Something new is being born.

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22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  ~ Romans 8:22-25

I write this a few days after the close of a worldwide conference of our United Methodist Church.  And I find myself confused, deflated, and once more?  I’m aching, aching, aching for Jesus to come again.  I’m not a big “second-coming” theologian, but right now, I’m calling on that a LOT, because I don’t know where else to turn.  And when that happens – when humans fail, when the church fails, when our brokenness has the final word:  I go to Jesus.

O Jesus.  O Jesus.  OJESUS.  How have we come to this?  Please, O Jesus, come crashing onto the scene and set things right.  Please, O Jesus, help us be the church you long us to be.  O, Jesus: Turn our tables!  O Jesus: turn over our conniving antics, our human strategizing, our political, divisive tactics and our ugly, ugly ugly words of hate spewed on every side (and written and affirmed into our own UMC Book of Discipline) towards God’s people one and all.  And fill us with the love that God bore into us from our very conception.  Help us to know one another by name, help us to see and value one another — and your church — as you do – a holy entity of love, embrace and grace.

When I call upon my Lord, and I think of the incarnation … I return immediately to my good ole’ GENX love of  Tony Kushner’s Angels of America … and this is the very image that comes to my mind.  Jesus? Angel? … Love of God that is so big, so expansive, so powerful … it just busts on through whatever wall or barrier we might try to put up:

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But still, there are times (and this is one of them) that even going to Jesus lands me unsure logistically.  As as an ordained clergywomen serving a vital, growing, young and older and all ages together too, Reconciling congregation, I find myself leading from a pile of wreckage after the goings-on at the St. Louis General Conference.  I find myself leading from a big, ugly, mile-high pile of squashed dreams, broken hearts and weary, wounded souls.  You see at this big meeting of the United Methodist Church, we … once again … as an institution … continued to trample on God’s people, specifically upon our LGBTQIA+ brothers and sisters.  As a worldwide church, we approved a plan that our own Bishop Hagiya described as follows:

“By now you have probably all heard that the General Conference Special Called Session is now over, and the Traditional Plan prevailed (53% – 438 votes to 47% – 384 votes). Although it does have repressive ramifications to our LGBTQI community, the Judicial Council has ruled much of it unconstitutional. At the same time, this decision is also symbolic in its implications because it signals a turn of the United Methodist Church to a more judgmental and political entity that is against inclusion and for exclusion.”  ~ Bishop Grant J. Hagiya; Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop

Indeed, this repression signals a turn in our large church body.  And it indeed has brought many of us to tears and despair and righteous anger.  Myself included.

I have begun thinking about my call to ministry and my ability to serve a church that has taken this action.  I have begun thinking through a personal and professional exit strategy, and how I could use my gifts to serve God’s church in another capacity.  In this current space we find ourselves in, with this action, these words, this plan … I am bereft of the foundation to do the ministry that I am called to do.  As a deeply, inseparable and foundational piece of my theology, I do not understand or experience God as exclusionary or punitive.  I do not understand my LGBTQIA+ clergy brothers and sisters and lay brothers and sisters as any less of God, or any less ordained to serve God.  I full heartedly trust that God wishes our UMC facilities to be open to LGBTQIA+ weddings, and our UMC clergy to be fully open to performing them.

And I also see ashes; feel the heat of destruction; smell the burnt air.  I hear God’s people crying.  I see our LGBTQIA+ church that is angry and scared.  I hear allies and advocates pondering aloud: “What now? …  Maybe I should leave?  I could go join the UU or UCC or Episcopal church down the way?  What do you think, Pastor Melinda?”

O Jesus.  O Jesus.  OJESUS.  How have we come to this?  Please, O Jesus, come crashing onto the scene and set things right.  Please, O Jesus, help us be the church you long us to be.   

As I write this, I think of my own two children that my clergy husband and I are raising in this church of harmful ways and words.  But?  That is not their experience; they are loved so well in this church.  They are loved in this family, and learning that God is love.  They are disciples themselves not because I wish them to be, but because this church has helped them to see and trust in a loving, playful, forgiving, all-embracing God; in our Lord and Savior and God’s grace that is always with us … in the school classroom and in our beside prayers.

I recall our dinner church just last night where we began to prepare for the Lenten season.  Last night, we had a campfire and invited the church to consider what they might let go of/take on this Lent.  We wrote our ideas on slips of paper and put them into the fire.  And then … we continued being church.  We celebrated this month’s birthdays and baptisms with cake.  We read the Bible; we sang.  We formed small groups and shared our lives in Christ with one another.

In the midst of this macro-level global wreckage, we gathered and we churched in east Long Beach.  I saw tears.  I shed some myself.  And I helped my own children place their Lenten “letting go” papers into the fire while watching others do the same.

This is the church that I know and I love.  Whether it is called the United Methodist Church; whether it is a global, multi-million dollar, mainline institutional church … or not — this is the church that I serve and that my children are being raised in and that I know and love with my whole heart.  This is the church that I was ordained to serve. and that I will serve until I no longer can.

So, where I find myself now … is that I am waiting.  I am waiting to understand and to see the logistics of moving ahead.  I don’t wait well; I may need your help (yoga, anyone?) I am waiting in the wreckage (somewhat stymied) to see what is being born.  Because I trust that God is not done with us yet.  Where the UMC in its current configuration has lost my trust, God and Jesus have not.  Nor will they ever.  And God is simply not done here.

This Sunday evening, I will travel to be church with our California-Pacific conference and hear from Bishop Hagiya.  I invite you to join me, as you can.   Let’s hear his wisdom in what being church looks like in the wreckage.  Let’s listen together how God is working to bring something new, ever bigger, more inclusive, more expansive, more loving and whole —  into the Western church — because I would say that I saw it last night … it’s already underway.

Something new is being born.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  ~ Romans 8:22-25

Special Worship Service

Sunday, March 3, 2019, 6:00PM
Pasadena First United Methodist Church
500 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91101

Your pastor chixta, mama, sister in Christ,

Melinda

 

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