Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Sorrow. Grief. 

Once again - the people most hurt, most targeted by so-called Islamic State (IS) / jihadists / are people of the Muslim faith. These were people, families, shopping for the holiday marking the end of Ramadan.


Here is a link to one the most recent updated stories from the BBC about this horrible event:

A horrible reminder that claiming to be of a faith (Muslim or Christian or..?) while carrying out unspeakable acts of violent hatred, does NOT mean that the perpetrators of truly of that faith. In fact - it shows that they are imposters.

It is one of the most insidious tools of evil - to pretend to be good. To pretend to be virtuous. To pretend to uphold "family values", "religious values". It is a lie.

My congregation, my friends, my colleagues sometimes ask in utter frustration and grief - "What can we do? What can I do?"

I have no "cure-all". But I do have the most powerful tool there is. Love. And remember - Love is a verb, an "action word". And that action is not always easy to undertake.

No matter how difficult - we must continue to love and care for and minister to and provide for and listen to and provide for - each other. Whether a friend, a family member or a stranger. We are all neighbors.

While it may seem a small thing - we at Bethel Congregaional Church in Ontario, California will be lighting candles this Sunday, in awareness and remembrance of this and so many other tragedies, and in dedication to following the two greatest commandments.

Come join us. Bring a votive candle, or a tea candle, or a small candle of some kind in a candle holder...Take a stand for love. Come and voice your decision to act in love.

Matthew 22:36-40New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Friday, July 1, 2016

No Compromise - God is for EVERYONE!

As many of you know, I am the Pastor of Bethel Congregational Church, UCC, which is an Open and Affirming congregation of the United Church of Christ. Bethel welcomes everyone, and hopes that we can make a difference in our community. We invite you to be a part of things…
There is a post of ours which features a pic of the church (with the prominent Rainbow Flag “God is Still Speaking,” banner) and for which the caption is: “We are a progressive church open to new ideas. If you have been looking for a church and have not found the perfect one, come make a difference at Bethel.”

In response to that post, we recently received the following comment (copied here verbatim – possible typo and all): “So are the compromising the word of God to bring in everybody?”

I am sharing with you my response, which actually received a “thank-you”. I really hope it helped – I have reprinted my reply at the bottom of this post. Looks like my sermon plans for Sunday may include a bit of adjusting…

And - In the meantime, I am personally inviting every single one of you to come to church, be part of the community, be part of the welcoming love of God, and to make a difference. We need all kinds of people – tall, short, young, old, middle-aged, musicians, parents, grandparents, thin, fat, strong, not so strong, vegetarian, vegan, non-vegan, non-vegetarian, questioning, people who can teach Sunday school, people who just want to be part of a community, millennials, senior citizens, everyone in-between…members who are always there, members who sometimes miss, members who only come “every once in a while”… ALL of you – every one of you, is invited, and welcome. Come find out what’s going on, be a part of it, help plan things and carry them out, or just participate in something now and then. There is a place for everyone in God’s love.

Bethel Congregational UCC The word and love of God are for everybody. Those who hate and exclude people are not following the word of God. We believe that God welcomes all, and that it is our task to fulfill that welcome. Yes, we want to "bring in everybody" - and no - that does not compromise the word of God. It fulfills it.