Centerport United Methodist Church
The Pastors' messages comes from the March issue of our monthly church newsletter - The Focus.

Turning to God



Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.                                  ~ Philippians 4:6 
    
February has been anything but ordinary. From the first days, of our extraordinary Souper Bowl of Caring event serving our community, to the unanimous affirmation of Pastor Wayne in his candidacy process, to the tremendous support of our Dominican Republic Team. There truly has been remarkable moments during the past month in the life of our local church.  
However, the love, peace, and community we have been experiencing has not been evident everywhere outside of our local church. From the constant questions surrounding our US government, to the lack of agreements between nations, to the weather emergencies that are becoming more intense every year, there is a lot of pain, turmoil, and grief. Our own denomination is not any different.  
This past week, the laity and clergy delegates from around the world gathered in St. Louis, Missouri at a Special General Conference focused largely on full inclusivity for members of the LGBTQ+ community in the life and ministry of our Church. Some plans presented at the Conference would have opened the path for full inclusion at least to some extent. A slight majority of delegates, however, chose a different path. 
By a vote of 438 to 384 (53% to 47%), the General Conference voted to support the Traditional Plan, which maintains and strengthens the current stance of our Book of Discipline which states “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings.” In stark contrast, the US delegation voted 66% against the Traditional Plan. This Plan would retain the restrictive language and enact stricter penalties, including expulsion from the Church. From our Bishop, “Much of the plan passed has already been ruled “unconstitutional” and not in compliance with our Book of Discipline.  The entire Traditional Plan has been referred to our Judicial Council for a complete review.  In addition, a plan to allow churches to disaffiliate with The United Methodist Church was passed.  It too has been referred to the Judicial Council to determine whether or not it is compliant with the provisions of our Book of Discipline.  The Judicial Council will be meeting April 23-25 to determine the outcome of these decisions.” It is possible we will end up right back where we started.  
To be fully honest and transparent, I am grieving, I am saddened, and I am frustrated over what has occurred. Some of my closest colleagues and friends are deeply hurt and feel there is no place for them in the Church I have been a part of for over 40 years. This Conference has shown the great chasm that exists between us. But I highly doubt this is the end. Through this dark time in our denomination, there is always God, and God has a powerful way of working through times that seem hopeless. Through countless conversations and statements this past week, something new is beginning. There will be a path forward. It may or may not look like what we expect, but new life always emerges when and where we least expect it, even out of the ashes.  
At this time, as the local church, it is important, imperative that we lean into God and one another. Please know that no matter what your beliefs are, I will always be here to love you and support you celebrating God’s grace, mercy, and compassion. We do not need to deepen the divide. We should not place blame. Our local church body is only complete when all of us are together. Now is a time for love. Loving God and loving one another as we love ourselves. Love always rises. Love is stronger than anything.     
I will be meeting with our Bishop and the Cabinet Sunday, March 3rd through Monday March 4th to learn more about our next steps. On Saturday, March 16th, everyone is invited to our Special Annual Conference in Purchase, NY to learn more as well. Following these two events, I will hold a session following worship on March 24th to share more with our congregation.   
For our loved ones in the LGBTQ community, please know that I am here for you and my door, my arms, and my heart will always be open and loving for you. You are not alone.   
None of us are alone. God is with us. For now, I ask that you pray. Pray without ceasing. I ask that you stay connected, stay strong, stay in love, and stay tuned for what new thing God has in store for us.  

Grace and peace be yours, 

 Pastor Roy        

 


      As we approach the Season of Lent, I suggest to you that while the purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial; this is also our time to reflect outwardly on Jesus Christ - his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial, and resurrection. It is a time that calls out to us to reflect on what it means to journey through life as God leads us.

      I find it ironic that while millions of people, longing for something more out of life, are hungry for God; the declining numbers of people attending Sunday Worship services, makes you question whether this hunger is real. Some suggest that we have reached a point in time where Christians are simply tired of “playing church” and are beginning to believe it is now time for them to either get with it or get out. Thus while the desire for God, which should also mean the desire for solid spiritual formation, is greater now than at any period in recent history, the burning question becomes: where does one turn when seeking to find and uncover practical ideas for the strengthening our devotional lives? The answer needs to be: within the walls of our Churches and amongst the members of our Christian Community.
      Unfortunately one of the challenges facing the Church is that we have reduced the life of God in the human soul to rules and regulations, fads and rituals, lists and techniques. We have forgotten: The Spiritual Life is not a part of life…it is life! Our pews seat congregations that contain people who are in need, individuals who are broken inside, yearning to be fixed and made whole. But do our Churches provide the Spiritual Healing, the impetus for life transformation, that our congregations seek?

“God does not call you to have a devotional time; God calls you to live a devotional life.”                   John Wesley

      I believe the following excerpts from Kimberlee Conway Ireton’s “The Circle of Seasons” passage entitled “Walking in Darkness”, provides the light we need for transformed Spiritual Lives.

     “As Lent approached this year, I found myself in a dark place. I do not like living in darkness. I do not like feeling alone and afraid. I do not like wondering where God is. And I especially do not like the agnosticism that creeps into the darkness with me, whispering words of skepticism and doubt along my skin and my heart.
     But, I have learned that I cannot run from the darkness. I can only walk through it. Walking in the way of Jesus, this Lent, for me is walking by faith rather than sight, by hope rather than conviction.
     I want to believe the good news of the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and on my best days…I do believe it. But I confess there are days, and lately there have been many of them, when I don’t believe this…when I live in fear that it is not true, when I leave in fear that God either is not real…or else cannot be trusted. 
     But then, words…words as often as anything else pull me back to the light of faith when I am wandering in darkness. 
     “Even if there be no hereafter, I would live my time believing in a grand thing that ought to be true if it is not…Let me hold by the better than the actual and fall into nothingness off the same precipice with Jesus and John and Paul and a thousand more, who were lovely in their lives, and with their deaths make even the nothingness into which they have passed like a garden of the Lord.” Words from George MacDonald
     When I read those words, I wept. For they reminded me that I can choose to believe even if I don’t feel that belief.
     So now on those days when I don’t quite believe, I look away from myself, my feelings, and my fears. I look out and around and notice the small things that are good: cherry blossoms, a hug from my daughter…I give thanks to these small mercies, choosing to see them as gifts from God even when I don’t believe it. I give thanks that the darkness is not so dark that I cannot make that choice! 
     On those days when I doubt, I cling all the harder to Jesus, whose way is the way of truth, the truth that sets me free to live and love in the midst of suffering, the truth that frees me to choose that suffering will render me beautiful rather than bitter, compassionate rather than callous. 
     On those days that I feel afraid, I cling to His promise that He is with me, that He doesn’t shrink from darkness, that He will never forsake or abandon me.
     I Choose To Trust Him!
     And eventually, choosing becomes easier, the darkness lifts and walking in Jesus’s way is not quite such a struggle for a while. But darkness will always return, often unexpectedly. That is why I need Lent, because it bears witness to the reality of darkness, of doubt, of fear, of pain. And it carries me through those real places, real experiences into one that is more fully and truly real: the Reality of Resurrection…of Light…of Life.For now it is still Lent. I still walk in darkness. But I am beginning to see glimmers of that Light. I am beginning to walk by sight again…with conviction. I give thanks to God for this Mercy!”

My Brothers and Sisters,
I pray that we continue to seek to walk with each other, as members of the Body of Christ, and as a Community of Faith; in the Light of Life. I pray that as a Church we continue to work together on the transformation of lives, by providing support and opportunities that create and foster the desire to commit to leading a Life in Spiritual Devotion to Our Lord and Savior.

Have a Blessed, Reflective and Transformative Lenten Season,

 


 

 

 

Brother Wayne Redman
Certified Lay Minister