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. 


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. 


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.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Work of the People

Some odd 2,000 years ago, an interreligious and radically diverse group of social changers gathered together following the life and ministry of a Jewish reformer and planted the seeds for a theology that would eventually overturn the unjust social order of the Roman empire, one of the most powerful that has ever existed. Their gatherings came to be known in Greek as “Litourgia” which literally means “the work of the people.” Their time together was not always easy or natural. Every step of the way there was division, disagreement, judgement, and at times oppression and fighting. In the midst of these difficulties, however, was a foundational belief that by setting aside their individual identities and uniting as one body that openly shared their lives and experiences, they could create a reality that was much more pure and true than the reality that the empire had created for them. They were slave and free, Greek and Jewish, male and female, yet they were all united under the life and message of Jesus. This group would come to eventually be known as the Christians and the church that was born of their public service or “Liturgy” came to represent the continuing of Jesus’ mission on earth. The theology born of this movement advocated for unity in the face of division, love and compassion in the face of hate, understanding in the face of difference, and courage in the face of fear. 

Tonight at 6:00, as part of the new Wednesday Nite Live weekly experience, we are gathering to affirm the power of this practice and embrace the ways in which it can bless our community in this modern world that we live in. Times have certainly changed, but the challenge of finding love and unity in a world so full of division and strife remains. It is our faith that by gathering together in a worship setting that affirms unity in diversity, we can represent a reality that is pure and true in the face of a society that promotes separation and infighting. What we are doing is very ancient, yet embraces the reality of today. Tonight we are blessed with music from Kevin Garman, a reading by Ann Henderson, hymns led by Rev. Linda Marshall on the piano, and a message from 1 Corinthians by myself. Please come join us, open up your hearts with us as we gather together as one body to bear witness to the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. Let this Liturgy, this work of the people, create a new reality built on connection rather than separation. May we be of one heart, though we may not always be of one mind.  

In Christ,
Tom Owens
Pastoral Assistant

Tom will facilitate a weekly lay-led worship experience from 6:00–6:45 p.m. in the Sanctuary as part of Wednesday Nite Live. If you are interested in participating, contact Tom at towens@trinityumc.org