Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Living with an Open Heart

By Rev. Lee Anderson, Minister of Care

With all the hard stuff going on in today’s world, it is easy to become hardened ourselves. To be in touch with our own pain, let alone someone else’s, seems a monumental task. It feels better to just block things out, distract ourselves, or avoid uncomfortable situations. But that only feels better for a while. You can’t escape suffering in life, you can only ignore it until it evolves into something bigger, such as physical illness, addiction, depression, and so on.

The truth is, this is an ages-old issue. There never has been a period of time where the world did not get people down. For those of us living in the present, it can seem this is the worst things have ever been. However, those living in decades, centuries, and millennia past experienced the same feelings and beliefs about their own time. The message of Jesus is as relevant today as it was during his lifetime. We need God; the world is too much for most of us without God.

To avoid becoming hardened and live fully in a world that troubles us is a Christian calling. It requires allowing our hearts to remain softened toward ourselves and other people. This belief is also shared by Buddhist (and other religious) thought. Here, Pema Chodron, Buddhist monk and teacher, writes about this process:

“When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space. Your world seems less solid, more roomy and spacious. The burden lightens. In the beginning it might feel like sadness or a shaky feeling, accompanied by a lot of fear, but your willingness to feel the fear, to make fear your companion, is growing. You’re willing to get to know yourself at this deep level. After a while this same feeling begins to turn into a longing to be fully human and to live in your world without having to shut down and close off when certain things come along. It begins to turn into a longing to be there for your friends when they’re in trouble, to be of real help to this poor, aching planet. Curiously enough, along with this longing and this sadness and this tenderness, there’s an immense sense of well-being, unconditional well-being, which doesn’t have anything to do with pleasant or unpleasant, good or bad, hope or fear, disgrace or fame. It’s something that simply comes to you when you feel that you can keep your heart open.” 

Invite the living Christ into your heart as you work to keep it open. As Jesus touches our own wounds, we can be his presence in the world as we touch the wounds of others.

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Place to Belong...

By Rev. Jasper Peters, Associate Pastor

I remember the moment when I realized that the church of my youth could no longer be my church home. I had questions that my church wasn't able to answer. No one showed me to the door, but it became clear over time that I couldn't find what I was looking for in that space. I am deeply aware of what it feels like to not belong. 

Even as painful as that was, I know people who've had much worse experiences in church. I know people who had similar experiences, except they were shown the door. They were told that they did not fit, were not welcome, and could not belong. 

Yet, we can look to the example of Jesus. He invited those who had been rejected, those who were broken, those who thought they had everything, and they all walked together. His was a radical and limitless invitation. What's more, He reoriented their lives with a call for justice. He invited them into a Kingdom that did not yet exist, and then gave them the tools to create it. This new world, this place where God's love and justice reigns, is a place where all may belong. 

This is something Trinity has tried to do since its inception. Our church has grown into a regional beacon, drawing members and attendees from dozens of miles around each week. We now have the opportunity to share much of that wisdom, experience, and love for God in a new endeavor that is focused on a much smaller geographic area. Trinity has been invited to share in the birthing of a new church community. The call is to act first at a parent entity, and later as a partner congregation. As a parent, Trinity might lend the expertise and stability of experience boards, helping to guide the new congregation. As a partner, Trinity might engage in collaborative ministry opportunities, working to discern creative ways to bless and serve our neighbors. 

This new congregation will be called Belong. It is a community that is intentionally diverse, accepting of all, and focused on promoting justice. We will be located in what is currently St. Paul's UMC (scheduled to close at the end of May 2016). We will begin weekly worship in early 2017. I recognize that this news might present more questions than answers. In the coming months, we will have opportunities to ask questions as a community, and to seek God's presence and will together. In the meantime, I am happy to answer any questions that I am able, so feel free to call or email. 

Yours in Christ, 

Rev. Jasper

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