Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas for All People

By Brian Lee, Trinity Member and Lay Leader

One of my father’s first memories of Christmas was a fire truck. In the mid-1960s, my father’s family immigrated to the United States from China and settled in New York City’s Chinatown. The local police station had a program to give toys to immigrant kids in the neighborhood. My father fondly recalls receiving a fire truck from a police officer for his first ever Christmas. Although times were tough for my father’s family as they struggled to make a new life in the U.S., Christmas was always a time for joy and chance for him to be a kid.

Growing up, I was not raised in the church. However, we did have Christmas. At the nudging of some family friends, my parents bought an artificial Christmas tree and we celebrated Christmas. One of my father’s friends told him that Christmas was for everyone. Like all children, my siblings and I grew up being excited this time of year at the prospect of cookies and presents. As I became older and learned the Christmas story, it puzzled me. At the time, it was strange to think that God would take on human form. It was not until I was a college student that I fully understood the significance of the Incarnation.


I share my father’s story as well as mine because it shows the invitation that Advent and Christmas presents us. As Christians, we are invited to share with the world the joy we have found in Jesus and to invite everyone to celebrate with us whether they believe or not. Jesus’s arrival was not for any particular group of people, but for all people. We believe that God’s grace is always at work and is working in all people. During this holy time, please take this chance to invite the people around you to celebrate the birth of Christ– whether it’s attending an organ concert, sharing a plate of delicious cookies, or smiling.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Preparing the Manger of the Heart

By Rev. Lee Anderson-Harris, Minister of Care

I often speak of self-care during the holidays, and one of the ways in which we care for ourselves is to focus on our spiritual journey during Advent.  Rather than getting caught up in the chaos of the secular season, we can enjoy all the season has to offer while remaining anchored in love, joy, peace, and hope of the coming of Christ.  And yes, we are caring for our own souls this way, but we are also caring for the world around us as well when we do this! 
My husband, a fellow pastor, wrote and preached a sermon that speaks to the spiritual journey of Advent.  I was touched and inspired by his words, so I wanted to share them with you.  Below is his sermon.  Trust me, it’s worth the brief time it takes to read through it!

Preparing the Manger of the Heart
As we observe the first Sunday in Advent, we might think about this time between now and Christmas as a journey.  As Christians we have the opportunity to begin on a journey of the heart to receive the light of Christ in the world…or we can get run over by the secular hype of consumerism and the holidays.  We have the choice to consciously move toward Christmas seeking a personal spiritual transformation.  Here is the GOOD NEWS: we have the ability to control our own holiday stress!
With the imagery of a journey in mind, we first need to determine our direction.  Directions are important; if we dive in without taking enough time to think about where we are going, we might get disoriented.  The Boy Scouts of America was a program that my dad valued as a youth.  In later years he greatly supported my own goals in becoming and Eagle Scout.  One of his stories that has stuck with me reminds of the value of having a grounding direction.  When he was a scout, a group of boys went on a campout in the hills where there were some old mine shafts. The boys went off to explore the mines.  The first tunnel they went in was a big cavern, but they soon discovered that the wall at the back of the cave ended about a foot below the ceiling, so the boys helped each other over this wall.  That then led them into the cave network. After an hour or so of exploring the network of tunnels, someone asked how they would find their way back out.  At this point they began to panic as each tunnel looked the same as the last, and with very little light they got disoriented.  There was one young scout who claimed he knew the way, yet the older boys had been paying little attention to him.  After finally getting their full attention, they asked how he knew where to go.  He said he knew that they had been walking past the wall they climbed over because on their way over, he had undone his neckerchief and placed it on top of the wall with a rock holding it down. 
Isn’t it interesting that the least experienced or likely among the group had not gotten so caught up in the excitement of the adventure that he forgot his grounding?
We Christians can dive in head first and put up all the lights, buy all the gifts, make it to all the parties, bake all the cookies, and so on…and become disoriented, missing the spirit and the potential spiritual growth in our own lives.  If it is our goal to experience something spiritual this season, we must seek actions to move us toward that direction.
A goal I held at one time in my life was to thru-hike the Colorado trail from Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver to Durango, a mere distance of 486 miles.  A hiker traversing the entire length of the trail will gain 89,000 feet in elevation. It takes most hikers 4-6 weeks to complete the journey, although a distance runner holds the record for completing the trail in 10 days, 19 hours and 5 minutes.  The biggest obstacle for through hikes is how to carry enough food for the journey.  Most hikers make preparations to mail food to post offices in small towns along the route so that they might pick up extra rations along the way.  With weight being a critical issue due to every ounce counting, some make it a practice to remove all of the labels from their clothing. Proper preparation means make-it-or- break-it on this journey. I know of two gentlemen in the state that tried to undertake this journey with only the equipment that would have been available in the 1860’s.  Though they undertook this journey in the summer months, they quickly found that leather-soled shoes and wool blankets, along with state forest fire-bans, made it impossible to keep warm and complete the journey.
Like this illustration, spiritual preparation for our journey might begin with a personal inventory, noting what things give you life, or draw you closer to God, while also noting what seems to drain life and add stress.  
Take note if adding extra commitments to the calendar makes you feel anxious.  For example, if there are friends who have waited all year to get together, would it be better to schedule a gathering after the holidays?  Allow yourself the grace to make boundaries and limit what you choose to do if you feel that you are becoming overcommitted.  There is actually scriptural evidence of this.  In the book of Luke it reads, “But the news about Jesus spread all the more, and great crowds came to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses.  Yet He frequently withdrew to the wilderness to pray.”  If the Son of God allowed himself time to care for his spirit and         recharge, you certainly can too!!
If we have taken the time to discern where we are going, and we prepare ourselves, our next step is to begin the journey or to take action toward receiving Christ.  In fact, one of the things I like about the notion of journeying through Advent is that it implies motion, or action.  Advent is a season of waiting.  However, even if we just seem to be waiting for Christ’s birth, there is a difference between active waiting and passive waiting.  There are passages in Scripture that imply a sense of urgency about preparing ourselves for the coming kingdom. Personally, I don’t expect Jesus’ second coming to happen this Christmas but there is, nevertheless, a real truth to this urgency.
The first and practical reason why we should be urgent in preparing our hearts for Christ this Christmas is that with the other distractions of the season, it all passes too quickly.  I have always celebrated the 12 days of Christmas rather than just Christmas day.  This helps me continue to spend time focusing of the coming of Christ’s light into a dark world, and I don’t feel that all the buildup has suddenly vanished.
The second reason why we should be urgent in preparing our hearts to receive or renew Christ is because we live in a broken and hurting world that needs action from those who have experienced the light of Christ.  Our own personal spiritual relationships will become even more fulfilling when we take the love of Christ into the world.  In a letter to the United Methodist Church, released on November 22, 2016, Bishop Bruce R. Ough expressed such urgency in his call that we are to
“remember who we are” in this time of tension and anxiety and work to overcome hatred and discrimination….and “We, the bishops of The United Methodist Church, feel compelled to renew our commitment to work to become the beloved community of Christ. We, as a Council, desire to deal with the crucial issues of racism and the sacredness of every human being. Therefore, as the spiritual and administrative leaders of the church, we issue an urgent call to the whole people of God, lay and clergy: to speak the truth in love in public and private discourse, to act with compassion, and to work for peace with justice in the world…In order to transform the world, in faithfulness to Christ’s command, we must model respect and kindness and extinguish the fires of animosity. And thus, we call on all churches to engage in genuinely honest dialogue and respectful conversation, such that others who observe the action in our lives might declare, ‘See how they love each other!’”
As Christians this call to action is nothing new, and I know that many of you already strive to live lives that imitate Christ, but what the Bishop is expressing is that the world needs our love now…more as much as ever.
Where I see the urgency during this time is that during this season, we have the chance to touch lives, which might be closer than at other times to receiving the love of Christ, because there are many outside the church who are hoping to receive something meaningful. 
In this season of Good will, there is the potential for glimpses of the Kingdom of God.  Here’s what I would like to propose in making our hearts mangers to receive Christ: That we visualize the Kingdom. Not just talk about it in the sense like “Oh wouldn’t that be nice.”  But strive to invasion it as a reality.
U.S. freestyle Olympic skier Emily Cook says that prior to beginning her run, she visuals not just how she would like to perform, but all of her body’s senses, from the cheering of the crowd and ringing of bells, to the buzz of lights and the feeling of the muscles.  This mental visualization then flows right into the action of the run itself.  This is where I offer the final advice for preparing the manger of your heart…visualize finding, receiving, and personally knowing Christ this Advent, and then let that visualization become a real action.
I’ll leave you with one final image.  My Dad was never one to serve the homeless, or get involved in Christian action that could be uncomfortable.  This was not to say that he wasn’t a great man of faith, but he served his faith through being on the Trustees or working spiritual retreats like the walk to Emmaus…places where he felt good to be in Christian action.  Three years ago the church he attended hosted homeless individuals over the week of Christmas, and on the night of the Christmas Eve services the homeless were housed on cots in the halls of the church.  As can happen when there are things outside our comfort zones, there were some that commented that this was not appealing to those coming to enjoy the worship service.  Yet of all people, my Dad really got into helping these people.  He even helped an intoxicated man pass out onto a cot.  On Christmas Day as he told me about this experience I could tell just what an impact it had made on him.  He got it; he experienced Christ in a very real way.  He found the spirit of Christ…not in a worship service or a book study…but in helping a man who hadn’t showered and was reeking of Jim Beam into a safe, warm place for the night.

My prayer for this season is to get past the glitz and glam and begin on a journey that prepares me to experience the love of Christ in a real way. Amen.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Our Good Friend, Trinity


 - by Erick Scheminske, Trinity Finance Committee Chair, from his witness during November 6, 2016 worship

So, before today, the last time I stood near the front of this particular room and said anything anybody really wanted to hear, it was January 8, 2000, and the only two words anybody cared to hear from me then were “I” and “do.”  And I only had to talk to one person, not several hundred! 
Thinking about that day has got me thinking about a friend I’d like to introduce you to. My wife, Sharon, and I met this friend around the time of our wedding and we liked her pretty well at the time. But we really didn’t start to get to know her until a couple of years after that, when we accepted an invitation to celebrate Easter with her. We were so charmed, we decided to keep scheduling get-togethers with her. 
Almost immediately, she took us in as if we were family. She knew a lot of people, and introduced us to a few of them who have now become some of our most trusted friends. 
She’s been with us through some difficult times of loss, sickness, and sadness. But she’s also been present at some of the most joyous times of our lives – our wedding, the baptisms of our two children (Reagan and Parker), and so many other moments of growth and discovery. 
She has challenged us in so many ways. She’s asked us to be teachers, and she’s helped us learn how to do it effectively. She’s asked us to be leaders, and she’s given us the space to make mistakes as we’ve grown in that capacity. She’s asked us to think about God, and about Christ, and about mission in different ways than we did when we were younger. 
She’s a mighty forgiving friend. As happens with all friendships, sometimes we get too busy to reach out and touch base with her. In fact, over the years, we will sometimes go for long periods without visiting with her at all (this happens mostly during ski season). No matter what, though, every time we see her she greets us with the same warmth and compassion as the first day we met her. 
Over the last few years, our friend has had some health issues, and has undergone several surgeries. We tried to support her as best we could through those times, and we rejoiced with her last year as she seemed to come through the last of those surgeries somehow stronger, in spite of her advancing age. 
Then, in June, she tripped and fell, and injured the lower part of her body again. This has been a tough injury for her – she’s had a much harder time than normal getting around and welcoming her wide body of friends into her presence, and we’ve heard from some that she doesn’t seem quite as kind as she used to. 
Well, I’m happy to say that our friend is almost completely healed, and I can tell you with certainty that she’s back to her old self! In fact, she might be even better than her old self, and I’m excited to so see what she has in store for us next!
Our friend, Trinity, has been there for us for the entirety of our almost 17 years of marriage, and for the entirety of both of our children’s lives. She’s been a truly remarkable friend to our family, just as I’m sure she’s been a friend to each and every person in this room, even if you’re meeting her for the first time today. 
I am a better person because of my friendship with Trinity. And for that reason alone, I consider it a great, great privilege to share a little bit of my time and treasure with her. She’s a strong and thriving old woman, but she depends on all of us to keep her that way. 
So, as you contemplate making or renewing your commitment to our friend, Trinity, I hope you take some time to consider how she has made a difference your life, and how you can best make a difference in hers. 

And thanks to all of you for your friendship.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

We Can Make a Difference - Tim Mueller


from Tim Mueller's witness during worship on October 16, 2016

I grew up here at Trinity. Our parents met here and us kids had the opportunity to grow up taking advantage of the children’s and youth programs. 

My wife Julie and I have attended Trinity together since 1985 and were blessed to have had our children Emma and Danny participate in many of the great programs offered by the Children’s and Youth Ministries. Emma continues to work here as the Youth Assistant.

When Pastor Mike asked me to talk during worship, he suggested I consider ‘Why do we give?’ For us, it is really more of a question of ‘How can we not give?’

First, I nurture my faith at Trinity and find this historic Sanctuary a place to connect and cherish the challenging discussions and fellowship in our Sunday School class. Mainly, I am here because of the people at Trinity. I am sincerely inspired by so many of the people here on our staff, lay leadership teams, service and mission groups, amazing Music and Arts Ministry and members who smile and greet each other and visitors with the same warm and welcoming spirit. I’m inspired by some of my closest and dearest friends who we know through our Sunday School class, 2x2s Growing in Faith Together.

I am inspired by the commute most of us make to get to Trinity every week. I’ve heard Trinity referred to as a ‘regional beacon’ and I celebrate this.
Over 83% of Trinity members live more than 3 miles from the church. I’m inspired because this takes commitment, and we are all here because we want to be. I believe God is present here and is working through all of us.

I continue to be inspired by some of our members who have been here since I can remember and have had a profound impact on my life. They walk the talk and demonstrate what it means to be a part of the church and support each other through their gifts, presence and active participation. Selfishly, getting my weekly hugs from Anita, Roberta, Joan, Willa, Nancy, Margaret, Liz and others recharges me and gets me ready for the coming week.

I am inspired by our Youth, who in my opinion have more wisdom and input to give than we generally give them credit for. Next Sunday, Oct 23rd is Youth Sunday, and I encourage everyone to attend as it is one of my favorites of the year. I am inspired by our Young Families and their children with bright smiles, enthusiasm and untethered questions. They are the future of our church. I am inspired by our Young Adults and was fortunate to have made some new friends last spring during the Trinity Runs Colfax event coordinated by Brian Lee. Although older, and certainly slower than most, if not all of them, they welcomed me to participate in the weekly devotions on Thursday evenings. It was a great experience.

The theme of our current campaign is We Can Make a Difference. I believe We Have Made a Difference, We Are Making a Difference and We Can Make a Difference. Our unique location and amazing congregation empowers us to continue to do so. Our financial support translates into staff and the many programs offered, along with the operations and maintenance of our historic and thriving church buildings. Julie and I will participate in Generosity Sunday on Nov. 13 and submit our estimate of giving commitment. We encourage you all to do the same.

God Bless and Thank You,
Tim

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

An Invitation to Insecurity

By Marilyn McEntyre

What if we actually believed the counterintuitive claim that spiritual teachers from Jesus on have insisted upon against all concrete evidence: You are safe in the arms of God
Our lives might look significantly different. They would certainly be more conspicuously countercultural. Imagine for a moment what it might be like not to live in the fear that keeps us clinging to our "sense of safety" a little too tightly. We would say what we meant. Kindly, one hopes, but clearly, without fear of reprisal.
We would give away money, things, time, much less guardedly.
We would make our decisions in a spirit of deep attention to the call of the moment, listening and moving with the invitation of the Spirit to act without second-guessing.
We would plan less. We would let things unfold.
We would behave as children do who know their parents' watchful eyes are on them—in the freedom of knowing someone will catch them if they fall.
If we realized, even now and then, how securely we are held in God's arms, if we could meditate on Jesus' words not to fear anything that destroys the body, we might occasionally look around and recognize in our worldly habitat a playground of possibilities.



Shared by Rev. Lee Anderson-Harris

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Way Forward Together

By Rev. Jasper Peters, Associate Pastor

I recently had an opportunity to hear Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, the new resident Bishop of the Mountain Sky area, present on the state of the church at a conference. I wasn't sure what to expect, as I'd only heard her speak in passing before. I found her to be charismatic, inspiring and challenging. (This is to say nothing of the fact that she is also an amateur magician. Literally. Imagine the possibilities!) I'm excited for our new Bishop, and for the things that will be possible with such a qualified and visionary leader. 

Yet, my excitement is put in check because I realize that not everyone shares my excitement. There are some who grieve the election of Bishop Oliveto, not because she is not intellectually, spiritually or practically unqualified for the position, but because of her sexual orientation. When I was listening to her speak, the gender of her spouse was far from my mind, but I know this is not the case for all of us. So, how do we move forward? Should I flaunt my excitement in the faces of all those who are grieving? Should I pretend that nothing has changed at all, forcing my head into the cool, dark sand where I can peacefully ignore the world around me? Though many may choose to do these things, I feel I would be remiss to do so as a follower of Jesus. Here are a few things, however, I think we can consider as we choose a response to our new Bishop. 

Love

Jesus didn't offer his followers a special secret handshake. There is no salute taught to each of us when we become a part of the church. In fact, there are shockingly few ways to recognize other believers. The one thing scripture emphasizes (John 13:35) as a mark of Christ's presence in our lives is by our love. Do we love each other? Do we love those who aren't one of "us?" Are our lives marked by our ability to love and care for one another? If so, then there is a good change that we know Jesus well. 

Fruit

In fact, there is another way of discerning Christians. In Matthew 7, Jesus talks about judging people (long story short, don't...), trusting God to provide and identifying false prophets. Here is the wisdom scripture gives us when measuring the fitness of a prophet: "By their fruit you will recognize them...a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit." (Matthew 7:15-18)

So what then are we to do with a new bishop? One way of engaging scripture to guide our steps would be to ask whether she exhibits the marks of being a loving person and whether she has produced good fruit. Those who know her best, who have worked with her at Glide Memorial UMC and in other settings have resoundingly said yes!

If this is not enough for you, then let us remember that one of the distinguishing marks of a Methodist historically has been our big-tent style of coming together. In a denomination that contains both Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush, perhaps agreeing on every aspect of our faith and policy is not something we can expect. Rather, is it possible for us to bear with one another in love, whether we are celebrating, mourning or simply confused? Can we find a way of creating space to discern a future and a way forward together? This is my prayer for us all. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Sacred Presence Within Ourselves

By Cami Twilling, Director of Contemplative Spirituality

In his book, The Rebirthing of God: Christianity's Struggle for New Beginnings, John Philip Newell writes, “It was on Iona years ago that I first became aware of the need to reclaim some of the features of ancient Christianity in the Celtic world as lost treasure for today. Part of that treasure is the much-cherished image of John the Evangelist, also known as John the Beloved, leaning against Jesus at the Last Supper. Celtic tradition holds that by doing this he heard the heartbeat of God. He became a symbol of the practice of listening—listening deep within ourselves, within one another, and within the body of the earth for the beat of the Sacred Presence.” 

It is when we begin to hear and see the Sacred Presence within ourselves, one another and the earth, we will begin to treat all of creation with reverence. In this reverence and sacredness, healing can begin to take place, wholeness and well-being will unfold. It is true that there is brokenness in our world, yet at the very heart of all creation is the heart of God. We are not separate from God, we are of God. The light of God is within all of creation.

There are many opportunities to explore the teachings of John Philip Newell and the earth honoring Celtic spirituality. Below are ways for you to connect.

School for Celtic Consciousness has both an annual retreat and Quarterly Gathering. The annual retreat blends sessions led by Newell introducing themes of Celtic teachers, his own reflections, contemplative spiritual practices, small group sharing, whole group sharing and time for rest and reflection. The 2017 School for Celtic Consciousness will be held at the Shambhala Mountain Center April 4-5, 2017.

There are also Quarterly Gatherings in which we come together as a community. We share in prayer, scripture reading and chants as we listen for wisdom, seek strength and practice silence. We continue in community by gathering for light refreshments and conversation following the service. Our next Quarterly Gathering will be Friday, November 18 from 7-9pm at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. All are welcome for this evening of prayer and shared community.

Our Pilgrimage to Iona, Scotland, is another opportunity to deeply engage in Celtic Spirituality. ‘Each day on Iona begins and ends with the rhythm of prayer and meditation together, either at the Abbey or elsewhere on the island. In the mornings John Philip Newell teaches on themes related to the sacredness of the earth, interfaith relationship, and commitment to practices of contemplation and action as the basis for transformation in our lives and world. The afternoons are given to hiking, conversation, and rest, and the early evenings to further reflection and embodiment practices of chant and meditative movement. On Wednesday we walk the seven-mile island pilgrimage route together to pray for the journey of our lives and world. The Columba Hotel’s organic gardens, eco-friendly policies and welcoming staff are an important part of our community life together.’ You are invited to join us on pilgrimage in the fall of 2017. Registration information is available on Trinity’s website.

John Philip Newell is a poet, peacemaker, and scholar. Formerly a warden of Iona Abbey, he is now Companion Theologian for the American Spirituality Centre of Casa del Sol at Ghost Ranch in the high desert of New Mexico. His PhD is from the University of Edinburgh and he is internationally acclaimed for his work in the field of Celtic spirituality, having authored over 15 books. John Philip is the co-founder of Heartbeat: A Journey Towards Earth’s Wellbeing, and a Church of Scotland minister. He has a passion for peace in the world and a fresh vision for harmony between the great spiritual traditions of humanity.

For more information visit www.heartbeatjourney.org.