What Shoes, Lord?

At our last meeting of the Strategic Board, we spent some time reflecting on what it means to journey with God. We as children of God sometimes walk our path together, sometimes a part. Regardless if we are new to faith, or have been members of the church for a lifetime, we find  we diverge at times, come together at other times, and always take it one step at a time along the way.

The Path Less Traveled by Ben Flickr 2009 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The Path Less Traveled by Ben Flickr 2009 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Part of our task that day at the Board meeting was to connect with the shoes we needed to ‘walk the walk’ in our own spiritual lives.  There were a lot of shoes to choose from including dressy shoes,  clown shoes, and roller skates, and even, no shoes at all, just the bare feet God had given us. We wondered, what did we need if we were to truly walk with God?  Once shoes were chosen, answers as to why included ‘Be yourself,’ be ‘ready,’ be ‘bold,’ and ‘no fear.’

The Board was also asked to think about what shoes we needed to all walk together as a church. As we looked at the pairs of shoes again from this new perspective, conversation turned to one of outreach and empathy.

We realized that those we were reaching out to through things like Project Transformation, probably wore different shoes than we did. Those who were from different generations and were genders than we were, they too may wear shoes different than our own.

At the end of the exercise, the board chose several pairs of shoes that reflected what we thought we most needed as a church to walk with God. The top candidates were a pair of blue baby booties and a pair of sneakers with wings. The rational in part for the booties was that to walk with God you have to be willing to be a child, humble and ready to learn. We are also God’s precious children, babies in faith. As rational for the winged shoes was the aspiration element, that in following God our hopes and hearts soar to the heavens. We hope for a world held aloft by the Holy Spirit.

Over the last few weeks this exercise has been available in part for the congregation to interact with in the narthex. A few brave God-walkers contributed their own thoughts and pairs of shoes.  One of my favorites of these was a pair of sneakers with the words “Flexible! Ready for anything.”

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I imagine that there are followers of Jesus across time and place who well understand these words when it comes to the reality of walking with God. God is a God of power and change, and God works in unexpected ways through unexpected (and unexpecting!) people. ‘Be ready for anything’ is a pretty good way to set out on the path of faith.

Over the last 4 years I have been so blessed to share my walk with God with the beloved people of the Camas church. It has been a blessed and fruitful journey. Our paths converged for a while, and we got to be disciples together. Our paths now diverge, but my feet, my heart, and my soul will remember and treasure this time, and all of you, as my walk continues in a new place.

Camas UMC will share its path with a new pastor, Rev. Don Shipley, as of July 1st.  I pray every blessing and have every hope for your journey to come.  Until then, be well, be faithful, and God be with you till we meet again.

God be with you till we meet again, 
By His counsels guide, uphold you,
With His sheep securely fold you;
God be with you till we meet again.
Till we meet, till we meet,
Till we meet at Jesus’ feet,
Till we meet, till we meet,
God be with you till we meet again.
–J.E.Rankin

Blessings be to each of you and all of you,

Pastor Richenda

 

 

May Flowers

Never has the saying ‘April showers bring May flowers’ been so true!

Rainfall records across the Pacific Northwest are being smashed with record precipitation. Rain—with its fresh water to feed the earth and swell the rivers—has long been essential to our natural world. Water as a source of life shows up in Genesis where four great rivers flowed from Eden across the Levant, making life possible for God’s beloved children far and wide. And the waters of the river of Life in Revelation flows through the new Jerusalem feeding again the twelve tribes which are depicted now as fertile healthy trees full of fruit! Water is life.

Raindrops by Babbage Cabbage 2008 Flickr CC BY 2.0
Raindrops by Babbage Cabbage 2008 Flickr CC BY 2.0

Water is life, but water can also be inconvenient and the current unstoppable deluge of rain has, for some, been less of a blessing than we might wish. It is hard to feel grateful for rain when so much of it causes flooding and landslides and disruption to freeway and rail travel. Not to mention I have been wanting to paint my deck for six weeks and all I need to do that is three dry days in a row—which hasn’t happened yet!

Yet, this still being the Easter season, I am determined to resurrect my gratitude for rain. I remember still with wonder the loving and sacred Water Ceremony at the Standing Rock Prayer and Protector Camp, how the clean, herb infused water poured over my palm and how good it tasted. In the spirit of this awe and with gratitude, I turn to the psalms to reflect on the rainy wet blessings of April and stir my heart in my joy for the blooms of May.

You showered down abundant rain, God; when the Earth grew parched and dry, you restored it yourself, and your creatures settled in it. In your goodness, God, you provided for the poor.
Psalm 68:9-10 (CEB) (VOICE)

Open your mouths with thanks! Strum the harp in unending praise to our God, who blankets the heavens with clouds, sends rain to water the thirsty earth, and makes the mountains sprout green grass. God’s open hand feeds all the animals and scatters seed to nestlings when they cry. Psalm 147:7-9 (CEB)(VOICE)

May the people fear you for as long as the sun shines, and as long as the moon rises in the night sky, throughout the generations. May the king be like the refreshing rains, which fall upon fields of freshly mown grass—like showers that cool and nourish the earth.
Psalm 72:5-6 (VOICE)

Wildflowers by Daniel J Towsey 2009 Flickr CC BY 2.0 sm
Wildflowers by Daniel J Towsey 2009 Flickr CC BY 2.0 sm

Those who are devoted to God will flourish like budding date-palm trees; they will grow strong and tall like cedars in Lebanon. Those planted in the house of the Eternal will thrive in the courts of our God. They will bear fruit into old age; even in winter, they will be green and full of sap.
Psalm 92:12-14 (VOICE)

You visit the earth and make it abundant, enriching it greatly by God’s stream, full of water. You are the gentle equalizer: soaking the furrows, smoothing soil’s ridges, Softening sun-baked earth with generous showers, blessing the fruit of the ground. You crown the year with a fruitful harvest; the paths are worn down by carts overflowing and dripping with unstoppable growth.
Psalm 65:9-11 (CEB)(VOICE)

I hope you will take some time this month to reflect on the psalms as they provide words to describe the blessings of this good Earth and its good rain. The rain may at times seem tedious, yet it comes from heaven above to soak the soil, fill the rivers, and bring Life to all creation.

Praise God! For inside and outside, in our homes, our hearts and in our church, the soil is being nourished. Good things are growing. Amen.

Blessings to each and all of you,
Pastor Richenda

Stepping New into the Garden

Flowers in a suitcase by Andre Glechikoff 2013 Flickr CC BY-SA 2
Flowers in a suitcase by Andre Glechikoff 2013 Flickr CC BY-SA 2

I have moved a lot in my life. My parents not only moved towns, they moved continents. When I was a child we moved from England to Canada to the US and before I started high school I had lived Heswall, Ottawa, Toronto, San Diego, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.

I remember only small instances of these moves. I remember driving long stretches of road from Ottawa through Maine. I remember running through the arched doorways of the homes for sale we toured in Phoenix, Az., and I remember the home we purchased had a gigantic saguaro cactus in the front! I remember the summers on the patio by the pool in San Diego. And I remember the first time I laid eyes on Los Angeles. It was just a brown smog bubble ahead of us on the freeway, and I remember thinking, ‘We’re going to live in that?’

I have moved less since then. In the 30 years my husband and I have been married, we have moved only twice. And I have lived in beautiful Camas over 20 years, far longer than I have lived anywhere else.

Saguaros by Kevin Schraer Flickr 2014 CC BY-NC 2.0
Saguaros by Kevin Schraer Flickr 2014 CC BY-NC 2.0

I am going to miss it. I will miss the blue spruces that push new needles out towards the sun when it finally decides to shine. I will miss the rhododendrons! When God made rhodies I know they were made especially for this place where bloom after bloom rises with the elevation every year in every color and in every size.

Each move when reflected on during the season of Easter makes me think of the rising and falling cycles of life. Even Jesus lived according to these cycles, being born in his time, growing from an infant to a boy to a man, then claiming his place in the world, and living into his call—even to the cross. He traveled from place to place first as a man and then by the Spirit that the world may know God.

Each move holds such a cycle to for reflection. From the newness of a place, to its realization, to at last the step away to leave it empty. But. As in the case of Eastertime, when Jesus steps from the tomb, he steps not into nothingness but into the new garden. There, he comforts Mary who is weeping and offers her a brand new way of seeing God.

In every change there is this cycle, of letting in, of letting live, of letting go. Thank you for letting me in to your lives, your homes, your dreams, and your hearts. Thank you for our path together. We did the work that is the Way, the Truth, and the Life of this good church! And, blessings to you now during this time of letting go. We will both soon step into new gardens, where new things are being born by the Spirit for the hope of all.

At The House Across The Street by KaCey97078 Flickr 2013 CC BY-NC 2.0
At The House Across The Street by KaCey97078 Flickr 2013 CC BY-NC 2.0

I will miss our home here with the creeks and rivers and evergreens. I will miss our darling downtown and the optimism that is infectious here. And I will miss with all my heart our beloved and courageous Camas United Methodist Church. It was my great honor to serve at the Camas church for these almost four years. In that time we have done so much, we have worked in earnest and in great hope paving the path of our Camas future.

In United Methodism, pastoral elders pledge to be itinerant. This means they recognize themselves as just one small part of the many things that God has set in motion all around them. At my ordination I pledged serve where the Bishop and Cabinet were in need of me. And for a while, that place was Camas.

As of July first, I will begin a new appointment serving the people and community of Ashland United Methodist Church in Ashland, Oregon. I have been to see the Ashland church and to meet some of her good folks. I have seen and heard about the real and good ministry they are doing there. What a blessing they are. It will be an honor to serve there.

Over these remaining weeks, as we wrap up our time together and say our goodbyes, I hope you will forgive me for all the ways and times I have come up short. Know that I love and forgive all of you, in turn. I hold only hope and care within my heart for each of you. I do not carry regrets or disappointments. If those exist I will lay them in the tomb for resurrection. I hope you, in turn, will do the same. As we all step new into the garden, I pray every blessing on the future ministry of this good place.

Blessings to each of you and all of you,

Pastor Richenda

Grazioso Duo Spring 2017

title

Spring is a  perfect opportunity no enjoy world class music!

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Join us on Saturday, April 1st 2017 at 3pm in our acoustic sanctuary for a benefit concert featuring Grazioso Duo—Tatiana Kolchanova and Nilda Curtis—and special guest, cellist Jerry Bobbe.

No ticPT-Social-Mediaket needed! The doors are open to all.

Download our concert flyer: Spring Concert 2017

Donations will benefit Project Transformation in the Pacific Northwest.

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Project Transformation Pacific Northwest

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Yes, Project Transformation is that low-cost reading-boost summer camp you heard about from your school and read about in the newspaper!! Sign your child(ren) up as soon as you can, as space is limited. Send an email to rachel@ptpnw.org. We are looking forward to a great summer!!

Project Transformation is a national program with two sites in Southwest Washington: In Orchards, at Orchards United Methodist Church, and in downtown Vancouver, at Vancouver First United Methodist Church. Learn more about Project Transformation from your child’s teacher or go online to see more about the program itself.

Here are the basics:

For parents:

  • Program runs M-Th from (approx) 9am to (approx) 3pm.  Times are not finalized.
  • Parents/guardians will need to arrange transportation.
  • Lunch and snacks for the children are provided.
  • Children from Kindergarten to 5th grade who qualify for free and reduced school lunches have priority enrollment.
  • Cost is minimal.
  • Registration link: https://projecttransformation.org/pacific-northwest/participant-summer-registration/

Call or email for more information.

For volunteers–can you volunteer to read to kids? Volunteer readers and high school volunteer helpers are essential!

  • Contact us for more information.
  • Read an hour a day, once or more times a week. Or, when you can!
  • Register to be a volunteer: http://transformation.org/pacific-northwest/get-involved/volunteer

 

Unbind Him: Reflection for Lent

 

Matthew 18:18
Matthew 18:18

There is a story I often seen connected to Lent that I love very much. It hits at the heart of my own Lenten reflection this year. It is the story of Lazarus (John 11). In the story, Lazarus becomes sick and his sisters, in a panic and worried for him, send for their friend Jesus. Jesus was well known by this part of the story and traveling across the Judean countryside healing and teaching. Lazarus’s family knew that Jesus was a holy man with the power to heal their brother.

Though Jesus gets the call to come and help Lazarus, he delays. Jesus seems unconcerned. This lack of concern worries others, doesn’t Jesus know that Lazarus may die?

PrayerMat by VividLime 2011 CC BY 2.0
PrayerMat by VividLime 2011 CC BY 2.0

And that is exactly what happens. Jesus waits to respond to the call for help, and word comes that Lazarus has died. Here is where we learn that for this particular story, Jesus is up to more than simply healing. Jesus says, “Lazarus has died. For your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there so that you can believe. Let’s go to him.”

That Lazarus has died seems to be just fine—even the desired outcome—to Jesus. For everybody else, this outcome seems awful. Lazarus was a friend, surely an honorable helper comes when someone is in danger and does not delay. Why, then, did Jesus delay? If he knew this would happen, why didn’t that make Jesus hurry all the more to help?

Jesus seems to saunter back to where Lazarus lives so that by the time he arrives, Lazarus is not only dead, but he’s been dead for a few days. The timing could not be worse. There is no chance now that Lazarus might simply be in a coma or on the edge of death and ready to be resuscitated. He is dead, dead, dead.

Jesus finds himself surrounded by grief and even the accusatory words and actions of Lazarus’s friends and family. Lazarus’s sisters both lay it out, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” Their neighbors likewise mumble, “Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” It is as if the family doctor has dawdled to play golf and in the delay allowed a dear, longtime patient to ail and pass away. The betrayal and confusion adds to the family’s grief.

Jesus grieves, too, but not for the same reasons. The story tells us “Jesus began to cry,” and that he was “deeply disturbed.” We wonder as we read the story, is he angry with himself for delaying? Does he regret letting the family down? Did he not take Lazarus’s illness seriously enough so that now he mourns Lazarus, like everyone else?

Clues in the text, however, help us see that Jesus does not grieve Lazarus’s death. Jesus instead seems to weep because of the pain of the others—they believe Jesus has allowed Lazarus to die for nothing—or worse, out of lack of care or laziness. They do not understand either Jesus’s power or the work Jesus must demonstrate that must be done. We learn, however, from the words and actions of Jesus that Jesus’s sorrow and frustration are not because he is grieving Lazarus or regretting his delay. He grieves because Lazarus’s family does not believe.

Knot by dcJohn Flickr 2007 CC BY-NC 2.0
Knot by dcJohn Flickr 2007 CC BY-NC 2.0

Jesus says, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you will see God’s glory?”  And to the mourners gathered around the tomb, Jesus give more orders, he says, “Remove the stone!”

Over the objections and disbelief of the family, the crowd moves the stone to open the tomb. ‘The stench!” Lazarus’s sister cries in fear. But Jesus proceeds. Once the tomb is open, he calls out again, this time to Lazarus, “Lazarus, come out!” In response to what would seem both ludicrous and impossible to those nearby, something amazing happens next.  The dead man comes out, his feet bound and his hands tied, and his face covered with a cloth.

This story takes every opportunity to remind us that Lazarus is dead. Dead. He died days ago. His body was anointed and wrapped for burial and he was laid in the tomb to decompose. He was starting to stink. The story does not mince words, Lazarus was a “dead man.”

The story would simply be another healing story if Lazarus hadn’t died. Because he did, the story takes on the aspect of the amazing. And because Jesus orchestrated the whole thing as a demonstration of the power of faith in God, it is more amazing still.

To read this story in the context of Lent is to seek the center of its power. Jesus will soon be arrested, flogged, and crucified. He will die and be wrapped and anointed and buried in a tomb. The impossible will soon happen to Christ himself, revealing to all what God is doing. By restoring Lazarus to life Jesus gives a foretaste of what will happen on that first Easter. We see the first inferences that the power of God is so unimaginable and that so much more than healing is possible. Much more.

Lazarus arises and stumbles into the daylight wrapped in the bindings of burial. Jesus gives one last instruction, “untie him and let him go.”

Two important things have happened. First, we have been given an event that previews Jesus’s resurrection that will come at Easter. Jesus has demonstrated that in the power of God death does not get the last word about anything. Second, we have been given a lesson that basically throws the saying ‘you can’t take it with you’ into reverse. Apparently, there are some things you actually do take with you. All those bindings are yours to keep.

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Lazarus arises in a foreshadowing not only of Jesus’s defeat of death at Easter, but of the resurrection of the body in the final days to come. We humans will someday die and be ‘born’ into heaven, resurrected in some new bodily way to live in a world where things are ‘on earth as they are in heaven.’

Lazarus’s state on rising gives us a warning with that preview. Lazarus rises, but his bindings remain intact. They do not fall away when he rolls over, crawls out of the niche, stretches, stands, and walks out of the tomb. His bindings are all still with him, even the cloth over his face.

In looking at Lazarus’s state of resurrection, then, perhaps we can imagine a foretaste of our own.

In reflecting on those bindings, I hear the words of Matthew, “What you bind to on Earth you will be bound to in heaven; What you unbind on Earth you will be freed from in heaven.”

This Lent I invite you to think about what binds you. What will rise with you on that last day? What hurts and wounds, resentments, stubbornnesses, anger have you bound to yourself? What have others used to bind you?

This Lent I invite you to ‘Untie it and let go.’ Put down the stones of sullen resentment, jealousy, and hard-heartedness. Untie judgement, rage, and gossip. Unbind that chip from your shoulder. Remove the blindfold from your face so you can see clearly what is ahead of you. And, I guarantee that if you do, you will see the same things Lazarus saw on his own resurrection day: the daylight, his loved ones, Jesus, and life renewed.

Blessings each and all of you,

Pastor Richenda

Easter Sunday & Our Easter Hunt

Easter arrives April 16! Information about the activities for Easter Sunday including our Sunday Service & Easter Hunt, and our events for Holy Week.

All the info you need is on this page. Scroll through the subject headings below to find the one you need.

Important: Our Easter egg hunt is different than other egg hunts. WE try to minimize candy and celebrate giving. Please scroll down for more information.

Easter Lily by SETShots 2014 Flickr CC BY-NC 2sm

Easter service will be Sunday April 16th, 2017, at 10:00am.  Our Easter celebration is traditional and joyful with singing, prayers, a sermon, a children’s message and Sunday School. If you like, come early (at 9:15am) and bring fresh flowers! We use these flowers to decorate the Easter cross that crowns our sanctuary.

Holy Week activities (more details below):

  • Palm Sunday, 10:00am April 9th–stay for our Birthday Sunday lunch.
  • Monday, April 10th 5:30-7:30pm, come for Messy Church, a family friendly evening with dinner and activities. We will celebrate Messy Stations of the Cross.
  • Good Friday Service, Friday, March 25th at 7:30pm.

messy stations of the cross

More about our Messy Stations of the cross, here.

Easter Sunday morning festivities (more details below):

  • 10-11:00am — Easter service
  • 10:30-11:15am — Sunday school for pre-school aged children.
  • 11-11:15am—Sunday school for elementary aged children.
  • 11-12:00am—Coffee & goodies for the grownups and the hunt for kids! Come join in the good conversation in the upstairs parlor or downstairs fellowship hall.
  • 11:15am—Easter egg and more hunt for children 5th grade and younger (Our Egg Hunt is different than other egg hunts, please scroll down for more information).
More about Messy Church

(see our Messy Church link with all the info!)

More about Good Friday

Good Friday is our most solemn service of Holy Week. It runs from 7:30-8:30pm on Friday, April 14th. ‘Good Friday’ is the traditional name for the day Christians celebrate the day Jesus was crucified and died. It seems awful to call this day ‘Good’ because it was actually a terrible day. But it is also a really important opportunity to remember a vital part of our faith–that it was Jesus’s willingness to face the worst punishment in order to take a stand against oppression, against violence, and to prove that love knows no barriers. Jesus refused to bow to hate. Jesus held on to Love no matter the cost. And in so doing, he shows us how death can be defeated and the world transformed.

More about Easter Worship

Easter is a special worship service, the most important service in the whole Christian year (Yes! Even more important than Christmas!) This service runs from 10:00am-11:00am. Following service will be an Easter Hunt! (We will have a shortened Sunday School so that we can begin the hunt around 11:15am.)

More about the Easter Hunt!

Our Easter hunt is different than other egg hunts: Our hunt event includes candy–but, it does not emphasize candy. Instead the focus is smBunnyFingerPuppet by KATrinket 2007 Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0on the fun of finding hidden items & sharing our gifts with others.

How it works: Young children (5th grade and younger) will be invited to hunt for items hidden for the hunt. The items hidden include plastic eggs with small toys and stickers hidden inside. We also hide cans of tuna fish and pairs of children’s socks.

What happens to the toys and stickers the children find? The children get to keep them!760f3580909ee9d6c22e3eebca442c64

What happens to the tuna fish and socks the children find? The children can exchange these items for Easter candy, which the church provides. (Parents who would prefer to minimize candy can help supervise this exchange.) 

What happens to the tuna fish and socks collected overall? The tuna fish and socks are donated by our generous congregation. Thank you!! The children get to participate in a truly helpful act of giving. All the cans of tuna will be given to the local Treasure House Food Bank. All the pairs of socks will be given to Northwest Children’s Outreach for needy families.


For more information contact:

Message telephone 360 834 2976
Camas United Methodist Church
706 NE 14th Ave
Camas, WA 98607
Office 360 834 2976


photo credits:

daffodils: Easter Morning by Laurence OP Flickr 2014 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Traveler’s palm 2187 by Rosa Say 2012 Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Bunny Finger Puppet by KATrinket 2007 Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

From the Inside Out: Holiness as the path of God

I was born into a Christian family and baptized in an Anglican church. I went to church on Sunday, sang during worship, attended Sunday School and was confirmed in the UCC church. But although I learned the basics of the walk of people of faith, I didn’t really walk as a person of faith until my freshman year in college. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I was truly ‘baptized in the Spirit’ and turned my life toward the Christian faith.

John Wesley’s teachings around how we move into a faithful life are fairly in line with my own experiences. Although at 18 I gave myself to the call of Christ, I had absolutely no idea how to proceed after that. I had a vague sense that I needed to be ‘good’—sometimes I even achieved that a little bit. But certainly, I felt the sure, steady, and unrelenting tug within me, that no matter which ways I turned—and I turned a lot—always, tiny step by tiny step, I drew closer to God.

Wesley would say these tiny steps were steps along the path of growing more and more holy—even with the backsliding. And it is certain that with every measure of Grace God poured out, I grew in love. I have a long way to go, still. But already I am so deeply grateful. I could never, ever repay or explain how deeply this walk of mine has mattered to me.

For Wesley, ‘holiness’ is not some goody-two-shoes effort to be holier-than-thou. It is not a ceremonial show of righteousness. For Wesley, holiness is the inward welcome the human offers to the divine. Holiness is what happens when within us we put our willfulness aside and trust our brokenness fully and completely to the transformative work of God.

Who is your neighbor? God calls us to reach out in love to people who are hurting. Shame is deeply wounding and destructive not just to those who suffer but to the whole community. We are the Good News. Our actions demonstrate our faith in a loving God. Photo: Shame by Lee Carson 2011 Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Who is your neighbor? God calls us to reach out in love to people who are hurting. Shame is deeply wounding and destructive not just to those who suffer but to the whole community. We are the Good News. Our actions demonstrate our faith in a loving God. Photo: Shame by Lee Carson 2011 Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Whatever I do on the outside of me—prayers, service, the work of social justice—these external outcomes come out from within the holiness that God nurtures at the center of who I am. Our ‘righteousness’ (meaning our behaviors that reflect the good love and justice and will of God) come not by simply behaving according to some rule about how we are ‘supposed to’ behave. Our righteousness is a direct outflowing from the holiness within us. Its source is the Spirit within us, not the World outside us.

As a result, the ‘rules’ of righteousness change. Any missionary can give you practical examples of how this works. What is considered right, correct, and fair in one culture, is not necessarily going to be considered right, correct, and fair everywhere. Love expresses itself in the material and human world according to what is loving to God. God’s love is not material at its source but is made into the material of the world when we act on it. A hug becomes an act of comfort because we offer it from a place of love.

In times of deep despair, we respond to each other with actions of love and comfort. In the United States and other places, a hug is a powerful expression of caring and community unity. The ‘right way’ to show love is different in different times and places, but always carry with it the power and presence of God. Photo: Hugs by Brittany Randolph 2007 Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
In times of deep despair, we respond to each other with actions of love and comfort. In the United States and other places, a hug is a powerful expression of caring and community unity. The ‘right way’ to show love is different in different times and places, but always carry with it the power and presence of God. Photo: Hugs by Brittany Randolph 2007 Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Jesus of Nazareth was the fulfillment of every ‘rule’ that existed in his world because the love within him was fully God’s. Therefore everything he did was ‘right’ even when he broke all the rules. From the perspective of the rule-makers of his time, Jesus was a scandal! The sermons and stories and miraculous actions he undertook were such a surprise to the rule-based religious folks around him that they plotted against him. They plotted to take down the very son of the very God they claimed to worship!

Jesus had a lot to say about the right way to behave, and our Gospels are a remarkable testament to that. Jesus often directly chastised those who tried to use rules and borders to harm instead of heal others. Jesus called out the ‘rulers’ of his day who would not heal on the Sabbath and love their neighbor. He decried those who would not help and welcome strangers. And he explained that the oppressive and harmful laws imposed during his day and used against the poor and others, reflected not the love of God at all, but the hard heartedness of the people who enforced them.

Does that mean there are no rules? Hardly. There are real consequences—harm, shame, brokenness, and destruction—when we do not act according to the loving will of God.

Jesus called us to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength and all your being and love your neighbor as yourself.’ Jesus calls us to ‘heal the sick, release the prisoner, welcome the stranger, and love your enemy.’ Jesus decried the violence of nation states. Jesus’s actions demonstrated a radical welcome. He shared the love of God with sinners, tax collectors, assassins, high priests, foreigners, children, women, the spiritually possessed and mentally ill, those disfigured by disease, the beggar, the blind, the elderly, the soldier, the merchant…

Wesley taught us that holiness on the inside is what leads us to do the right thing in the world. Perfect love drives out fear. The apostles taught this and Jesus showed us this with his own life. In Jesus we see how inward holiness becomes the outward expression of faithfulness to God. In Jesus and those that followed him, we see that all that we do arises first from a ‘holiness of heart.’

Silver Thaw

The New Year has arrived bringing with it yet more icy wind and snow. This may be the year of the icicle and the ice storm and so here and now let us pledge to keep each other in our prayers, especially those who have to commute to work or go out in the snow.

icestorm-by-paulthompson-2007-flickr-cc-by-nc-nd-2-0
Ice Storm by Paul Thompson 2007 Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

When I did local history work I learned that the old fashioned word for ‘ice storm’ was ‘silver thaw.’ What a beautiful description! What a perfect way to talk about a storm that wraps layer on layer of glistening silvery ice around all it touches. When it comes to beauty, the flawless crystal sculptures of God’s marvelous creation is unparalleled.

It is enrapturing—but also freezing cold and treacherous. The power of the storm itself leaves us humbled. We may be dazzled, but we dare not move. We stay inside, pressing our faces to the window as God’s good world gets wrapped in crystal. And even as we marvel, we wish very much that it would melt.

Please stay warm this new January of 2017 during what the Farmer’s Almanac has promised will be a very cold winter. Through the cold days, find ways to spread the warmth, love and light of Christ.

To help keep your Spirit warm, here is the story of  John Wesley’s New Year moving from 1738-1739. In 1738, John Wesley returned from a missionary journey to the Americas & had the experience of his heart strangely warmed, an experience he linked with an assurance of salvation.

He and other young clergy from Oxford were meeting regularly at Fetter Lane and they were filled with a hope for their revival movement as it was gaining traction all around them. They were in high spirits and spent New Year’s Eve and early morning in prayer and conversation together.

John Wesley wrote about the events that New Year’s: “About three in the morning, as we were continuing constant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of his majesty we broke out with one voice, ‘We praise thee, O God, we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.'”

For Wesley and others, the ecstatic joy was a sign of the great work that God was making possible. The experience was so powerful that some met again just a few days later for more prayer and conversation as they asked questions and worked to discern what the Spirit was calling from them next.

George Whitefield, who was part of the group, wrote of this second meeting: “What we were in doubt about, after prayer, we determined by lot, and everything else was carried on with great love, meekness, and devotion. We continued in fasting and prayer till three o’clock, and then parted, with a full conviction that God was going to do great things among us.”

In 1739 George Whitefield and both John and Charles Wesley turned to the greater parish. Barred from preaching in many Anglican churches, they stepped out into the coal fields and the streets. In so doing they found a parallel energy to that of the early church, for many disciples and apostles had been themselves barred from ‘respectable’ places of worship and as a result had also reached instead into the “highways and hedges” to share their zeal.

May this zeal, then, in 2017, warm and inspire you when the ice and snow bring cold, stormy weather this winter. In prayer and by the inner fire of the Spirit, may your heart be fully, if strangely, warmed.

Blessings to each and all of you,

Pastor Richenda

Photo: Ice Storm by Paul Thompson 2007 Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Quotes from John Wesley the Methodist.

Stories for Christmas

storybook-christmas-banner

I learned to read early. I wasn’t athletic, couldn’t see very well, and tended to be fussy. But reading I could do. I loved to read. I loved to be transported to an entirely different world where I could learn or experience something utterly new, or wholly different from myself. I loved the world of A Wrinkle In Time, the wonder of the universe and the fantastic possibilities that seemed—in that book at least—open to a girl protagonist.

Christians have from the beginning had a tradition filled with stories. In our New Testament we begin our journey of Christian faith not with the instructive letters of Paul or Peter but with the wide rolling landscape of Matthew’s birth story of Jesus.

Matthew’s story of Jesus’s birth introduces us to Jesus by folding him into layers of story, after story, after story. Matthew’s is not just the story of one boy. His is a story of Abraham, Isaac, Judah & Tamar, Boaz & Ruth, David & Bathsheba, Jehoshaphat, Amos, Joseph & Mary. Jesus landed in the stable as if he had been tossed onto five thousand folds of blanket, each layer, each fold, a story to cradle him.

Welcome to our earth, little one.

All our babies are born this way. We are all born into stories. Some of us have stories that are better known than others, but God knows each of them in all their folds, tucks, tears and complexities. And God loves us.

No wonder we are a storytelling people.

Something about stories and telling stories must be essential to how we are created. Somehow the structures of our brains need this mix of reality and imagination, facts and creativity, in order to shape our present and potential being. Matthew knows this, too. He weaves story after story together, speaking of Mary out of the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, two people across gender, time, and geographic distance and yet deeply embedded together in this one story of God.

Luke as well begins his Gospel with the story of children born. First Luke promises an “carefully ordered account,” and then we discover that Luke’s idea of accounting is far from charts and quantitative facts, but instead a story, the story of a man in the temple who had a vision of a baby but could not speak of it. This baby, this first baby, was not Jesus at all, yet, but first comes John the Baptist. And so again, in the telling of our Christ child’s birth, we find him wrapped in layer after layer of stories of “accounting.”

Our stories move us and help us figure out who we are. Storytelling helps us process grief, wonder, loss, joy, trauma…all the big things of life. Our stories are shared. We share the events and then we share together in the telling and re-telling, over dinner tables, at the fire, during hunting trips, at the bedside of the dying. We are all a storytelling people.

I learned to read early and I have always love stories. I remember my favorite books, including Billy and Blaze, Nancy Drew, Where the Red Fern Grows, Little Women. I remember my children’s love of stories. My oldest son loved I Can Read  with My Eyes Shut, my daughter loved Go Dog, Go! while my youngest son’s favorite was Rumples and Tumbles Go to the Country.  I read those books with them over and over and over again. I miss it.

Reading was a big part of our family life. Our home was and is still filled with books. But that is not how it is for everyone. There are many families who do not have extra to buy books, move too often to keep them, or simply do not have the time to read. There are many reasons, but those of us with access to books can help.

We chose the theme of Storybook Christmas this year because we believe every child benefits from the stories of their family, homeland, and culture. We believe there is something deeply healing and whole about sitting down with a child to read. It is a path that will enfold them in the layers of all that is possible in their lives.

As we at Camas celebrate this Advent and await Christmas, I encourage you to get into the ‘Storybook Spirit’ with your child, your nieces, nephews, neighbors. Buy them a book! Or, Participate in our book drive. And as you sit at the foot of the tree this Christmas, help them imagine what it might have been like for a tiny baby laid in  a manger so many  years ago.

Blessings to each  and all of you for a  Merry Christmas.

Pastor Richenda