not with the story of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, but rather an invitation from Jesus, “Come to me, all who are weary, and I will give you rest.”

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

My response to General Conference

February 27, 2019
Dear Ones,
Yesterday at the Special Session of General Conference the body voted to uphold the exclusionary language of the Discipline of the United Methodist Church rather than widen our welcome. It was painful to watch. Rather than choosing one of the more inclusive plans, 53% voted to continue to exclude our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered siblings from full participation in the life of the church.
As a Reconciling Congregation, we have committed to do just the opposite: open wide the doors to all God’s beloved children. This isn’t going to change. All are welcome to full participation in the life of our church without exception. All are welcome to worship, receive communion, serve God and neighbor and experience the grace and love of God. Tell your friends, your neighbors, your families. No matter what you hear on the news, our church is open to all.
I don’t know what the future will bring for our denomination or our Annual Conference. The Traditionalist Plan will be reviewed for constitutionality. The global church might divide, unite in new ways, or continue as we are. There are conversations happening now and there will be more in the days to come about how we move forward. May the Spirit blow, inspiring the people called Methodist to creatively and courageously choose compassion, welcome, and inclusion.
Whatever happens, Methodists right here in Osterville will continue to live out the mission and ministry of our church. We will gather for weekly worship and lift our voices in song and prayer. We will feed the hungry by stocking our food pantry and serving meals at the Miracle Kitchen, Faith Family Kitchen and Days of Hospitality. We will teach our children about the grace and love of God in Sunday School and by our witness. Human as we are, we will mess up and fall short, and seek, give, and receive forgiveness over and over and over again. We will care for one another, pray for one another, and seek to bear witness to the love of God in all that we do. We will follow Jesus, day by day, learning to love as he did.
If you have questions or concerns about what happened at General Conference, I’m here to listen. Stop by the office, or set up an appointment. We can meet for coffee or go for a walk. Join me next Thursday for Courageous Conversation with others from our district in Lincoln, RI. I’ll even give you a ride.
Whatever happens next for our denomination, choose love today. Let us reach out to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered siblings with compassion and gentle welcome. Let’s listen for the Spirit and faithfully follow Jesus, love incarnate.
Remember, God loves you, and so do I.
Pastor Heather

This Sunday, come and receive.

This Sunday we have very special guests, Bishop Yambasu and his wife Millicent from Sierra Leone.  Bishop Yambasu will be preaching and his text for the day is the story of the transfiguration.  This is the story of Jesus going up on a mountain to pray.  And as he is praying, Peter, James and John notice he is being visibly changed, lit from the inside, seeming to glow.  As if that’s not enough, Moses and Elijah appear too.  And then, the voice of God speaks, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”  And after all of that, Jesus goes down the mountain, followed by Peter, James, and John, and back to the work of ministry.

Sometimes following Jesus takes us to the mountaintops, to rich experiences of joy, light and holy transformation.  Sometimes it takes us into the darkness, to the depths of despair and even into the valley of the shadow of death.  And sometimes, it takes us right back to the ordinary, to the sick waiting to be healed, the hungry waiting to be fed, the poor waiting for a word of hope.

After General Conference and the countless responses and uncertainty that lies ahead, I think there is something particular meaningful in Bishop Yambasu’s visit and especially in the opportunity for he and I to serve communion together.  In the story of transfiguration we are reminded the power of God to name us, claim us, change us and send us back to the work at hand.  And at the communion table, we are reminded of the precious gift of grace, Jesus himself saying, “This is my body, my blood, my life and love, given for you.”  This gift is offered to all, conservatives, progressives, young, seasoned, spiritual seekers, wise mentors, faithful disciples.  This feast is for the curious, the certain, the doubtful, the down-right cynical, the hurting, the hopeless, the joyful, the lost and the found.  This feast, this holy gift of love and grace is for you and for me.  “Given for you…”

Whatever you’re feeling about General Conference, your week, your life, your faith, your church, come and feast together.  Come and sing the songs of our faith.  Come receive the gift of grace, given freely for you.  Come and pour your heart out in prayer and be surrounded by fellow wanders on the way, disciples of Jesus.  Come hear Bishop Yambasu and meet his wife Millicent.  Come and worship.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

Turn towards the light

It’s almost here.  Our delegates are preparing for the work of the Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church which begins on Saturday.  The energy leading into this gathering, not surprisingly ranges from hopeful and energetic to fearful and preemptively disappointed.  How will the Spirit blow through our delegates to shape our global United Methodist Church?  Will we choose inclusion, exclusion, or will we be paralyzed, unable to move in any direction?

I hope and I pray that the creative wisdom of God will blow in such a way that will reinvigorate our church.  I pray the love of God will be so tangibly felt and experienced our whole denomination will turn towards wider expressions of that love.  I pray that this is the time when our church will choose wide-open inclusion of all God’s children.

This Sunday, our series “Choose the Light,” continues as we choose to think together.  Ronald Kessel will be preaching, and I’ll be with you in the pews, enjoying the rare treat of hearing someone else preach and teach.  It seems wholly and holy fitting that Ronald invites us to wrestle with our beliefs and our doubts, our hearts and our minds, as our global church wrestles with our beliefs and doubts, our hearts and minds.

As we draw closer to the start of the Special Session, will you hold our whole global church in your prayers.  Whatever happens, God will be with us, guiding, holding, comforting and calling.  May God’s love prevail.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

Choose to Move

Four days a week, our church hosts yoga groups in our building.  People enter, rushing, late, sometimes hurried and harried.  But, as they leave, they move a little slower, taking time to talk with one another, smiling more.  I know it sounds cheesy, but they enter with the weight of the world on their shoulders, and they leave lighter.  Week after week, the before and after transformation amazes me.

I dance in my kitchen, alone, with my children, with my spouse. And few things lift the spirit like dancing in the kitchen.  Somewhere in the twirling and whirling, bopping and bouncing, the stuff of the world falls away.  Suddenly, I am present in a different way to love and laughter, the people I love, the light and love of God.

So many of our spiritual practices focus on the head and heart, but how do we engage our bodies?  This Sunday we explore what it means to walk with God and not just figuratively.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather

 

Choose the place

I love libraries.  They’re warm and inviting, safe and cozy, and celebrate and cherish some of my favorite things:  books, poetry, people, learning, reading, community and more. When I visit other places, I love to see their libraries.  When I’m working in new towns and need a place to check email, or do some work, it’s either coffee shop or a library.  Libraries welcome me in, inviting me to find a cozy spot, to sit and read, learn, discover, explore.  And they’re free, open to anyone and everyone.

I love churches too.  No really, I do.  I love to sit in a new (to me) sanctuary, to see how the light falls from stain glass windows.  I’m curious to see how different communities serve their neighbors.  I read every piece of paper in the pews.  Even more than that, I want to see every nook and cranny, small hidden stairs, and “secret” passageways.  I’m fascinated by design choices made hundreds of years ago to help with sound projection and how history shows up in large and small ways.  I enjoy seeing how other churches utilize technology.  I love how churches can feel like community centers, museums, art galleries, sacred worship space, schools, and mission HQ, sometimes all at the same time.

What are your safe and sacred places:  the places where you feel most yourself and the places where God feels close, present, almost touchable.

Space and place can change our energy, our moods, our intentions.  When I walk into a library, I immediately begin to whisper and to ask “What am I going to read next?”  When I walk into a grocery store, I’m almost always immediately hungry.  And when I walk into a church, I am mindful of the presence of God, the call to serve God’s people, and the invitation to prayer and worship.

How can we carry this mindfulness and invitation beyond Sunday morning, and into our homes?  How can we use the power of place to connect and reconnect us to the Holy?  This Sunday, we’ll explore the power of place to draw us into God’s presence and help us turn towards the light.

I’ll see you on Sunday,

Pastor Heather