In the heart of Missoula...


Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors
Celebrating God's love since 1871

"Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors" is not just an advertising slogan, but a statement of how First United Methodist Church of Missoula wants to be seen in our community. First Church is a community of open hearts seeking to be a force for God's grace in the "heart" of Missoula's downtown. We are an open minded congregation, respectful of each other yet unafraid of the issues of our time. And we are a church of open doors, welcoming a wide diversity of people to be a part of our congregation. For those who can't manage our stairs you will find the elevator just inside the street level entrance to the right of the stairs. You will always find a place at First United Methodist Church!
Please visit us at 300 E. Main Street.


Check out our new Facebook page. We hope you enjoy it.

Reconcilling logo
We welcome all people into the full life and membership of this congregation.



star Church will start at 8:30 and 10:30 during the school year.
Sunday School: Children 3-12 will leave the sanctuary following the 10:30 children's Sermon for Sunday School, except for the last Sunday of the month.

clockDaylight Savings time begins March 8th

Communion is held each Sunday and all attending are invited to God's Table to share in the meal.
sermonby our minister Rev. John Daniels.
Nursery care will be available to those 5 and under during the services.
There is always a coffee/fellowship time in the Narthex following the service.

You are invited to join us!


On Sunday Choir practice is in the chapel next to the sanctuary at 9:00 and the Faith and Justice Class will meet downstairs at 9:15. Other adult classes on Tuesdays.

newsletterfor complete details of all that is happening this month in our church.

New Member Classes - First UMC will be holding new member classes Thursday evenings from  7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Church Parlor starting on Feb. 26th.  These classes will be not only for those interested in becoming members of the church, but also for those with questions about the Christian faith, church life, the Methodist denomination, and why we do what we do in our church.  The class runs for five sessions, with group input shaping potential Sundays for reception into the church (for those who wish to join).  If you are interested in this class, please contact the church office at 549-6118 or e-mail at FUMCMissoula@gmail.com.  We hope you will join us!

March 6-8 - UMW Women's Event, Fairmont Hot Springs Registration

March 8 - Daylight Savings Time begins
March 12 - Ruth Fellowship, Parlor 10 a.m.
March 12 - UMW joint meeting at Grace UMW 1 p.m.
March 13 - Friday Night Out, Mahoney's 6 p.m.
March 15 - One Great Hour of Sharing during worship
March 24 - Book Club Meeting 11 a.m.
March 29 - Palm Sunday

Our church is handicap accessible through the street level door on the southeast corner of the building. There is an elevator there that will bring you up to the sanctuary or take you down to fellowship hall. We have large-print bulletins with hymns, large print hymnals, and hearing assistance devices for those that are hard of hearing.
We also have video screens for hymns and scripture. Ask the ushers for help when you arrive and they will find what you need.
Office phone and E-mail contact information on the CONTACT US PAGE.

The life of our church includes:
(Click on colored words to find out more information.)
Adult Spiritual Growth - class descriptions, online class information and
links to The Book of Discipline
Children's Ministries - You Tube Christmas program video
Youth Ministries - FUMY
U of M Wesley Foundation - Facebook link
Amazing Grays - Trips for seniors
Choirs - Chancel Choir, JuBELLation Handbell Choir, Children's Joyful Noise Choir
Foundation - donations and scholarships
Membership - joining the church
Stephen Ministers - caring for one another as we journey through life
Information on what a Stephen Minister does and training information.
UMW - United Methodist Women schedule and fellowship group information UMW
UMM - United Methodist Men
Social Action - Family Promise, Poverello, Habitat for Humanity, Intermountain, UMCOR
Walk to Emmaus - Link to their website

Reaching out with love to our community and the world hearts
Tzedakah Pocket
Poverello noon meal 5th Saturdays
Family Promise Host
January MIC Food Bank Drive
Wesley House
Host for Homeless Connect
East Angola Pastor Support
SERRV & Fair Trade Products
Intermountain Home
Flathead Lake UMC Camp
Blackfeet United Methodist Parish
United Methodist Women’s mission projects
YWCA Battered Women’s Shelter
❤ Cub Scouts
Habitat for Humanity

John Daniels Pastor John Daniels

  On July 6, at 9:30 a.m., we welcomed John Daniels as FUMC’s new pastor. Many will recognize Pastor John as the former Western Mountains District Superintendent for the Yellowstone Conference. His July 6th sermon served as an introduction of the new pastor from the DS. You may also recognize his wife Terri, who sings in our choir, and his children Emily, Molly and Ethan. Emily has one year left at the University of Montana, where she is studying music education. Molly is pursuing degrees in journalism and theatre at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. Ethan is a student at Sentinel High School. He would like to attend UM and get a degree in a technical field associated with computer graphics.

You Tube video
Retired ministers Hugh Herbert and Barry Padget lead the congregation in singing
Brother Van's Harvest Time. Click on the arrow above to start the video.

Pastor: John Daniels
Administrative Assistants: Sharon Jackson and Rhanda Johnson
Treasurer: Leslie Lindley
Financial Secretary: Kay Duffield

Custodian: John Schaff
Nursery Attendants: Faye Gibson, Audra Clark & Juliette Viera
Junior Nursery Attendants: Sophia Clark, Kade Hedahl, Kayla Leavell, Madison Lightfield and Austin Means

Music Team:
Greg Boris, Music Director and Chancel Choir Director
Peter Edwards, Pianist/Organist
Brynn Bellingham, Handbell Choir Director
Rhanda Johnson, Joyful Noise Director

hospital **Please let the office know if you or someone in our church family needs a visit in the hospital or at home.
Church Office (406) 549-6118
or Pastor John's cell phone (406) 396-8966.

Office Hours (subject to change - call 549-6118 before coming in or to make an appointment with the pastor)
Monday - Friday: 9 a.m. - noon.

Angolan Pastor Leon Kapumba

Pastor Leon Kapumba is one of the pastors that the people of Yellowstone Conference support.  Your support makes his ministry possible and that makes a difference for many people!

Pastor Leon Kapumba serves God at the Cavungo UMC in Alto Zambezi, which is located in Moxico District.  There are about 115 people in his congregation. 
In the villages nearby, Pastor Leon has started what he calls four missions, what we might call house churches.  He goes to these villages at least twice a year on foot.  He has no transportation.  In each of these ‘missions’ there is a lay preacher. 
     Pastor Leon is married and has 4 children, 3 of them are in school and one is a baby.  He pays school fees for them to attend.  It’s very important to him that his children have an education.  He has finished the 10th grade.  Besides being a pastor, he works at the saw mill.  Sometimes they have trouble getting trees to use for lumber.  He regrets that he does not have the tools he needs that he could do this kind of work on his own. 
     His church, which is made up entirely of subsistence farmers,  encouraged him to become a pastor and attend the Course of Studies at  Quessua.  He is in his second year of studies. 
     When asked how we can pray for him he said: “ I feel blessed that I can serve God and my neighbors in this way.  Pray that I will be able to continue learning and serving.”


First Church loves music and hopes you will come not only to listen but to participate in it! We sing hymns as well as praise songs, often have special music and enjoy all three of our choirs. Choirs practice from September till May.
We love those who volunteer to provide special music during the summer. Call the office if you would like to bless us with your music.

Chancel Choir
FUMC Chancel Choir will begin the fall season on Sunday Sept. 8th.  Enthusiasm and love of music a must.  Previous experience is not required.  Choir meets Sundays only at 9:00 a.m. before service.  All are welcome.  Please join us!  For more information talk to choir director Greg Boris 239-1828.

JuBELLation Handbell Choir

Interested in learning/playing a new musical instrument? JuBELLation Handbell Choir, based at The First United Methodist Church, is looking for individuals interested in learning or experienced at playing handbells this season!  There are several ways to get involved and be part of this fun group!  Openings include: Full Time, Part Time, and On-call positions. During the school year practice is each Wednesday from 6-8. For more information call Joann Wallenburn at 677-4424.

bunnyJoyful Noise Children's Choir

All children from the 1st through the 8th grade are welcome to participate in making a Joyful Noise. During the school year they participate in worship once a month and rehearse on Mondays from 6:00 - 6:45 p.m. Contact Rhanda Johnson in the office (549-6118) for more information.

Adult Spiritual Growth Groups
Do you feel like you are on a spiritual journey? We hope you will allow us to walk with you on this journey and together we will find the answers to our questions. Fall classes will meet on Sunday morning, Tuesday morning, Tuesday evening and Wednesday evening. Click on the blue button below for details.
 adult ed

Interested in online adult classes? Click on UMC classes for more information.
Looking for a specific Bible Verse? Click on Bible Verse Search

The Book of Discipline is available online for your study and review: The Book of Discipline Index, The Book of Discipline Part 1,The Book of Discipline Part 2 and The Book of Resolutions 2012 Part III.

Children's Ministries
Sunday School meets during the worship service, right after Children's Time and is for  Preschool - 6th grade. Our Rock Solid program is a
Bible study that enables children to experience God through Jesus Christ.  Activities will include stories, crafts, music and scripture. 

Call the church office (549-6118) for more information. Nursery care is available for those not ready for preschool. kids christmas 2013

You Tube You can watch a You Tube video of the Twelve Days of Christmas given by the children during church December 8, 2013.
 Click on the You Tube logo.

First United Methodist Youth Fellowship (FUMY)
7th through 12th grade students meet most Wednesday evenings from 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. from September until May.
They do service projects, make discoveries about themselves and others, and have fun!

Wesley Foundation - University of Montana Campus Ministry
New to Campus? Connect with us! Campus Connection
The University of Montana Wesley House is located across the street from the campus and Miller Hall at 1327 Arthur Avenue.
College students and visitors are welcomed to stop by for a vis
it. Sunday evenings are family style dinners and Thursday evenings are a Bible Study.
For more information E-mail the Wesley House or Phone: (406) 274-3346.
Join us on facebook
Local Churches: Please send the names of U of M students from your local church to the Wesley Foundation
so they can be invited to join the
Wesley House activities.
Students are welcomed at either First or Grace UMC in Missoula.

UMW logoUnited Methodist Women
Our UMW is part of the Yellowstone Conference, which covers Montana, 1/2 Wyoming and a slice of Idaho.
You can find information on Conference and District UMW activities on the conference UMW web page.
March 6-8 - UMW Women's Event, Fairmont Hot Springs Registration and Scholarship Forms

The National organization of United Methodist Women also have a website full of information, news, and resources

Thank you letter from the Blackfeet United Methodist Parishes for the 2014 Christmas Boxes

. UMWUMW is open to any woman who would enjoy the companionship of other women and is someone who is dedicated to supporting missions near and far. UMW raises money for mission projects locally, in Montana, nationally and globally. UMW meets the first Thursday Oct-Dec and Feb-May. All meetings are at 1:00 for dessert, program and business meeting, unless otherwise announced in the church newsletter.
Other activities include: Ash Wednesday Soup Supper, July picnic for families who will attend a community band concert at Bonner Park afterward, October Apple Pie sales, and December Candy Sale.
Contact President Klairaine Nichwander 396-1663 for more information.

** UMW Fellowship Circles meet once a month. Nothing compares to a small supportive group of women!

All women of the church are invted to visit groups that interest them.
GEMS Fellowship meets the third Thursday at 7 p.m. in the church library Sept-May
This group of working women is particularly interested in the UMW Reading program and are supportive of one another.
Chair: Laela Shimer 721-1960

L.A.N.S. Fellowship meets the second Monday at 11:30 a.m. for lunch at a restaurant from Sept-Dec and Feb-May.
They are women Living Actively in the New Society. They are interested in social action in the community as well as fellowship.
Chairman: Ellie Barnes 549-1384
RUTH Fellowship meets the second Thursday at 10:00 a.m. in the church parlor Oct-May.
They invite you to come and share their fellowship, coffee, a monthly program, and outreach to church members who need a little TLC and support of missions like the YWCA Battered Women's Shelter.

Chairman: Kay Duffield 543-6722 or Judy Whiddon 258-2719
VESPERS Fellowship meets the third Wednesday at 1:00 in homes Sept-May
They have been meeting together for a long time which has led to many long friendships. They invite you to their program and meeting.
Chairman: Kay Norum 721-5750

**Special Interest Groups:
Book Group meets the fourth Thursday at 11 a.m. in the church library
year round.
Co-Chair: Laurie Ball 926-1252 & Jackie Krahn 543-3979
Knitting Group meets on Saturdays at 10:00 in homes year round.
Chairman: Carole Addis 721-1817

UMMen logoMen's Fellowship Group
The Mighty Methodist Men meet 1st & 3rd Saturdays, at 8 a.m. in the Church Library.

Stephen Ministry ChurchSM logo
We participate in Stephen Ministries, where trained Stephen Ministers walk with those whose lives are in turmoil for one reason or another.
Stephen Ministers also help with prayer requests each Sunday and serve communion. Anyone in our church family can request a Stephen Minister for themselves. We hope to offer a new class to train Stephen Ministers. Members of the congregation are encouraged to consider doing the 50-hours of training and helping others in this way. As a Stephen Minister you often find tools to help in your own life as well as nurture your care receiver.
What is a Stephen Minister?
Call Kay at 543-6722 or Peg at 542-1543 for more information.

Amazing Grays
The Amazing Grays are a group of church members who have been blessed with some gray hairs. They get together once a month for companionship and an enjoyable time. They go out to dinner, have a pot-luck and game night at the church, a holiday party or sometimes make a day trip by bus to some place in Montana. Friends are always welcome. Rides will be provided for those who no longer drive. Participants may sign up following church for the current activities.

New Members are received throughout the year. To learn more, please contact Pastor John Daniels by stopping by or calling the church office at 549-6118.
New Member class currently under way.


Missoula First United Methodist Church Foundation:
Donations and bequests to the Foundation are used for charitable giving, scholarships and fulfilling the church's mission. Brochure with more information on charitable giving and bequests to the Foundation is available by clicking on Foundation Brochure.
Foundation Scholarships: The Foundation offers two scholarships each Spring. The Foundation Scholarship is for an active member of our church and The Katie Payne Scholarship is for a woman pursuing a nursing or medical arts career or a career in law, government or public service. Click on the blue scholarship name above for the application.
The packet containing your application, transcript, and two letters of recommendation must be postmarked April 15th or earlier.

Walk to Emmaus Fourth Day groups for men and women also meet at the church. Walk to Emmaus weekends for men and women are held each spring. Please check out the Walk website at: www.WesternMTWalk.com
Members from other Walk communities are welcome and encouraged to help with the Walks, come to Gatherings and join 4h Day groups.
More Emmaus Community Information from Upper Room.

Social Action - Love in Motion

We give of our time, talent and gifts to local agencies such as Poverello and Family Promise, to state agencies such as the Blackfeet Parish and the Intermountain Home in Helena, to national missions through mission shares, and globally we are supporting a pastor in Angola with a monthly check. We are also a Jubilee Church to help poor countries with their debt.

Family promise logoFirst United Methodist Church of Missoula is part of 19+ churches who are working to house 3-4 homeless families with children. For more information or to volunteer please contact Barbara Blanchard Mahoney at 493-6713 or go to their website: http://familypromisemissoula.net/

I was hungry and you fed me...
Come feed God's people lunch 4 or 5 times a year at the Poverello Center.
We work at the Pov whenever there is a 5th Saturday.
Call the church office to sign up (549-6118).

We are a church partner with Missoula's Habitat for Humanity We invite you to join us for a work day! Contact the office at 549-6118 for more information.

Intermountain is a nationally accredited non-profit organization. They provide mental health and
educational services to effectively meet the diverse needs of children and families facing emotional challenges. Their primary services include: residential treatment, community-based services, and community trainings. Operating for more than 100 years, Intermountain is one of Montana’s oldest child welfare agencies.

We care about others. We participate in giving relief to victims of natural disasters through UMCOR. Our church gives generously to those affected by natural disasters like hurricanes and tsunamis and will continue to support UMCOR when it heads to new disasters.

Special Days. Special Ways. We reach out to the world with Special Offerings

Human Relations Day -February
One Great Hour of Sharing - March
Native American Ministries - April
Peace With Justice - May
World Communion - October
United Methodist Student Day - November
For more information go to: www.umcgiving.org



Sermons by Pastor John Daniels and others

3-1-15  8:30 service Rev. John Daniels

The Hardest News to Swallow

Scripture:  Mark 8:31-38
Theme:  Sometimes we are faced with news we’d do anything to change.  Yet, if it is the truth, if it is from God, it is what we need more than anything else.  It shocks us, yes, but it also prepares us for what God intends life to be.  And this is our place – to be recipients of that which is true, no matter what package it comes in.

About one year ago, while I was serving as a District Superintendent, I received some bad news.  It came in the form of an e-mail message to me from a parishioner in one of the churches I oversaw as a Superintendent.  It was a scathing, angry e-mail accusing me of not caring about her church, about caring more for the bigger churches in our district than for a church as small as hers.  This person exclaimed, and I quote, “You would never treat a large church like you treat ours – waiting until the last minute to find a pastor for our congregation.”
I was incensed.  She had conveniently forgotten that they had said “no” to two possible pastors for their church, without a clear reason why.  She had conveniently forgotten our discussion of how her church had explicitly said they could not support a full-time pastor, but wanted a full-time pastor nonetheless.  She had conveniently forgotten that I had met with them every month for five months in order to work out the details of leadership change – I spent more time with them than almost all of the other churches in my district.  And, she had conveniently forgotten that I had told them we had a candidate for them, someone who was willing to come and be introduced, but that it would take awhile longer – but would still have this person in place in time.
So, I wrote out an appropriate response to her, in an e-mail reply.  This is what I said:  “Dear so-and-so, YOU ARE WRONG; not only are you wrong, but you are really wrong, categorically wrong, methodologically wrong, so wrong you  can taste it, so wrong you can smell it.  You redefine the word “wrong” by how wrong you are; if you weren’t so very wrong, it would be laughable.  You are wrong in the sense of being incorrect, off-base, out of alignment, skewed in perception, profoundly delusional, subjectively in error, distinctly inaccurate, and ultimately contorted in understanding.  Thank you for your message; signed, District Superintendent John Daniels.”
(Too strong?)
NO, NO, I DIDN’T SEND ANY SUCH MESSAGE – BUT I SURE FELT LIKE IT AT THE TIME.  I felt like setting her straight in a shocking, angry manner, much like the tone of her message – but I knew that was not going to help.  Instead, I sent a caring message acknowledging the difficulty of waiting for a leader; I reminded her kindly of the good work that we all had done and the progress to-date; and that we had a candidate ready to be scheduled for an introduction.  Her next message to me was very conciliatory, apologizing for her first e-mail, mentioning she hadn’t realized our progress so far, and thanking me for spending so much time with her congregation.  I thusly took her off of my District Superintendent black list (no, there is no such thing!)

Have you ever had such a message, one that shocked and dismayed you?  Have you ever wanted to lash back, to deny and counter what was said, to say, “NO, YOU ARE WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.”?  This, in a sense, was the same kind of thing Peter was facing, albeit for a much more serious bit of bad news.  “Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”  THIS WAS NOT IN THE PLAN, Peter must have thought.  This was not the deal they signed up with; this was not in the agreement.  This was God; this doesn’t make sense.  And so, Peter did what probably any of us would do – he began to rebuke Jesus; perhaps not so much Jesus, as he rebuked or resisted the possibility of such bad news coming to pass. Read more...

3/1/2015 10:30 Service Sermon by Daniel Viehland, a delcared candidate for the ministry who is currently working with Pastor Barry Padget. He will be entering a seminary in the fall.

First of all, thank you Pastor John and the congregation for giving me this opportunity to speak.

Often, when I hear the phrase “good Christian” it is used as a synonym for “good person” but with more prayer and church. But when I read this passage, I don't hear Christ calling Christians to be “good people”. It seems he is calling us to be something more, to be Christlike. Christ is asking Christians to “take up their cross”, to “lose their life” for Christ. It is scary imagery, particularly paired with the scenes of torture and death coming a few chapters later.

What I believe Christ is telling us is that being “good” isn't enough. Christ is calling us to something much more radical, much more disruptive. Christ is asking us to put down our swords, our greed and hatred and jealously, and take up our cross. Christ is calling us to abandon our ego and humble ourselves. He is inviting us to walk his path, a path of transformative love.

This isn't a light thing to ask. It is scary. Peter certainly didn't like it. When Christ announced what was coming next, Peter “rebuked” him. We aren't told exactly what that rebuking sounded like, but I have a theory. Peter was likely scared. I wonder if this rebuke may have been one of caution, warning Christ, “Come on Jesus, cut it out. Don't talk that way. Quit your rabblerousing for a minute. Don't give them an excuse.” But Christ didn't just wave this concern away, he equated Peter to the devil himself, chastising Peter for allowing his human failings, his fear, to get the better of him.

We all have the voice of Christ in our minds at times. We all, also, have the voice of Peter, asking us to be cautious, to calm down, to move forward with fear or greed instead of love. Often Peter's voice is much stronger. We are given a chance to feed and clothe those in need and we worry about what we want. We see a homeless person walking toward us and we cross the street. We, and this is perhaps more autobiographical than I would like to admit, prejudge people and separate ourselves from one another based on what country we live in, how we see the Bible, and who we vote for. We are wronged and we react with anger, hatred, and even vengeance. We, as a people, have enough money for torture, for lethal injections, and for an arsenal that can destroy all God has created a dozen times over. Yet the hungry go unfed, the sick unhealed, and Christ sleeps alone in the street. Indeed, Peter often seems to speak most loudly in the halls of power.

In this passage Christ mentions the “Gospel.” We, in fact, call all four of the books concerning the life of Jesus, the Gospel, or “Good News.” Now, so far, this does not sound like very Good News. We are asked to follow the example of a savior who was tortured and killed by the people he came to save. So here's the good news:

Like it did with Christ, something happens after we take up the cross. Christ isn't inviting us to death, he is inviting us to a greater life. He is inviting us to give up the greed and fear that weighs and preys on us and trust in perfect love, in the kingdom that dwells in each of us. He is inviting us to live simply to ensure all have enough. He is inviting us to consider at every moment how our actions affect others. Christ is calling us to renounce our right not just to seek retribution against our enemies but to renounce our right to hate them, to love in the face of unimaginable evil.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu once asked a political prisoner, a victim of an oppressive regime, if he had forgiven his torturers. The victim responded, “Of course not.” Tutu said to him, “Then it seems they still have you in prison, don't they.” Christ knew this truth. He knew that forgiveness, charity, and perfect love sets us free, makes burdened souls light.

I know this well from my own experience. A few years ago, I went through a tough time. I had a falling out with someone I cared for deeply, and I was angry and hurt. It was the kind of anger and hurt that can ONLY be aimed toward someone you care about. What weighed heaviest of all was the guilt I felt for the things I had done that contributed to the break, for all the ways I had hurt that person. At times I found it hard to love myself, and I often would take my frustration out by complaining about all the ways they had hurt me. I focused on it, and let it eat at me for over two years. The anger and hurt was so bad it affected my relationship with God. But during Lent last year I decided that it was time to let go. For Lent I decided to, instead of saying unkind things about her, I would celebrate the positive impacts she had on my life.

As Lent went forward, I noticed something strange. Although I'd been steadily healing for the past two years, that was the moment I truly began to forgive her. In the process I began to forgive myself. The old part of me, the angry, bitter part, began to wither and die. And as Lent drew to a close, I was reborn. I was I felt less and less angry. I was happier. I found more joy in everyday life. I spoke to God more often, and I was able to hear God speaking louder in my life. I picked up my cross, and was reborn to a closer relationship with God.

When John Wesley was a fairly young man he got a job at Oxford University. He suddenly found himself making a comfortable income.

Wesley was paid 30 pounds a year then, and he cut back on expenses. He spent 28 pounds on his own sustenance, and saved two pounds for the poor. As the years went by, his income increased greatly, but his expenses barely budged. Eventually, he was a very rich man, making 1400 pounds a year, a princely sum in those times. But his expenses remained modest, as he spent just enough for his family to live simply but comfortably, and gave the rest to those in need. In the end, he gave a vast percentage of his income to charity. He said, “Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?”
John Wesley lived his belief, setting down the yoke of greed and taking up the cross of hope.

On the morning of October 2, 2006, a man named Charles Carl Roberts walked into an Amish school in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. After a short hostage standoff, he started shooting, killing 5 young girls and wounding 5 more before taking his own life.

The Amish families were faced with unimaginable tragedy. But they knew they were not the only one's grieving. Roberts had parents, a wife, and three young children, a family reeling not just from his death but the horror of the acts he committed before he died. Within hours they reached out to the family with a simple message, “We must forgive.”

As Roberts' father sobbed, one Amish man held him, comforting him. When money was raised for the victims of the shooting, the Amish shared the money with Robert’s family. When Roberts was buried over 30 members of the Amish community came to his funeral, and his widow was invited to a funeral of one of the murdered girls. They cast off the sword of anger and took up the cross of forgiveness.

In 2008 I participated in a prayer vigil for inclusion of the LGBT community at the General Conference of the United Methodist church. As dark fell a group of men showed up. They were extremely imposing, with shaved heads and builds like lumberjacks. They began to stand near us, screaming homophobic slurs.

But something incredible happened. Our numbers began to swell. People who walked by us and avoided eye contact earlier in the day saw what was happening, and stood with us in solidarity, praying. The display of ugliness seemed to force people to decide where they stood, and they stood with us.

One woman probably 70 years old and less than 5 feet tall, with a frame that looked like it could be blown away with a strong wind, came shuffling past and gave us a thumbs up. One of the men, who had a good 2 feet and 100 pounds on her, stood in her path. He leaned down, got in her face and screamed, “Do you believe in sodomy?” She looked him in the eye and yelled, “What?”
“Do you believe in sodomy?” he asked again, standing toe to toe with her, looming over her, threatening to engulf her.
“What?” She yelled.
“Do you believe in sodomy?” He screamed.
She looked up at him with an expression that showed no hint of fear, toe to toe with him, eyes locked, gestured at us and simply said, “These are children of God.” With that she shuffled around him and off into the night, rejecting the darkness of fear and taking up the cross of love.

If we mean to Christ seriously, we must take his message seriously. We must pray a little more, and fear a little less. We must seek opportunities to serve, without trumpeting our service to the world. We must seek to understand another's pain, even while we struggle with our own. We must learn to see those different than us not as the enemy but as fellow children of God. We must love and give without questioning the recipients’ worthiness. We must learn to forgive those who wrong us, from the guy who cut us off in traffic to those who threaten our very lives. We must take up our crosses and learn to, in the words of John Wesley, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

So, it is up to us to be the Christ we want to see in the world, to preach the Gospel through our actions, to prove to the world we are disciples of Christ not just through creeds or sweet words but by our love.

Together, we can change the world. We can beat swords into plowshares. We can feed the hungry, free the prisoner, and bring good news to the oppressed. We will carry the light that cannot be overcome with us, chasing away the darkness.

God knew that we are not perfect creations. She gave us free will, the ability to make our own choices. The beautiful thing about God is that she loves us no matter who we are, no matter what we have done, or what we have left undone. But God sent Christ to proclaim a path to a better life, a radical messenger to light the darkness. We must open ourselves to that light, letting it set our hearts on fire until the darkness is chased away and we live up to the Prayer of Saint Francis,

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


2-22-15 8:30 sermon by Rev. John Daniels The Pledge of a Good Conscience
Scripture:  I Peter 3:18-22
Theme:  One of the greatest gifts we can receive in this life is what is called a “good conscience” – in this lies the doorway to true peace, worthy goals, clear discernment.  How to achieve this?  Wonder of wonders, we can work this, it is given to our ability to create a clear or good conscience – we can “appeal for” or “pledge to” or “response of” a good conscience.  And this appeal, pledge, or response is something we can move towards as in the manner and spirit of Baptism – clearing our minds (lives) of what is wrong, filling them with what is right.

         Today is the first Sunday in Lent; we enter a period of forty days of preparation to once again embrace the miracle of Easter.  And Lent means many things to many people.  For us Methodists, Lent means a rigorous period of forty days where we eat nothing but bread and water, spend three hours a day in solitary, passionate prayer; attend at least three weekly bible study classes, give away 20 percent of our money to charity; and go to church seven days a week, for morning and evening devotions.  Right?
         Not right.  We don’t do these kinds of things much anymore.  But as Christians, we recognize that to follow our God, to be the kind of people God intends for us to be, to worship God in Spirit and in Truth, we need to work at becoming prepared.  And Easter is such a momentous event, the pinnacle moment when God not only told us, but demonstrated to us, the extent of his love for each one of us, that we perhaps need more preparation than at any other time of the Christian year.
         And so we have the season of Lent, preparing us for Easter once more.  We take steps to clarify the air of our spirits, to clean our hearts and prepare our minds, in the attempt to embrace more fully the true revelation of Christ.  We confess, repent, humble ourselves, study, worship, pray, and otherwise devote ourselves to the deepening of our faith in Christ.  And today, in our scripture lesson, we hear of a very tangible and relevant aspect of our preparation – we pledge to produce a good conscience.
         That’s a very small sentence – “we pledge to produce a good conscience” – that carries with it a huge implication for starting the Lenten journey right.  In different versions of the Bible it says it in different ways – in the New Interpreter’s Bible it says that in baptism “we pledge, or respond with, a good conscience towards God”, whereas in the New Revised Standard Version, it says “we appeal to God for a good conscience.”  Regardless, the message is clear – in order to be faithful to God, we need to nurture and grow a good conscience.
Why this is important came to me as I recalled a recurrent event in my past.  When I was growing up, my family made annual car trips across the country.  We traveled everywhere – one year, we went to New York, one year we went to Vancouver, British Columbia; one year, we went to Florida.  We made cross country trips to North Carolina, Tennessee, California, Arizona, Texas, and Missouri.  Every trip was full of different sights, scenes, and experiences, except for one.  One experience was always the same.  I think it happened every single trip.
There we were, on the day of departure.  Car all packed, rushing to make an early start somewhere around 8am.  Last minute items were checked, last minute phone calls made, last minute snacks and games placed strategically in the car.  Finally, we were off!  And then, within the first hour of being on the road, it would happen.  My mom and dad would be in conversation up in the front of the car, and one or the other would ask that horrifying, heart dropping question – “DID YOU CHECK THE ______________?”  The blank could be iron, water, lights, furnace, or any number of usually electrical appliances.  “DID YOU CHECK THE _______________?”  And there would be silence.  Deadly silence.  Horrible silence.  Silence that meant the answer was either “No, I didn’t check it,” or “I thought you checked it.”  And it always resulted in the same thing.  After a few of those brief interchanges, brakes would squeal, profanities would be muttered under the breath, the steering wheel would turn, and off we went back to home.  You see, we had to find out if the iron, the stove, the furnace, the WHATEVER was still on.  More often than not, everything was fine at home, but there were a couple of times an iron was left on, or a light was burning brightly.  Letting those things go for a couple of weeks would not have been a good thing.  And once they had checked the lights, the iron, the stove, etc., and knew they were off, our vacation would have its second, much more peaceful start; our journey would begin with that most important of aspects for any journey to be worthwhile – it would then begin with peace of mind.
This was peace of mind for my parents – WE COULDN’T START THE JOURNEY UNTIL THEY WERE SURE THE BASICS WERE COVERED.  It is very much like peace of mind for the Christian – WE CAN’T START THE JOURNEY TOWARD EASTER UNTIL WE ARE SURE THE BASICS ARE COVERED.  And the basics for the Christian begin with repentance.  The acknowledgment of things we’ve done wrong.  The motivation brought to life to do what’s right.  The pledge of a good conscience. 
Now, I think it’s important to deal with this term a little bit deeper, in terms of what people mean by a good conscience in general, and what Christians are to understand, for there is a difference.  Most people, when they think of having a good conscience, think in terms of relativity – “I have a good conscience IN COMPARISON to other people; I haven’t murdered anyone, haven’t stolen, cheated, or been violent; I pay my taxes, I don’t abuse people, and I’m rather a pleasant fellow to be around.  I have a good conscience.”  Well and good; but the Christian “good conscience” is IN COMPARISON to God’s expectations of us.  We are called not simply to refrain from doing bad, but are called to do good.  We are not to kill, steal, cheat, lie, or hurt others, but this is only one side of the coin.  We are to go further, to heal, love, give, share, forgive, reach out to, and care for others.  We are to confess our hidden faults; we are to treat bad thoughts in the same way as our outright transgressions; we are to live according to the spirit and letter of the law, God’s law.  We can never be content by saying we are better than someone else; for we are called to rise to God’s idea of good.
         OK, here’s my question of the day given to you.  HOW IS YOUR CONSCIENCE?  It is totally clear?  Is there anything nagging at you, something in the hidden recesses of your heart, that keeps you from inner peace? 
We’re going to do something along the lines of what we have done before in this congregation.  I’m going to ask you to take a conscience inventory with me this morning.  I want you to do this exercise with me, but understand that what you share will be only between you and God – no one else.  This is one of those exercises where you will get out of it exactly as much as you put into it.  I want you to close your eyes, and recall some things in your mind and heart.  Take inventory of what rests there, in the following way:
I want you, first, to think of any regrets you might have; things you wish you hadn’t done, things you wish had not happened to you.  Search your mind and heart for any regrets you may have.
Now, I want you to think of any grudges you have against anyone.  If you are holding a grudge, or a bad feeling, towards someone, especially if you are convinced that it is justified, recall that grudge now.  Play it over in your mind.
Next, I want you to think of anything you might have done which was ethically uncertain, anything that you have done in which you weren’t sure if it was right or wrong.  It was hazy, it was confused, it was uncertain.  Recall anything of that nature.
Consider now any moment  in time when you weren’t straight with someone, when you told anything from a white lie to a dark betrayal, when you were dishonest with someone who trusted you.  Recall such things.
Lastly, think of things which you knew you probably should have done, but avoided.  A person you detest needed help, but you maneuvered around them; a cry for help which you justified in your mind was too great for you to answer; a moment when you could have, should have, might have, but didn’t.  Bring these to mind.
         Now, open your eyes.  How do you feel?  What’s going on in your mind?  What’s happening in your heart?    Now, it is possible that someone here couldn’t think of any regrets, any omissions, any wrongs, any bad thoughts at all.  Possible, but not likely.  And if you feel uncomfortable doing this kind of thing, be thankful to God.  This is proof that you do have a conscience, and that it desires improvement of the spirit and life.  This is something planted in us by God, something we acknowledge as we call him Lord.  We are unsettled in life if we are unsettled in heart. 
C.S. Lewis put it this way: “Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, ‘If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realize that this also is God.’  The Christian replies, ‘Don’t talk damned nonsense.’  For Christianity is a fighting religion.  It thinks God made the world – that space and time, heat and cold, and all the colours and tastes, and all the animals and vegetables, are things that God ‘made up out of His head’ as a man makes up a story.  But it also things that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.” (Mere Christianity, p.37-38)
         So, let’s practice putting things right.  Let’s practice setting our consciences straight.  There is no magic formula, no special words, no proper terminology or actions that we must perform, save this – SHARE THESE FAILINGS WITH GOD.  Share the enemies of good conscience with God.  Lift them up, BUT ONLY IF YOU’RE READY FOR CHANGE.  For to truly acknowledge the challenges of conscience means to engage in a spiritual wrestling match, grappling with what has been put on the shelf and left alone for too long.  The pledge of a good conscience – indeed, the very existence of a good conscience – depends upon listening and following its counsel.

Let’s practice this.  Let’s close with that exercise again.  Close your eyes, and think along these lines, like before.
I want you, first, to think of any regrets you might have; things you wish you hadn’t done, things you wish had not happened to you.  Search your mind and heart for any regrets you may have.  And speak to God in your heart, “Lord, lift these regrets from my heart.  Help me to learn from them, and to grow from their experience.”
Now, I want you to think of any grudges you have against anyone.  If you are holding a grudge, or a bad feeling, towards someone, especially if you are convinced that it is justified, recall that grudge now.  Play it over in your mind.  And speak to God in your heart, “Lord, help me let go of the things I hold against others.  Help me to forgive, and move on.”
Next, I want you to think of anything you might have done which was ethically uncertain, anything that you have done in which you weren’t sure if it was right or wrong.  It was hazy, it was confused, it was uncertain.  Recall anything of that nature.  And speak to God in your heart, “Lord, help me to move beyond my uncertainty.  Show me your choices in my life; help me to follow your counsel before the world’s and before my own.”
Consider now any moment  in time when you weren’t straight with someone, when you told anything from a white lie to a dark betrayal, when you were dishonest with someone who trusted you.  Recall such things.  And speak to God in your heart, “Lord, show me how to make honesty my center, in all things, with all people.  Where I can make amends, move me.  Where bridges have been burned, forgive me.  Where I meet the temptation again, strengthen me.”
Lastly, think of things which you knew you probably should have done, but avoided.  A person you detest needed help, but you maneuvered around them; a cry for help which you justified in your mind was too great for you to answer; a moment when you could have, should have, might have, but didn’t.  Bring these to mind.  And speak to God in your heart, “Lord, help me to follow the truth you have laid in my heart, and trust more in your will than my own.  Become my motivation when my heart fails; move me through Christian love.”

Dr. B. H. Carroll
Write thy name on my head
that I may think for thee;
Write thy name on my lips
that I may speak for thee;
Write thy name on my feet
that I may walk with and for thee;
Write thy name on my ears
that I may listen for thee;
Write thy name on my heart
that I may love thee; 
Write thy name on my shoulders
that I may bear loads for thee;
Write thy name on my eyes
that I may see for thee;
Write thy name all over me
that I may be wholly thine -- always and everywhere.


2-15-15 Seeing the Glory of God
Scripture:  Mark 9:2-9
Theme:  How do we see Christ’s glory now?  Can we?  Do we?  Today, we hear the injunction from God – not “make sure you know what he looks like” but “this is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him.”

Back in 1978, a woman named Mario Rubio was rolling out a burrito when she notice skillet burns on the tortilla; to her, the burns resembled the mournful face of Jesus Christ. Shortly thereafter, 8,000 curious pilgrims trekked to the Rubios' small stucco house in rural New Mexico to view the sacred icon.

In 1980, Oklahoma evangelist Oral Roberts spotted a 900 foot Jesus straddling a hospital complex he was building next to his university. Roberts, interpreting the divine image as a plea for financial assistance, appealed to his followers and netted millions of dollars in donations.

In 1981 Christ appeared, crucified, on a garage door in California and drew 8,000 visitors in one weekend.

In 1986, Jesus is found on the side of a soybean oil tank in Fostoria, Ohio.

In 1987, an image of Jesus appeared in the rust patterns on a chimney of a suburban bowling alley in Chicago. Some said it looks like Popeye; others said it was Christ.
In 1988, members of a small Roman Catholic Church in Lubbock, Texas saw visions of Mary and Jesus in the clouds during an outdoor mass.

In 1989 thousands of believers flocked to a home in northeast Harris County in Texas to view a linoleum table top that mysteriously reflects the images of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Sources aren't quite sure.

And, finally, the 1991 Chicago Tribune reported that “Jesus made national news as the centerpiece of a Pizza Hut billboard in Atlanta. Joyce Simpson spotted the face of Christ in the advertisement immediately after praying for a divine sign. She couldn't decide whether to stay in the church choir or quit and sing professionally. The shadowy image of Jesus' face in strands of spaghetti hanging from a fork meant she should stay with the choir. John Moody, a marketing director for Pizza Hut, said the picture, one of 35 put up in the area, is a standard food photograph that the Wichita headquarters provides franchises. Moody said several people, however, called his office to say they see other notably less religious images in the picture: deceased rock star Jim Morrison, a puppet and Willie Nelson. (Chicago Tribune, May 23, 1991) The face of Jesus has been seen on...



2-8-15  The Art of Touching Another Soul

Scripture:  I Corinthians 9:16-23
Theme:  Paul describes the extent to which we should be willing to go in order to touch another soul with Christ’s love – becoming as they are.  This entails:  1) putting ourselves on hold [BITING OUR TONGUES]; 2) understanding another’s position [ACTUALIZED EMPATHY]; and 3) making their position our starting point [EXHORBITANT FELLOWSHIP]. – joining them in their journey. 

Somewhere out there in the world of Christianity, there’s probably a course in Christianity 101:  The Basics.  And in this course we would find several predictable areas covered – the Bible, the story of Christ, Christ’s wisdom and teachings, the holy sacraments, worship, prayer, Christian service, how to run a potluck luncheon, hymns that are too difficult to sing, where to find the most comfortable pews in a church (can you guess?  IN THE BACK!).  In general, such a class, such a course, would try to cover the most important aspects of being a Christian.
Somewhere in that course, I believe there should be the lesson Paul outlines in today’s passage from I Corinthians.  It is basic to Christianity; but it needs to be taught.  It does not come naturally.  It is one of those things that we must really work at, and practice, if we are to make any progress along its premise.  Yet, it is an essential part of the Christian life.  It is called the Christian principle of accommodation.
  Paul says, in verse 22, “I have become all things to all people.”  Perhaps we are familiar with this teaching.  Perhaps it’s one that bothers us.  To become all things to all people seems to be speaking about standing for everything, and thus standing for nothing in particular, adopting as our own anything that comes from another..
I remember the story about the two people who met at an art show.  “What do you do?” asked the young woman.
“I’m an artist,” said the man.
“I’ve never met a real live artist before,” she said, “This is so exciting.  I always wanted a personal portrait done.  Could you do that?”
“Oh, sure,” said the artist, “That’s my specialty!”
“That’s great!” she exclaimed.  “I do have one special request.  I want you to paint me in the nude.”
“I’ll have to think about that and get back to you,” responded the startled artist.
A few days later he called his potential customer with his decision.  “I’m willing to do the painting as you requested,” he said, “but with one stipulation.  I want to leave my socks on.  I need somewhere to put my paintbrushes.”
Now there’s accommodation, and then there’s accommodation!  But this is not what is meant, and Paul makes it clear – it is from the position of faith in Christ, retaining the integrity of that faith, that he has become all things to all people.
No, Paul is not talking about watering down his faith at all, but he is talking about how to live that faith out in the context of the world, in the manner of Christ’s demonstrated love – we must practice accommodation. 

To accommodate means to see to another’s needs, consider another’s position, to adjust ourselves to the other person’s place, thinking, outlook, or demeanor.  This is the Christian principle of accommodation, and it is expressed this way in the Interpreter’s Bible:  “The gospel, the power of God, always encounters and engages people where they are, where they live, in their social matrix.  Inevitably, the gospel moves them and changes them, but it always comes to them, engages, them, and nourishes them from that very point, as and where they are.”
MEETING PEOPLE AS AND WHERE THEY ARE.  This is the central idea Paul is sharing with us, as an essential aspect of our Christian life – meeting people as and where they are.
          Now, as I was meditating on this lesson, and trying to understand its bearing upon my life, perhaps upon all of our lives, three practices came to mind as very helpful in increasing our accommodation of others.  These three practices, these three habits that we can shape into effective Christian habits that naturally seek to accommodate others are

  1. biting the tongue;
  2. actualizing our empathy; and
  3. engaging in what I call exorbitant fellowship.

[BITING THE TONGUE]  Have you ever bitten your tongue?  And, no, I don’t mean while eating dinner.  I’m talking about the turn of phrase which means holding onto what you’re dying to say because what you’re dying to say would cause a death of sorts – death of communication, death of constructiveness, death of virtue, death of caring relationship.  We bite our tongues when we know that what we want to say shouldn’t be said, needn’t be said, or dare not be said, because of the receptivity, volatility, or vulnerability of someone else.  If you want to put it another way, we Christians choose to bite our tongues when we become aware of their potential to damage ourselves and others.  
I believe there is great wisdom in tactfully biting the tongue.  The story is told of that great artist Michelangelo that illustrates this lesson well -- "When Michelangelo had completed his great sculptural work called "David," the Gonfaloniere Soderini of Florence who had ordered it came to inspect his purchase.  Among his other criticisms he objected to the nose, pronouncing it to be out of all due proportion to the rest of the figure, and added, that he wished some reduction should take place in its size.  Michelangelo knew well with whom he had to deal; he mounted the scaffold for the figure upwards of twelve feet high, and giving a few sonorous but harmless blows with his hammer on the stone, let fall a handful of marble dust which he had scraped up from the floor below; and then descending from his station turned to the Gonfaloniere with a look expectant of his approbation.  "Aye," exclaimed the sagacious critic; "now you have given it life indeed."  Michelangelo was content, and receiving his four hundred scrudi for his tasks, wisely said no more.  It would have been no gratification to a man like him, to have shown the incapacity of a presumptuous critic like Soderini. (Anecdotes, #1101)
This act of biting the tongue can avoid a struggle, put off a fight, keep emotions stable, and allow for another’s growth.  It is an art, for it takes development and experience to know when and where to bite it, as well as how hard to bite down. 


But I believe the biting of the tongue is an essential part of accommodating others – to consider what our words could do to them, to think about how others will hear and understand – or misunderstand – what we might choose to communicate.  Sometimes, it is essential to hold back our speech, for the sake of another.  I like how Dorothy Nevill said it:  “The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” (Speaker’s, p.70)  This is the Christian way.
[ACTUALIZED EMPATHY] – The second practice that helps us to accommodate others is what I call actualized empathy, or acting upon the empathy we experience towards others.   Essentially, it means to move from awareness of what another is experiencing to engagement of their experience. 
I remember a story about a young man who was lost.  He was trying to find a remote golf course for a tournament he was scheduled to play in.  It was very far away from familiar territory, but he had received very detailed instructions from his uncle, who knew the area very well.  However, it was night when he got lost, and he had completely lost his bearings.  He had driven all night, even asked a couple of gas station attendants for help, but still he was totally lost.  Finally, as the sun rose, he found himself calling his uncle.  “Uncle,” he said, “I’ve tried to follow your directions, I’ve even asked some gas station attendants, but I have to tell you, I’m completely lost.”  “No, you’re not,” said his uncle.  “Yes, I am,” said the young man, “I have no idea where I am.  I’m lost.”  “No, you’re not lost,” said the uncle.  “You’re just not where you ought to be.  NOW—TELL ME WHERE YOU ARE.”  The young man began telling his uncle of the sights around him – a convenience store across the street, a restaurant called Maggie’s, and a hill off to the north.  “That’s enough,” said the uncle, “I know exactly where you are, and can tell you how to get to the golf course.”  And he did just that.
YOU’RE NOT LOST – YOU’RE JUST NOT WHERE YOU OUGHT TO BE.  TELL ME WHERE YOU ARE.  This is the practice of accommodation – to begin by empathizing with what another is going through, and then consider and take the steps that lead in the right direction.  To move from the emotion towards the life to engagement in the life is the goal.  This, too, is the Christian way. 
[EXORBITANT FELLOWSHIP]  Lastly, another way to consider the Christian principle of accommodation is through the practice of what I call exhorbitant fellowship.  What on earth, you may be thinking, does Pastor John mean by “exhorbitant fellowship?”  I’m glad you asked.  Exhorbitant means “exceeding the bounds of custom, propriety, or reason.”  It means going the extra mile, hauling the extra load, bearing the extra burden, waiting the extra hour.  The key word is “extra.”  To be with someone in fellowship in extra-ordinary ways is perhaps the strongest way we may accommodate who they are and what they are going through.
Mr. Bacchus was my earth science teacher in Junior High.  Let me tell you about Mr. Bacchus.  He was the epitome of a straight-laced, formal, proper, even dignified teacher.  He taught us by the book, kept us on track, he cut no corners, was direct in his directions, and firm in his firmness.  As an example – he would regularly drill us on the proper way to affirmatively acknowledge an aspect of his articulation – he drilled us as a class on the proper way to say yes.  I remember him many times telling the class – “we do not say yeah, or yup, or uh-huh – we say “yesssssss.”  Precise.  Clean-cut.  Direct.  Clear.  That was Mr. Bacchus.
It is here that I must pronounce that I was terribly traumatized in my youth.  It doesn’t show?  You’re not sure?  Well, I hope it doesn’t show.  Anyway, one day, not only I, but my whole earth sciences class was terribly traumatized by, you guessed it, Mr. Bacchus.  Something unbelievable, something absolutely incredible happened one day, and it shocked all of us profoundly.  Like usual, we had come to class that day and taken our places.  As usual, Mr. Bacchus came into the room once the bell had rung.  As usual, he said, “Good morning, class.”  As usual, we started to say “Good morning, Mr. Bacchus,” but I think we only got to “Good morninnnnn…..”  We stopped.  We stared.  Most of our mouths dropped open.  We couldn’t believe our eyes.  For you see, our Mr. Bacchus, our proper, precise, formal, direct Mr. Bacchus…(I can hardly bring myself to share this with you!)  Our Mr. Bacchus was wearing an earring!  How uncharacteristic!  How unusual!  How un-Mr.-Bacchus!  We were literally speechless.
Now you must understand that this was back in the ‘70’s, when such a thing was quite a shock.  In my town, in my school, in my class, this would seem to rank right up there with Watergate, or McCarthyism, or some such national scandal.  Mr. Bacchus could tell we were shocked; our silence was deadening.  But then he did something else out of character – he told us a personal story.  I’ll never forget it.  He told us about his son, and about how the two of them had been struggling to understand each other.  He said that most recently, his son had put an earring in his ear, and that he, as his father, had protested, telling his son that it was something he shouldn’t do.  But then his son had asked him, “how do you know?” and he realized that he didn’t know, that perhaps he wasn’t being fair to who his son was, and what was important to him.  And then, as father and son, they made an agreement – Mr. Bacchus would also wear an earring.  Not that he wanted to, mind you, but that something was more important to him than appearances or properness.  He would try out the earring for the sake of his son.  And he wore that earring for the rest of the year.
Exorbitant fellowship means to do things for the sake of the relationship we desire with another – ON THEIR TERMS.  It means to begin by asking what it is that will help, nurture, encourage, and uplift another, and to really follow through on these things, even if they are distasteful and uncomfortable to ourselves.  We do this out of the premise of Christian love, stretching ourselves for the sake of another.  This is what Paul did for others; this is what we are to do as well.  This, also, is the Christian way…
Sometimes we need to bite our tongues. 
Sometimes we need to move from emotion to engagement. 
Sometimes we need to wear the other person’s moccasins, the other person’s earring, the other person’s life for awhile. 
For the Christian life is a life of accommodation in many ways.  We are not our own possession, says Christ; we are to become that which will further our walk with Christ, and with each other.  Like Paul, we need to “become all things to all people” when it serves the furtherance of God’s will.  And it is in the practice of such accommodation that we, like Paul, may we experience why we do such things – “We do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that we may share in its blessings.”


2-1-15 The Virtue of Forsaking Liberty

Scripture:  I Corinthians 8:1-13
Theme:  Yes, we are our brother’s keeper – what we do does influence others, does impact the world around us, and ultimately affects our relationship with God (God who loves others, whom we are to love, and thus complete the triangle, circle?)
        Awhile back, I got something in the mail that made me think about our scripture passage today.  It’s something probably all of us have seen every now and then.  A credit card company sent me one of those offers too good to refuse.  Sign up and you’ll receive low interest rates, high credit cap, no annual fee, no monthly balance, a cure for warts, freedom from annoying neighbors, a combination hangnail remover and lint shaver, etc. etc.  What caught my eye was on the outside of the envelope, in big letters, by the side of a picture of a man riding a bicycle along the beach.  There, it said, “It’s all about you.” Read More


1-25-15 The Responsiveness of the Divine

Scripture:  Jonah 3:1-5, 10

Theme:  We all have certain genes inside our body which scientists have finally identified:  there is the procrastination gene, the reluctance gene, and the avoidance gene.  We each have these in us; and Jonah did too.  But we must realize these are the most useless of genes; it is ignoring them that the peace of obedient response may arise.

         Some of you know that I have a degree in Civil Engineering.  This implies that I acknowledge, appreciate, and even enjoy the realm of science.  This being known, it is perhaps not surprising that I was recently studying a medical journal, whereupon I came across an article that described some new discoveries in the area of biology that I thought were quite interesting.  It seems that they have identified three new genes as to their specific function within the body.  Each one of these genes has been directly linked with tendencies towards certain behaviors.
         The first gene, called the distracticus divertrica, has been definitively linked to an impeding influence within the hominid specimen upon the motivational tendencies to undertake certain actions.  The second gene, called the maximonious hesitantilia, has been connected to the innate disposition of human beings to actively engage in rerouting strategies and replacement practices.  And the third gene, called the transportious rapidoppositicous, has been related to the natural disposition of many to displace themselves from proximate zones of intense or perceived challenge.
         I had to work hard to translate all of that into terms I could understand.  The first gene, the distracticus divertrical, is better known by its common name, the procrastination gene.  The second gene, maximonious hesitantilia, is better known as the reluctance gene.  The third gene, transportious rapidoppositicous, is better known as the avoidance gene.
We’re just built this way; we have an excuse.  And I am so happy to share this information with you, so that we may all go about our business, and not feel badly when we procrastinate, when we are reluctant to do something, or when we avoid our responsibilities.

         Let me pause for just a moment to let you know something.  I have not spoken a true word since I began my sermon this morning.  I made those genes up.  There is no such correlation, no such genes, no such tendencies linked to them.  BUT WOULDN’T IT BE NICE IF THIS WERE TRUE?  There would be some validation to our efforts to avoid the difficult, the challenging, the burdensome.
         Take, for example, this desire as found in Jonah.  Now, we all know a bit about Jonah.  Ask any child who has been taught the basics of the Bible, and they would tell you what about Jonah?  Jonah was the one…..(who was swallowed by a fish).  But the real lesson about Jonah is that he epitomized resistance to God’s call.  Jonah sought to avoid the command of God, and when he could no longer avoid that call, he fulfilled it only reluctantly.  He finally told the Ninevites that they would be destroyed by God for their evil ways.
         Today, I’d like to bring to your attention something that is easy to miss.  It has to do with the reason Jonah fled in the first place.  It has to do with his resistance to the call of God.  Many of us have mistakenly believed that Jonah fled because he was afraid of proclaiming the wrath of God to the Ninevites, that when this prophet stood before them, he might be chased from the city, or beaten, or killed, like so many other prophets of God before.  Jonah is unique, however, in that he flees the command of God – BECAUSE HE IS AFRAID GOD WILL SHOW MERCY TO THEM.  In chapter 3, verse 10, it says, “When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; but this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry.  Jonah prayed to the Lord, and said, “O Lord!  Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country?  That is why I fled;…for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.”
         This is a major case of sour grapes.  Jonah didn’t want God to be merciful to the Ninevites; he wanted God to wipe them out!  He ran because he feared God’s mercy for others. 
Jonah could find no peace because he didn’t agree with God’s verdict, and wanted wrath instead of mercy.  Now, this is strange, we might think, to flee from God’s mercy, to not want God to bless someone that is undeserving. 
The question of the hour then is this:  do we ever do this kind of thing?  Do we sometimes think God shouldn’t bless certain people?  Do we sometimes believe that God should share good things only with people who are faithful, virtuous, kind, truthful, or somehow purer than others?  Do we ever want God to be partial, to be particular with his forgiveness, his mercy, his blessing, and his love?  Do we ever find ourselves wishing that God would conveniently get rid of people we find we don’t like?

I need to prepare you for what I’m going to say next.  I’m going to begin speaking about a person in my past, a person whom I knew in junior high and senior high – and I’m going to call him a name.  A four-letter name.  I need to ask your forgiveness beforehand.  This person’s name was David.  Here’s the part where I call him a name; ready?.........David was a jerk.  A real pain in the neck.  He was arrogant, rude, pompous, greedy, and obnoxious.  I know, because I was the object of his torture.  From about the eighth grade until eleventh, David made it his task to attack me with his words, gestures, threats, and swearing.  I never did figure out why; we never knew each other very well, we never talked, never did anything together.  Slowly, over time, David just came to hate me for nothing I knew I had done.  And others told me the same thing about him – he was mean to them, called them names, sometimes threw rocks at them or something like that.  David was a jerk.
David tried out for the high school basketball team – and made it.  This was no small feat in a high school of 2,000 students.  This was unfair, I decided.  Jerks shouldn’t be allowed to play basketball for my high school.  David also began dating the most popular girl in the school.  This was also unfair, I decided.  Jerks shouldn’t get to date popular girls.  David aced an English course I struggled with.  This, too, was unfair, I decided.  Jerks shouldn’t be smart.  On and on, my resentment grew as David continued to be a jerk who continued to be blessed.  Where’s the fairness in this?
Have you ever known a David?  Someone who got all the breaks but didn’t deserve them; someone whom we know has an untidy past but a clean-looking present; someone who has wronged us but goes on as if nothing bad happened, or is under the mistaken belief of their own superiority, or has the arrogance to presume others deserved their ridicule and taunting.   Someone, in our eyes, who did not deserve good things.  I think we all knew or know a David, we all knew or know Ninevites, in our lives.  And we likely resent the good things that come their way.  We have much in common with Jonah along these lines.
         Now comes the hard lesson given to Jonah, given to us, in light of these people we call to mind:  We are never to begrudge God’s choice of who to bless with his forgiveness.  We are poor judges of merit; there are those who may seem undeserving, but perhaps they have the greater need for blessing.
         I can’t help but wonder if this wasn’t the case for David.  My hatred of this person did not abate, but his hatred of me did.  In about the eleventh grade, for no reason I could tell, David stopped being mean to me.  He stopped calling me names, he stopped threatening me, he stopped glaring at me with anger in his heart.  I don’t know why.  But I do know some other things about David.  His life was not all roses.  He had a pretty tough family life, I discovered.  He had a lot of people who didn’t like him.  He didn’t do too well on the basketball team, sitting on the bench much of the time.  I didn’t know many details, but I realized that he was a person who probably had a lot of gaps in his life he was trying to fill.  Perhaps he needed good things in life much more desperately than myself; perhaps he had made some real decision to change as a result of seeing a better way; maybe he discovered that the natural course of hatred leads only to greater emptiness and animosity, and decided to try kindness instead.
         Anyway, one day, during my volleyball class, in which David was on the opposite team from my own, we were in the middle of a pretty good volley.  I remember making a fairly good play – I think it was a spike – which the other team missed.  And then David said it.  He said it to me.  Loud enough for pretty much everyone to hear.  He said, “Good shot.”  I was stunned.  Just like that, it seemed his hatred had stopped, his anger over.  I never heard another mean thing from him.
         Who is deserving of God’s blessing?  Only God may judge.  Whom does God choose to forgive?  Anyone who truly asks.  Whom does God ask for us to reach out to, with forgiveness in our hearts and love in our souls?  ESPECIALLY those who are angry, afraid, hurt, wounded, empty, self-destructive, sinful, and suffering.  Call them Ninevites, call them David, call them your enemy, call them unworthy, unrighteous, unlikeable, unloveable – and then, cast those labels aside.  THEY ARE THE ONES WHOM GOD LOVES; THEY ARE THE ONES GOD WANTS US TO LOVE.  It is once we respond to God’s call that we can find the peace that Jonah seemed to miss – the peace of having pleased God. 


1-18-15  Who?  Me?
Scripture:  I Samuel 3:1-20
Theme:  Sometimes we don’t want to hear the truth.  Sometimes we know it’s going to hurt.  But the truth is ultimately the only thing that sets us free – and freedom in this sense is peace of mind, calm of heart – the peace that knows, the calm that is aware.

Yesterday, we held our second Vision Retreat for this church.  A vision retreat is a gathering of leaders in our church for the purpose of long-range planning – a time of looking down the road of the future for our church.  Our guiding question is:  “WHAT DOES GOD WANT US TO DO OR BE?”, and we spend time listening for the voice of God, through each other, through ideas, through brainstorming, through presentations, and of course through prayer.

I’d like to let you know what I think I heard God telling this church to do and be in the future.  For one, I heard the voice of God say that the church ought to budget for a pastoral visitation vehicle, a vehicle which is efficient, quick, with great gas mileage….in other words, a motorcycle. Read more...


1/11/15  The Drastic Measures of God’s Peace
Scriptures:  Mark 1:4-11
Theme:  Remembering Christ’s baptism gives us opportunity to think about the nature of baptism being an act acknowledging and receiving God’s grace.  The peace that comes from repentance is perhaps the greatest sign of this reception – not the kind of peace which leads to an uncomplicated or stress-free life, but the kind of peace that knows to whom we belong, and who will remain with us. 

They say that peace results from finishing what you have started.  So yesterday, I finished off a large bar of chocolate that we had opened around Christmas, an entire box of junior mints from a stocking, and the last of the gingerbread cookies in our house – about eight in number.  I have to admit, I felt an increased sense of peacefulness.
There are many forms of peace, aren’t there?  Finishing what one begins is just one such form.  Being quiet is another.  Immersing oneself in things that soothe and comfort, such as music or poetry, can also calm the soul, and give one a sense of peace.
And then, there are other forms of peace that have less to do with personal peace than with global or even universal peace.  These are the kinds of peace that come when violence is ended, when justice is served, when hatred is replaced by love, when reconciliation is substituted for revenge. 
Today, we have an image of peace before us.  “The Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.”  It’s a beautiful image.  It pairs the peaceful image of a delicate creature associated with gentleness and hope with the shared presence of God. 
Grace and peace.  The two go together; the moment speaks clearly to this.  But how?  How does this work?  What kind of peace are we talking about?  Peace is often described as the most sought after but rarest occurring state on earth.  We are a violent, disturbed, complicated, and wound up world, where peace is so fleeting, so difficult to come by, let alone maintain.  We only have to look towards France, or Syria, or Nigeria, or even Missoula, Montana, to see that violence has a loud voice in our world.
A former president of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and historians from England, Egypt, Germany, and India have come up with some startling information: Since 3600 B.C. there have been 14,351 wars, 3.64 billion people killed, 1656 arms races and 8,000 peace treaties broken in violence actions.   $2.95 x 10E17 worth of property destroyed (this equates to $295,000,000,000,000,000 -- $295 quadrillion).
World peace is rare; indeed, it can be readily argued that world peace is an impossibility.  It would seem that the best we can hope for is to work toward a greater peace than there is now.
But it is a different matter to consider the kind of peace that I think Christ received in that baptism moment.  He received the Spirit of God like a dove.  To me, this says that it was the peace of God that he received.  It is this peace that the Christian pursues.  For without this peace, none other is truly possible.  Read more...

1-4-2015 Faith’s Re-Directive Tendencies
Theme:  The story of the Magi speaks of one of the main tenets of faith – its propensity to encourage re-direction.  From the moment when they heeded the star and the message in their dreams, to the first declaration of Jesus and his ministry of repentance, the message of God’s incarnation invites divergence from what was toward what is and shall be with God.

        I came across an interesting bit of news the other day that I wanted to share with you.  It concerns this individual (Rafael Antonio Lozano, Jr., now known as “Winter”).  Winter is a freelance software programmer and consultant who, in 1997, announced that he intended to visit every single Starbucks store in the world.  For each location to "count" he would drink "at least one four-ounce sample of caffeinated coffee from each store READ MORE


12-24-14 Christmas Eve Message

Christmas Eve Sermon:  What is it?  How does it work?  Is it important to my life?
Since this is the season of levity and joy, since our hearts have been strangely warmed again at this time of year, I thought it might be most appropriate if we took a moment to play a game together; it’s called “What is it?  How does it work?  And Is it important to my life?.”

What is this?  This is a toothpaste squeezer;
How does it work?  It works like this: (overhead);
Is it important to my life?  It is not considered a necessity of life, but can help with that last annoying bit of paste at the end of the tube. Read more of the message...

12-21-14 The Challenge of God’s Favor 

Scripture:  Luke 1:26-38

Theme:  With God, rules change, impossibilities happen, and mystery wins.  Faith means to trust more in God’s impossibility than in our own possibilities.

Today, I would like to share with you something that is impossible.  I am going to make liquid flow uphill.  (demonstrate)
Impossible – but true. (explain)

Here are some other things that might seem improbable or impossible, but are true:
Maine is the closest U.S. state to Africa.
Anne Frank, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barbara Walters were born in the same year, 1929.
Cleopatra lived closer to the invention of the iPhone than she did to the building of the Great Pyramid.
Russia has a larger surface area than Pluto.
Saudi Arabia imports camels from Australia.
Hippo milk is pink.
The last time the Chicago Cubs won the baseball World Series, the Ottoman Empire still existed.
Humans share 50% of their DNA with bananas.
There are more stars in space than there are grains of sand on every beach on Earth.
There are more atoms in a glass of water than glasses of water in all the oceans on Earth.

The truth is indeed stranger than fiction, sometimes.  We know this in our own lives, the many times we have been surprised, the times we experienced extreme “coincidences,” the times we saw something happen that was beyond belief. 
Probably everyone here has experienced more than one time when what we thought was impossible, actually occurred.

Impossible things, such as a hole in one on the golf course, do sometimes happen.
Impossible things, like acing a math test, do sometimes happen.
Impossible things, like finding out you have all the ingredients for a recipe actually in the cupboard or refrigerator and don’t have to run to the store, do sometimes happen.
And then, there are bigger impossible things that sometimes do happen.
Impossible things, like congress acting in a bi-partisan manner, do sometimes happen.
Impossible things, like the children actually cleaning up their room when asked the first time, do sometimes happen.
Impossible things like your husband actually putting down the toilet seat, or picking his dirty clothes off the floor, do sometimes happen (yes, I am speaking from personal experience here, according to my wife).
Impossible things, like your pastor keeping worship from running over time, do sometimes happen.
And then, there are even bigger, even more impossible things that sometimes do happen.
Impossible things, like being forgiven of something you did to someone else, do sometimes happen.
Impossible things, like forgiving that person who hurt you so, do sometimes happen.
Impossible things, like discovering the cancer is gone, the broken heart has healed, the addiction has been broken, the anger has dissolved, the application has been accepted, the despair has lifted, or the animosity ended, do sometimes happen.

Impossible things, like an insignificant fourteen or fifteen year old girl shackled by poverty and living in a backward land in an oppressive time being chosen by God to take part in the dramatic intrusion of the divine into human affairs for the radical transformation of the world, do sometimes happen.

The Christmas story is the story of God’s favoritism for the impossible.  In fact, he does his most amazing work in the area known as impossible.  Some would go quickly to the impossible physical feats attributed to God and Jesus in the Bible – the parting of the waters by Moses, the chariot to heaven for Elijah, the walking on water by Jesus, the raising of the dead by God’s son, the resurrection of Christ.  But I think there are greater impossibilities that God works with everyday, all the time, whenever we take God’s lead and replace hatred with love, replace isolation with connection, replace knowledge with faith, replace tension with trust, replace criticism with compassion, or replace apathy with justice.  If you work with a variety of people regularly, you’ve seen how impossible these kinds of trades can be.  BUT THEY DO HAPPEN, SOMETIMES.
And where they happen, I think God is most visibly alive.  For this is the character of God – that he lives in the twilight zone between reason and mystery, that he is most active in the shadows that lie between human strength and human frailty, that he occupies the space between the stark horrors of darkness and the profound joy of light.  That’s where he met Mary, on that day so long ago, and that’s where Mary met God, in her willingness to trade the security of the knowable for the challenge of the impossible.  For God so often dwells in the impossible; and through the impossible, all that is possible arises.  This is God’s bottom line – as our scripture lesson puts it from the angel Gabriel – “for with God nothing will be impossible.”
The author Madeleine L'Engle's wrote a beautiful verse reflecting God’s invitation to have faith in God’s repeated embrace of the impossible:

This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There'd have been no room for the child.

We need reason; it is an essential tool that we possess as human beings.  But sometimes, reason can get in the way.  Logic, though it can guide so much of life in so many needed ways, can sometimes miss the obvious.  Though we need to rely upon our senses to inform us of what is real and true, the perception that sometimes results might not be accurate.  There are many other, less concrete ways in which we discover what is truly valuable in life – ask anyone who has loved another, who has cared beyond what was expected, who has given of themselves sacrificially for the benefit of someone in need.  None of these altruisms make sense in the realms of reason, logic, or the world’s self-possessed eyes.  But these are often where the greatest experiences of life are found; this is often where people have discovered hope that is not bound by understanding; this is often where meaning is unquestioned.  Impossible – but true.
 I would like to leave you this morning with an insight shared by Frederick Buechner in his book, The Hungering Dark:

“Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of him again.  Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be sure where he will appear or to what lengths he will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his wild pursuit of man.  If the holiness and the awful power and majesty of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly and earthbound but that holiness can be present there, too.  And this means that we are never safe, that there is no place where we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from his power to break in two and recreate the human heart because it is just where he seems most helpless that he is most strong, and just where we least expect him that he comes most fully.”


Can I share with you one last story that, at least for me, expresses this well?  That where the principles of God’s will and desire for his people are acted upon to shape life, impossible things regularly occur? 
 Under a cultural-exchange program, Alan Abramskeay and his family in Roanoke, Texas, were hosts to a rabbi from Russia at Christmas time. They decided to introduce him to a culinary treat that was probably not available in his country: They took him to their favorite Chinese restaurant.
Throughout the meal, the rabbi spoke excitedly about the wonders of North America in comparison to the bleak conditions in his homeland. When they had finished eating, the waiter brought the check and presented each of them with a small brass Christmas-tree ornament as a seasonal gift.
They all laughed when Abramsky's father pointed out that the ornaments were stamped "Made in India." But the laughter subsided when they saw that the rabbi was quietly crying. Concerned, Abramsky's father asked the rabbi if he was offended because he'd been given a gift for a Christian holiday.
He smiled, shook his head and said, "No, that’s not it.  I was shedding tears of joy to be in a place where a Buddhist gives a Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu!" (5)
Impossible?  Not for God.  And not for those who trust in God.  Even when things seem impossible.  Especially when things seem impossible.  God makes all things possible.


Listening to Wilderness Voices
Scripture: John 1:6-8, 19-28
Theme: Many Christians believe that the point of faith is to receive a “faith tan” – receiving what God offers in Christ as a gift meant only for us, a gift to be received to our satisfaction, our security, our benefit. The problem with this is that the gift of Jesus and his love, as designed, as intended, was meant to be both received and shared; you cannot keep it to yourself for it to be real. Otherwise, a kind of spiritual skin cancer grows – cancerous in the sense of that love, meant to be reflected to others, becomes an object of possession, rather than distribution. For Jesus to be real, Jesus must be shared.

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”

Who here likes light? Especially as the fog of this past week seems to still be lingering around? Especially as the nights get longer and longer? Especially as the beauty of this season shows forth brilliantly in the light displays in yards and houses and stores. But – things can get out of control, can’t they?

“John the Baptist came to bear testimony to the light…” says our scripture lesson today. This is the light of God in Jesus his Son. It is a light needed by the world. Yet, things can get very out of line regarding this light, and how it was designed to be shared with all by those who receive its radiance – for so very often it is received but not shared, gloried in but not used, praised over but not lived in.
This last week, as I was basking in the radiance of the Christmas spirit – full of light and peace and hope-- I came across a quote that stunned me. The quote had to do with this:
Here is what it said: “Many Christians are preoccupied with tanning themselves in the radiance of Jesus – to sit in the light of God, allowing its radiance to warm, comfort, and encourage their own personal journey in this world. But just as too much time basking our bodies in the sun produces skin cancer, too much time basking our own spirit in the light of Jesus can produce soul cancer, resulting in the paradox of a self-serving faith. The light of God was meant for all – we receive its fullness only as we give it away.”
This brought to mind a story I wanted to share with you, written by Robert Fulghum about a true life experience he had. The story is called Life as a Fragment of a Mirror.

Life as a Fragment of a Mirror by Robert Fulghum
Author Robert Fulghum (All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, and It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It) tells this story of one of his professors, a wise man whose name was Alexander Papaderos:

Many years ago, I was attending a two-week seminar on Greek culture; the seminar leader was Dr. Alexander Papaderos. During the last session on the last morning of the seminar, Dr. Papaderos turned and made the ritual gesture: “Are there any questions?”

Quiet quilted the room. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now, there was only silence.

“No questions?” Papaderos swept the room with his eyes.
So, I asked.

“Dr. Papaderos, what is the meaning of life?”

The usual laughter followed, and people stirred to go.
Papaderos held up his hand and stilled the room and looked at me for a long time, asking with his eyes if I was serious and seeing from my eyes that I was.
“I will answer your question.”
Taking his wallet out of his hip pocket, he fished into a leather billfold and brought out a very small round mirror, about the size of a quarter.

And what he said went something like this:
“When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.

“I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine–in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.
“I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child’s game but a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light–truth, understanding, knowledge–is there, and it will only shine in many dark places if I reflect it.
“I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world–into the black places in the hearts of men–and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life.”
And then he took his small mirror and, holding it carefully, caught the bright rays of daylight streaming through the window and reflected them onto my face and onto my hands folded on the desk.

You and I are fragments of a mirror whose whole design and shape we do not fully know. Nevertheless, with what we have we can reflect light into the dark places of this world – into the black places in the hearts of people –and change some things in some people. This is who we are as followers of Jesus. This is the meaning of our lives.

(The story ends this way…..hand out mirrors)

12-07-14 Children's Christmas pagaent - no sermon.



7-6-14 - A Final Word from the District Superintendent

Scripture:  Colossians 1:1-14
Theme:  The DS has some insights on the new pastor appointed under his watch – and there are concerns!  But not if we remember what God has said to us consistently, constantly, as reflected in today’s scripture – we share in the inheritance of the saints in the light; we are given the opportunities to grow in the knowledge of God; and God is with us every step of the way. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-XElA0vVI98c/UDUjEPHYqzI/AAAAAAAAuQQ/tg42yGZ4X3k/s1600/harley_davidson_2013_breakout_cvo_in_pagan_gold_paint_marks_110th_anniversary_up5af.jpg

Recently, I made a request of our Bishop Elaine Stanovsky – that she would grant an extension to the position of Western Mountains District Superintendent until 10:30am, July 6th, 2014.  She graciously extended that privilege, and so I stand here before you as the Western Mountains District Superintendent for the next 25 minutes.  I felt this was an important request to make, for as District Superintendent overseeing the new appointment to this church, the First United Methodist Church of Missoula, Montana, I needed to raise up to your awareness some things about your newly appointed pastor.  I am uniquely qualified to make commentary, I believe, for I know this new pastor fairly well – we talk on a regular basis, and have done so for over 40 years.  Let me put it to you directly – there are some things you really ought to know about him. Read more of the message


First United Methodist Church of Missoula / Kay Duffield, Webmaster (hart2u2@yahoo.com)