from Pastor Sharon
May 16, 2019
Researchers claim that learning begins in the womb. How we learn, what we learn, and when we learn it are all variables that impact who we grow to be. When we stop learning, we stop
growing. Lifelong learning is essential to staying limber of mind and spirit, and provides
enrichment to our being. One might call it the elixir of life.
May is the traditional month of graduations; of recognizing the successful completion of a season of learning. It’s an exciting time, and we are so proud of those among our family of faith who will be achieving educational milestones.
This year, we celebrate four graduates:
Della Almind BA from Webster University in Spanish with minors in Education and French
Toni Micelli Masters of Public Health from St. Louis University with a conentration in Epidemiology
Camille Nunes Graduating Diploma from Kirkwood High School
Sophia Schwind Graduating Diploma from Webster High School
We will celebrate their fabulous milestones immediately after worship on May 26th with refreshments and a card shower. A basket will be in the Fellowship Hall for each graduate for your cards and/or gifts of congratulations. Please plan to come and hear about their upcoming plans.
This week, from May 13-17, I will be engaging in some learning of my own by attending the 27th Festival of Homiletics, this year hosted in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Festival is a gathering of 2000 or so clergy folk from many parts of the world, looking for fresh inspiration and to recharge their spiritual batteries. With the theme “Preaching as Moral Imagination”, the week will be filled with amazing preachers, teachers, and musicians. We will hear about 25-30 hours of sermons and lectures in 5 days. Perhaps this is not your cup of tea, but for those of us used to “working” in worship, connecting with the Holy Spirit at the Festival uninterrupted is bliss.
I give thanks for this exquisite albeit compact opportunity for continued learning, and pray that it will enrich my sermons, thereby enriching the worshiping experience of my church.
How are you continuing to sip from the challis filled with the elixir of life?
With Peace in the Risen Christ,
May 9, 2019
Honoring the Women in our Lives
The modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother, Anne, at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Anne Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started and to set aside a day to honor all mothers. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.
The holiday quickly became commercialized, as Hallmark Cards had started selling a line of Mother’s Day cards and candy makers began marketing candy as the perfect way to honor moms. Ironically, Anna Jarvis then organized boycotts of Mother’s Day, and threatened to issue lawsuits against the companies involved. Jarvis argued that people should appreciate and honor their mothers through handwritten letters expressing their love and gratitude, instead of buying gifts and pre-made cards.
Fast forward, and today we still honor and remember our Mothers, many of us with cards, candy, and flowers. Yeah, there’s lots of profits made off the holiday. But sentiment hasn’t disappeared. The point is that we turn our attention to the women in our life who have been supportive and loving, who have shared their lives with us, and in many cases, given us life.
Jesus loved and honored his mother, using nearly his last breath, while hanging on the cross, to ensure her care. To his disciple John, he said, “Here is your mother”. To his mother, Jesus declared, “Behold, your son.” From that point forward, Mary lived in John’s home. Jesus connected with his mother and gave her the gift of love by securing her continued care in a context where an unattached woman would surely become destitute.
There are women in your life that have given you life, physically or emotionally. You don’t have to wait for that one day a year to express appreciation, but certainly this Sunday, they will feel your love through a connection with them. Call them on the phone. Write them a letter, or if you’ve forgotten how to use a pencil, text or email these special women from your heart. Show up for a short visit. Cards, candy, and flowers are nice. But give them the gift of your time, and they will be over the moon.
But I propose we honor these women beyond the holiday by living lives in a way that would make them proud. In the footsteps of Anne Jarvis, continue the work in the world that our mothers and mothers-in-faith did before us. How did they invest their love in the world? Do that.
May 1, 2019
Brothers and Sisters in Christ of Webster United Methodist, I am reprinting a large portion of a recent message from Rev. Adam Hamilton, Lead and founding Pastor of the Church of the Resurrection (COR), Leewood Kansas. The congregation of COR is the largest worshiping United Methodist Church in the United States. Adam has been a very vocal leader for inclusion in our denomination, writing several books (which we have studied) over the last few years to help people understand the scriptural and cultural ba-sis for inclusion. He has now taken a lead role in gathering American church leaders together to fashion a new plan, an inclusive plan, to be presented at GC 2020.
IN THE MEANTIME, your pastor has been very engaged in meeting and hosting many conversations of St. Louis pastors and lay representatives to our Missouri Annual Conference. Together we have discerned a group of fully inclusive persons of all color and stripe, ages and stages, to lift up for election to our slate of GC 2020 delegates. We have developed a strategy to get a fully inclusive delegation elected, and are calling in our retired clergy to help us get it done.
Change is afoot, friends. We are living in a momentous time for the people called Methodists. In a year’s time, a new American Central Conference may be formed within the UMC, or a whole new American Methodist Church may be birthed.
It is also possible that a path will be made so attractive to those who embrace the name of “traditionalists”, (those who oppose same sex weddings and ordination of members of the lgbtquia+ community and are unable to stay connected with those who think differently) that they will exit the Connection, and we can move forward in opening up the doors of our historic denomination wider.
The Holy Spirit is moving in our Church! I am excited to be your pastor during this extraordinary time.
With Grace and Peace
Reflection from Adam Hamilton 4/27/19
Yesterday, the Judicial Council of the UMC (the church’s version of the Supreme Court), ruled on the constitutionality of the various parts of the Traditional Plan passed at General Conference the end of February. As expected, portions were deemed unconstitutional while others were deemed constitutional. As much as some may have hoped the Judicial Council would have ruled it all unconstitutional, the JC has made a reasoned argument that some parts of the Traditional Plan comply with our constitution while others do not. This is painful and disappointing, once more, for those who disagree with the Traditional Plan. But it is not unexpected. The divisions in the denomination cannot be solved by the Judicial Council. There are numerous conversations taking place across the church focused on finding a way forward for United Methodists who disagree with the Traditional Plan. Most United Methodists in the US believe they can remain in a church where Christians disagree on same sex marriage. They have been doing this for years. There are few UM churches where everyone agrees completely on these questions. There are, however, some who cannot remain in a United Methodist Church where any view or interpretation of scripture regarding same-sex marriage, other than their own, is allowed. These self-styled “incompatibility” have said they cannot remain in a church where everyone doesn’t adhere to their interpretation and practice regarding same-sex marriage. The conservatives who hold these views wrote and passed the Traditional Plan. They have said that there is no room for compromise – it is their way, or those with differing views should leave. So, where do we go from here?
It is likely that as long as one side makes no room for compromise or acknowledging the views and convictions of the other, the only path forward is division. What does this look like? 1. One side or the other convinces their churches to leave (the Judicial Council ruled that churches could, in fact, vote to leave the UMC when certain conditions are met). 2. Perhaps there is a new way of staying united that allows for different expressions of Methodism that are still somehow connected and share the name, logo and some central agencies, as Bishop Scott Jones has suggested. 3. There may be a dissolution of the UMC, and the formation of two or three new expressions of Methodism out of the one denomination. These are the three paths forward that I most often hear in the various conversations I’m a part of.
While various groups are holding conversations about these questions, one very broad conversation will be held in Kansas City, May 20-22, for “compatibilists” – those who believe we can disagree about how we interpret scripture while agreeing that we will welcome LGBT persons without treating them like second class Christians. Ten leaders from each US annual conference will be attending this gathering, as well as many bishops, general secretaries and other leaders of the church. [18% of those invited are young adults, 18% are people of color, 12% are LGBT leaders in the church.] There are evangelicals and progressives, men and women, laity and clergy. They will be dreaming about what Methodism should look like going forward, and how we create a dynamic Methodism that welcomes all people, is focused on inviting them to faithfully follow Christ, and inspires them to pursue a passionate personal life of faith while also “doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God.” The 600 participants were selected from over 2,600 people who were nominated or nominated themselves in just a few days from when nominations were announced. The rapid and large number of nominations indicates a high level of interest in this conversation. These persons are from over 2,000 churches indicating, once more, the high level of interest in a better way forward. Conversations will focus on what centrists and progressives believe God wills for United Methodism going forward. The group will look at various paths forward. And ultimately seek consensus on the way forward. Attendees will the. return to their annual conferences to expand the conversation within their conferences. I believe by May 2020 we will have resolved the current division and that there will be a United Methodism for the majority of UM’s in the US who feel that the Traditional Plan does not reflect their understanding of God’s love, mercy or grace. I also believe, with many others, that annual conferences are the key to how things ultimately sort them-selves out. It is likely that annual conferences will vote to align as compatibilists or incompatibilists (something like One Church Plan or Traditional Plan). All like minded conferences will form connections. Churches who disagree with their annual conferences will have the ability to vote to align with a conference that shares their views. This approach shares elements in common with the CCP and Bishop Jones’ suggestions. Again, the Judicial Council decision was not unexpected. The important work for United Methodism will be in the upcoming conversations. For most local churches, little changes. Progressives will continue to do church as they have. Centrists will continue to lead and do ministry as they have. And conservatives will continue to do ministry as they have, regardless of the ruling of the Judicial Council or the passage of the Traditional Plan at General Conference 2019 in February. But this season does represent an exciting moment as Methodists pray and discern where God is leading our church in the future.
April 18, 2019
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.”
Our Flower Cross is one of the long-standing traditions of our church. No one remembers exactly when it began, but everyone loves it. The cross is rough hewn, standing 8 or 9-foot tall, covered with chicken wire. Yea, I know…chicken wire. It’s hard to imagine the potential, but just wait.
On Good Friday, it will be veiled in black, the color of mourning, standing as a stark reminder of the death of Jesus at Golgatha one exceptionally bad Friday long ago. There, in the center of the nave in the Sanctuary, or perhaps outside as a witness to the community, it will be a statement of our faith, a totem of the gospel story, a sermon about the sin of humanity.
For all the darkness it represents on Good Friday, there is yet an aura of hope that it promises. For we know the rest of the story. We know that on the third day, God brought new life to
Jesus. On that Easter Sunday so long ago, the rock had been rolled away from the tomb where Jesus’ body had lain. When Mary peaked inside, it was empty. We know that Jesus was awaiting Mary in the garden, very much alive, having been freed from the shackles of death. We know that God offers that same resurrection power to those who welcome Christ into their hearts and lives. We know.
But not everyone knows. Not everyone has heard the story of the Resurrected Jesus, or heard the promise that God can restore our lives too. Not everyone has experienced the power
stirring within their souls by the ethereal Holy Spirit, who whispers, entices, and invites our hearts toward God. Not everyone has been invited by someone they trust to join the celebration.
Who do you know that needs to experience some Resurrection Power?
Let this be the year that you bring them to meet Christ!
On this Easter Sunday, your guests will be invited to come forward to celebrate at our Open Table of Grace (all welcome!) as we share in the ancient ritual of Holy Communion, bringing with us a flower from our own garden or one chosen from the bouquets at the sanctuary doors. After Communion, show them how to weave their flower onto our flower cross. Children typically cover the bottom 3-feet, while taller folks work above their heads. Finally, the vertically-blessed among us will tackle the top, until the entire cross is covered with an explosion of color! This dark ancient instrument of torture will bloom right before us with delicate new life! That is something to see…and share.
This may be the year that those you care for experience an awakening to God working in their lives. But if you do not invite them, who will?
With expectant joy,
April 11, 2019
You Can’t Get There From Here
Every year, worship planners must figure out what the itinerary for Holy Week, those days between Palm Sunday and Easter, will look like in the church. The task is to bring folks from the excitement of Palm Sunday’s “Hallelujah!” when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, through the throes of his pain and passion of his last week on earth, to the glorious wonder of Christ’s resurrection on Easter morning.
Anticipating that people’s lives are too busy to come back to church mid-week for another service, many churches try to divide the pre-Easter Sunday between the palm welcome and the agonizing crucifixion, all in 60 minutes. What you end up with, in my opinion, is emotional whiplash. Too much really important stuff happened during that week, and the theological and emotional significance takes time to soak in to become part of our spiritual journey.
Other churches have been known to just skip the midweek destinations all together, believing that they’re too depressing; better, in our already anxious times, to keep the worship celebrations cheerful and positive. So they leapfrog from happy Sunday to happy Sunday, with just a footnote about the intensity of emotional passion that Jesus experienced in those days in between.
Well, friends, here’s the deal. There just isn’t any way to get to the joyous pinnacle of Easter morning, if you don’t stop a while and experience the rawness of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and death. You have to travel with the disciples and his mother to the foot of the cross and hear the agony of his whispered prayers. You just have to sit with the sin that kept Jesus on that cross in order to experience the giddy rush of freedom offered by the empty tomb.
Oh sure, if you travel directly to Easter morning, you can still enjoy the flowers, sing the old traditional hymns, and wear your new bonnet. But the goose-bumpity glory and power of the empty Easter tomb in rooted in that wretched cross. If you don’t hang out there first, it will be like watching somebody else’s travel slides instead of experiencing the journey for yourself.
I invite you to “go deep” and to be part of the whole experience of Jesus’ passion. Come to our shared Maundy Thursday Service with our brothers and sisters of Unity United Methodist Church, April 18th, at 6:30pm. This year it will be at Unity UMC, located at 627 Cornell Avenue, 63119, and Rev. Stephanie Leonard will be our host. I will be the guest preacher, and our Chancel Choir will sing.
Together, we will feast at the Last Supper, experience a washing of hands or feet, and then travel that road to the cross with Jesus.
In Christ with you,