Christ, the Light of the World

May you experience the presence of Christ, the Light of the World, everywhere, in everyone, so that hope will abound in your life and the world you live in. There is no corner of the planet where Christ is not. And may you share the light of Christ that is within you with everyone you meet, wherever you are, everyday.

Wilfredo Juan Baez

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I just returned from a conference with members of my religious order, "Lindisfarne," about Celtic Spirituality and Earth Spirituality. It was good to share with old friends and new people.  I had been away since two retreats ago and it felt good to reconnect in person.  We were joined by fellow clergy from two Celtic-oriented churches.  Unfortunately, I was unable to stay through Sunday for the ordination and incardination and professions of membership.  It is interesting to see how we have evolved theologically regarding theological and religious inclusion.  Such open-mindedness and respect!

Tomorrow, June 15 is the last Sunday I lead worship and preach at the United Methodist Church of North Chili.  I leave with many fond memories and experiences and a blessing upon those I have ministered with, among and to.

Taking on the Authority of Jesus
This story took place once upon a time in a faraway place:

A rancher had a wonderful black stallion.  It was his pride and joy.  One day it ran off never to be seen again.  The townspeople learned of the rancher’s news and went out to him:  “We are sorry” they said, “for your loss.  It was such a beautiful stallion and we know you valued him greatly.  It is so unfortunate.”  The rancher replied, “How do you know that it is unfortunate?”

One day, the rancher’s son was out riding on the plain when he spied a beautiful white mare.  He set out to catch her and brought her home.  The townspeople were happy for the rancher.  They came out to him and said, “What a beautiful mare.  She will give you a wonderful stallion.  She is so strong and beautiful.  How very fortunate.”  “How do you know it is fortunate?”

The rancher’s son decided to ride the mare.  She was very wild and had never been ridden before.  The son bridled and saddled her and climber upon her.  Immediately she began to run and jump and bucked the young man off.  He crashed to the ground in pain, his back broken.  The townspeople learned of the accident and came out to the rancher and exclaimed:  “You loved your son so much.  He was so able bodied.  Now he is crippled.  How unfortunate!”  “How do you know it is unfortunate.”

It was but a short while later.  The king sent out riders to call all the young men in the kingdom into the army.  The captain proclaimed to the rancher, “We understand that you have a strong and able son.   We have come to take him to the front where he will serve the king with honor and likely die for him.”  “Alas,” said the rancher, “My son would be the first to lead a charge for the Kind, but unfortunately he was injured in an accident and cannot accept this honor.”

Each time I have left a church for another, or a job for another”  I have been offered congratulations.  And I have been asked if the church is bigger as if bigger is better than smaller.

But you know “Congratulations” are not in order and the question is irrelevant.   I am not moving on to bigger and better. 
You know, “the grass is never greener.”  It’s just grass.  It’s all grass everywhere.  God hasn’t sent me to greener grass but needy grass.  Grass is good.  God said so.

Some remark about the opportunities I will have where I am going.  There are opportunities here is well.  And the job here is the same as it is where I am going.  It’s the gospel.  It’s the people.

The church, the community, the people there are no more important there than they are here; each and all different and important but no more important.

What is true for me and for Marcia is true for Pastor Dan and Elaine.  They are not coming from a worse place to a better place or a better place to a worse place.  They are coming to you.

I am not a better pastor than Pastor Dan and Pastor Dan not a better Pastor than me, just like I am not a better or worse pastor than Pastor Sherri.

Bishop Fisher said to me when I went to Gouverneur, “This is a good church.”  She was right.  It was a good church.  The people there were good people.  But so was Danby and the people there, and Odessa and Adams Basin and Rochester: Lake Ave.

Bishop Matthews said to me, “This is a good appointment for you.”  And Bishop Matthews was right.  This is a good church with good people.  You are good church full of good people and have an important function.  I am glad to have been here.  I’ve done some good.  The church has done good.  I have grown as the result of being here.  I am who I am now because of you. 

I’ve rubbed some people the wrong way (I’m sorry for that) and they me, but God uses all things for the good.  You have allowed me to share with you some special moments of your life, deep and meaningful for you and for me.
In the opening story, something that may have been unnoticed is that the townsfolk cared about the rancher.  That counts for something doesn’t it?  It is important that you care for your pastor and the pastor care for you.  If you don’t care for your pastor you have some work to do.  If the pastor doesn’t care for you the pastor has some work to do.  If the pastor doesn’t care for the previous pastor or the following pastor the pastor has some work to do.   There’s no more important work for a church and for a pastor.

A struggle between a congregation and a pastor is a struggle between that congregation and the conference and the pastor and the conference, but more importantly it is a struggle between that congregation and God and that pastor and God.  And if a congregation is at odds with itself over its pastor, it is at odds with God.  I have had many a difference with God.  I have wrestled with God and the result has been I’ve end up disjointed, just like Jacob in his wrestling with God.  God wants us to love one another and in doing so we love God and are better able to serve God.

Bishop Fisher said something else to me of great importance.  She told me to take my authority.  She was talking about pastoral authority.  She was talking about taking charge.  Pastors are appointed not to churches but to charges that include church and community.  But where does that authority come.  In the church it comes from God.  It comes from Jesus.  And to have true authority one has to come under and accept authority.  The first disciples did just that, at least eleven of the twelve.  There first act of taking authority was to go to Galilee to the mountain that Jesus directed them to.  They did not expect what occurred next, seeing Jesus there.  He had been killed.  They worshipped him, but some doubted, they wondered, they worried.

And Jesus said to them, even as they doubted, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  Jesus was in charge.  He was given and took authority from God.  And with this authority Jesus sent his disciples.  “Because I have this authority I sent you to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”  This is the authority given to me in my ordination.  These are my orders which I trust and obey.  And as you become disciples you take authority that is given to you and carry out the commands given you.  Your authority is passed down to you from Christ through the apostles through pastors and you appropriate it in your discipleship.

Really, forming disciples is about bringing people into the flock, helping them to grow in faith and knowledge of God, including more and more of the lost until they have the experience of being found or at home.  It’s about including people in your love that is ultimately an expression of God’s love for all.  Recognize the authority of you pastor, Pastor Dan, as derived from God through Jesus Christ, the source of our authority.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

It is a new day for me.  I recently was appointed by Bishop Mark Webb to Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Binghamton.  The church there is progressive, inclusive and reconciling which matches my calling. I hope to increase racial-ethnic and theological-religious diversity there.  I also hope to do some teaching at SUNY Binghamton.  I'd like to see a training center for theological and social diversity around sexual-orientation/gender identity, racial-ethnic, and theological/racial develop there.  I hope to teach in a seminary cross-cultural and Hispanic theology and ministry and general practical pastoral theology.  I see myself doing spiritual direction and beginning a multi-cultural, multi-religious faith community.  Finally, I'd like to see a service organization for residents of Binghamton that provides supportive counseling and information and referral services and perhaps community organization to eradicate poverty, addiction and violence.

My own spirituality continues to be Christo-centric with a Buddhistic, Siddhistic, and Gnostic perspective. This is a very direct experiential path with an emphasis upon awareness, equanimity, compassion, responsibility, knowledge, simplicity wisdom and truth.  It is collaborative and recognizes the unique contribution of different worldviews and perspectives and aims at a positively transformed humanity and human beings.  I continue to utilize NLP modeling, but am moving beyond seeking external models for living fully to internal ones.