Pastor’s Word for June

Who do people say the Son of Man is?   . . . Who do you say that I am?  

 Matthew 16:13, 15

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Grace and Peace to you in the name of the Christ who has sent us out in his name.

After leaving the office for the day, I treated myself to a coffee and a haircut.  I had just gotten a new book to help with my summer sermon series on Jesus’ parables and I wanted to read the introduction.

While at the coffee shop, I met an acquaintance I hadn’t seen for some time.  I wasn’t sure I remembered his name.  I sat next to him.  Each of us guessed the other’s name.  He guessed my name as “Warren.”  After the coffee shop, I got a haircut.  As the stylist was ringing me up, she asked if I was a professor at the college.

I got a good chuckle from both of these.  These incidents also gave me pause to consider the importance of identity in the midst of community.  Our identities help us to be known by name and our role in the community.

Peter answered that Jesus was the Christ, son of the living God.  Jesus responded by changing Simon’s name to Peter and promising to give the keys of the kingdom to him.  Matthew placed this incident at the foot of the mountain range that includes Mount Hermon (9,000’+).  So surrounded by rock, Jesus named Simon, the rock.  Rocks were dependable.  Despite which regime was ruling, rocks remained and Mount Hermon remained.  Compared to human striving and human life, a rock seemed eternal and immortal.

Jesus also promised the keys of the kingdom to Peter.  Keys grant access to treasure.  The image shows Peter with the key and a book.  These represent the authority of Peter to teach the church and world about God’s kingdom.

The world needs a people who are dependable and committed to God’s kingdom.  Let us continue to remember our identity as Christ’s Church and not forget it when we are misidentified as “Warren, the college professor.”

Christ’s Servant:

 

 

 

The Reverend Joseph A. Johnson

 

Pastor’s Word for April 2018

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.  Psalm 133:1

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Grace and Peace to you in the name of the Risen Christ.

It is with some irony and hope that I write this update regarding the Commission on a Way Forward to you.  It is ironic because fifty-years ago on April 23, 1968 The United Methodist Church came into being and now we are debating if we can remain united.  I am hopeful because in this Easter Season, we celebrate the new creation emerging from the old.

As you recall, in an effort to avoid schism, the 2016 General Conference asked the Council of Bishops (COB) to propose a way forward that would maintain the unity of the church without uniformity around human sexuality.  The COB formed a commission to devise a plan.  Last month in Dallas, the COB met to consider two models for moving forward.  Both of these models would remove the prohibitory language in the Book of Discipline regarding self-avowed practicing homosexuals.  (This is disciplinary language left over from the 1970s.)  The two models are:

  1. The one-church model would give conferences, churches and pastors the flexibility to “uniquely reach their missional context in relation to human sexuality without changing the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church.”

 

  1. The multi-branch, one-church model would include shared doctrine and services and one Council of Bishops, while also creating different branches that have clearly defined values such as accountability, contextualization and justice. The five U.S. jurisdictions would be replaced by three connectional conferences, each covering the whole country, based on theology and perspective on LGBTQ ministry — progressive, contextual and traditional branches. Annual conferences would decide with which connectional conference to affiliate.

The focus in both of these models is annual conference autonomy in deciding issues of human sexuality.  Next steps include these two models being sent back to the Commission for refining based on the COB’s February meeting.

The Council of Bishops gives cautious optimism.  Our own Bishop Dyck when I asked her, responded:

I fully support the work of the Commission on the Way Forward.  It is my hope that the delegates to the special General Conference 2019 will recognize that the Commission’s hard and careful work (meeting for over 35 days in the last 1 1/2 years) represents a majority of people in the United Methodist Church across the world as opposed to any one segment.  A future with hope for our church must be based on unity in one mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ as opposed to unity based on agreement on one issue.  Agreement isn’t the foundation of our faith; mission is the foundation of our faith. (Emphasis added)    I urge United Methodists to pray for the Council of Bishops as we make our recommendation to the special General Conference 2019 and the delegates who act on it.

 

Important Dates:

  April 29-May 4            Council of Bishops Meeting

May 14-17                   Final meeting of The Commission on a Way Forward

  July 8                           Legislative Deadline for General Conference Special Session

            February 23-26, 2019  Special Session of Annual Conference, St. Louis, MO

 

May we at First Church pray and discern how we will continue to be the Church of Jesus Christ by making disciples for the transformation of the world.

 

In the hope of the Risen Christ,

 

 

 

Reverend Joseph A. Johnson

Now What!?…An Eastertide Sermon Series

We have prepared ourselves for the crucifixion of Jesus and celebrated his resurrection, now what?  Your Easter lily is down to one blossom; you’ve had the last ham sandwich from the Easter ham and all your favorite Easter Candy is now 50% off.  What’s next?  This six week sermon series will explore six actions the early church took after the resurrection of Jesus.  They are: Live, Heal, Testify, Preach, Baptize, and Empower.

1 Peter: Sermon series begins April 23

On April 23, Rev. Joseph Johnson will open a series of sermons on The First Letter of Peter in the New Testament.  This brief book offers some gentle advice to Christians as they struggle with the difficulty of being such in First Century Asia Minor. Several themes emerge in this letter: living as heirs of God’s great salvation in Jesus Christ, living in the old world in a new way, and why do Christians suffer. Open your Bibles and give 1 Peter a read. We look forward to seeing you on Sunday.