Living a Thankful Life

Pastor's Ponderings, September 2017 "Living a Thankful Life" more...

Pastor's Ponderings - June 2017

Pastor's Ponderings -more...

A Time of Abundance

A Time of Abundance "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.' "      Matthew 9: 36-38   This spring has been full of abundance in ministry and in my personal life. Guiding our 7th and 8th graders through Confirmation gave me abundant evidence that we have a new cadre of 11 young people fully equipped to work in the harvest of the Kingdom of God. Some of the Confirmands are new to our church family or to church participation in general, yet have bravely dived into ministry with us here at GPUMC. Most of the Confirmands you have seen grow up in our midst, and now you see them articulating things like God's prevenient grace, social holiness, and the Wesleyan quadrilateral! We marvel also in how they are learning to act on these ideas, and find new willingness to put themselves out there to serve, to witness, and to proclaim God's love in Christ. I think I speak for all of us when I say I am deeply impressed by the Confirmands, and honored to have been a part of their journey.   Behind the scenes, I have also seen how the mentors and parents of these Confirmands have put in their own time working energetically in God's harvest as they guide the Confirmands through this process and supporting them in their faith development. Some of you have doubted whether you knew enough about Methodist theology or the Bible. I can assure you that your example of living out your faith, your presence, and your dedication with the Confirmands has helped them grow more than you can imagine. Youth group, also, has started to pick up a great momentum of monthly service projects and regular fun/fellowship outings, culminating most recently in a zip-lining outing and a Lock-In at the church where we went just wild enough to be safe, formed deeper bonds, and shared the kinds of moments of spiritual reflection and worship together that can only happen at 1:30 in the morning. In these ways, also, we are sending them out into the fields to harvest for the needs of others.   All of this seems to mirror the goings-on in the rest of our church life, with such abundant returns on some of our biggest annual fundraising efforts, like the Spring Rummage Sale and the Palooza Desert Auction. The generosity, energy and will for making a difference is strong with us!   In my personal and vocational life, it has also been a season of abundance, full of change that brings blessing, despite the stressors that always accompany big changes. As you know, I am moving soon to a two-point charge as the solo pastor of two congregations in the Thumb area, where I will get to work with a Hispanic ministry-a very exciting opportunity to use my particular gifts and experiences. Life has been a little hectic as I continue to throw my energy into our exciting ministries at GPUMC and simultaneously prepare for my transition, but I am grateful for both opportunities.   Ricardo and I are also deeply grateful for all of your prayers for his job situation and his children's visa process, and joyful to report that they have not been in vain! Ricardo is now working two jobs: one at a commercial truck repair business during the week, and a part-time job at Centro Familiar Cristiano United Methodist Church in Southwest Detroit as Children & Youth Minister. And as I write, my stepchildren Lesly and Richard are preparing to get on a plane to the US tomorrow morning! We are overjoyed that we will soon be reunited.   Thank you for responding to the call each in your own ways, and going to work in the harvest so that we may partake in God's abundant life and share it with others.   Rev. Sari Brownmore...

Pastor's Ponderings - April

Pastor's Ponderings "Reflections from the cabin..." more...

Pastor's Ponderings - March

March 2017 Pastor's Ponderings                As I embarked upon writing something of worth for this month's "Pointer," I was reminded of a lunch meeting that I had with a colleague some time ago. The name, church and even the denomination that this person serves in will remain private - it's really not that important as you will see. This friend had been raised in a church (a child of a pastor), serving in all of the positions that one might expect. Upon graduating from college, decided to dedicate their life to serving God as a clergy person; entered seminary, completing that and embarked upon a life of pastoral ministry.                During our lunch time conversation, I discovered a person that struggled with a sense of loneliness due to the "walls of isolation" that had been built even as the various ministries were engaged in. It seemed as though the more this person "lived into" their call to ministry, the more isolated they felt. Each new endeavor, each new "position" brought with it a real (or perceived) need to protect one's image until today, this person, this friend, this colleague and even more important - this sacred child of the Living God feels lost and lonely.                My question is this - Is this really what God intended when Jesus called the disciples to go into the entire world and be witnesses for a greater good? Has the church, as an institution of God, forgotten the example of Jesus Himself who was willing to make himself vulnerable so as to lift another from their sin, hurt or isolation? Or has the church, over the centuries, created an isolated and isolating fraternity that discourages a person from realizing the full potential that God intended for each person?                In our United Methodist Book of Discipline, one can find this statement: "Primary for us is the gospel understanding that all persons are important - because they are human beings created by God and loved through and by Jesus Christ and not because they have merited significance." (Paragraph 161, 2012 BOD) So, our task, as a church and as individuals is to:             1 - See ourselves as loved and accepted             2 - See others as loved and accepted             3 - And work to create an environment that all are welcomed by God and God'speople. 4 - Discover and develop fresh, new ways for all ages to grow as followers of the Divine One.    In closing, may I ask each of you during this season of transition to continue to serve the Lord with all of your heart, mind and strengthen and allow God to love you for who you are and whose you are! May we all discover new ways to build community and new ministries that will bless others as we journey through this year and beyond.    Pastor Ray more...

A Voice Crying Out In The Bus System

A Voice Crying Out in the Bus Systemmore...

Pastor's Ponderings - Lent

As we enter into this season known as "Lent," we are reminded that this season is the forty days (excluding Sundays) that lead us to Easter Sunday and the Resurrection Celebration!
For many Lent is a time to "give up" something, for others it might be a time to "take on" something (maybe forty days of morning prayers, etc.). Lent is a time to intentionally seek to enhance one's relationship with the God of Easter - Jesus the Christ. As a church, Grosse Pointe UMC has offered an opportunity to do just that - the Lenten Dinners and Program, a time to gather each Sunday evening for a wonderful meal and fellowship followed by a program for all.more...

What's So Special About Methodism?

On our vacation to Northern Michigan in January, Ricardo and stayed with a colorful cast of old friends along the way. We visited a lawyer turned stay-at-home-dad and his doctor wife; a retired ad executive and magician whose home is a treasure trove of antique music boxes, practical jokes and spooky tricks; a farm that doubles as a music festival and educational center where the founder of my record label was born; a family who recently managed to buy a beautiful home near a lake after the singer-songwriter husband got a boost to his career when he became a top-four finalist on The Voice. By chance, none of these friends identify as Christian. As we went along visiting with them, catching up after my many years away from Michigan and the music scene, they almost always asked the same question (even when they weren't quite sure how to ask it): What's special about the Methodist Church? All of them were curious, to know what kind of church had drawn their old singer/songwriter friend into a career in ministry. Whenever we get this question-what's special about Methodism?-it is a great opportunity to share about our faith, though it can be difficult to articulate what sets the Methodist Church apart specifically. We come by this struggle honestly, because we are such a large and diverse denomination-a mainstay of American life and culture, but also a global church. So really it contains a little bit of everything, and doesn't always have a strong "confessional" identity ("confessional" in this context means "confessing," or subscribing to, a certain set of doctrines or theological emphases). So in response to my friends, I get this problem out of the way first: "Well, Methodism used to be the largest denomination in the US, so it is classic 'mainline Protestant': middle-of-the-road theologically, and adapts itself to the culture from place to place." But I don't stop there. Next I try to get at the heart of what drew me to Methodism in the first place: "In its best expressions, Methodism carries forward the emphasis of the original Methodist movement, which maintains this wonderful balance between a charismatic, heart-oriented religion and a focus on social works of mercy and justice. It recognizes the need for an intimate, transformative relationship with God, but also that this spirituality should lead us to serve others and restructure social relationships." My friends seem satisfied with this answer-it must indicate to them that I haven't gone off the deep end religiously speaking. I may not convert any of these Jewish, Buddhist and spiritually eclectic individuals to Methodism, but there is undoubtedly power in continuing to be witness to what I believe is so fruitful and valuable about my faith, in a disenchanted world that often sees only the ugliest side of organized religion. That is why as I get settled back in after that trip, I am so excited about working with the Confirmands as they discover their own answer to the question: "What's so special about Methodism?" If the next generation of Methodists can articulate this to their friends of all persuasions, and they can be the living example of what they believe, then we will live in a much better world. Rev. Sari Brownmore...

Pastor's Ponderings - January 2017

Pastor's Ponderings As I embarked upon writing something of worth for this month's "Pointer," I was reminded of a lunch meeting that I had with a colleague some time ago. The name, church and even the denomination that this person serves in will remain private - it's really not that important as you will see. This friend had been raised in a church (a child of a pastor), serving in all of the positions that one might expect. Upon graduating from college, decided to dedicate their life to serving God as a clergy person. Entered seminary, completing that and embarked upon a life of pastoral ministry. During our lunch time conversation, I discovered a person that struggled with a sense of loneliness due to the "walls of isolation" that had been built even as the various ministries were engaged in. It seemed as though the more this person "lived into" their call to ministry, the more isolated they felt. Each new endeavor, each new "position" brought with it a real (or perceived) need to protect one's image until today, this person, this friend, this colleague and even more importantly - this sacred child of the Living God feels lost and lonely. Reflecting upon this, I suspect that this can (and does) happen with lay persons as well as clergy person. My question is this - Is this really what God intended when Jesus called the disciples to go into the entire world and be witnesses for a greater good? Has the church, as an institution of God, forgotten the example of Jesus Himself who was willing to make himself vulnerable so as to lift another from their sin, hurt or isolation? Or has the church, over the centuries, created an isolated and isolating fraternity that discourages a person from realizing the full potential that God intended for each person? In our United Methodist Book of Discipline, one can find this statement: "Primary for us is the gospel understanding that all persons are important - because they are human beings created by God and loved through and by Jesus Christ and not because they have merited significance." So, our task, as a church and as individuals is to:       1 - See ourselves as loved and accepted       2 - See others as loved and accepted       3 - And work to create an environment, and ministries that all are welcomed by God and welcoming to God's people. My prayer for each of you is that God will bless you abundantly, that 2017 will be filled with wonderful blessings. But most of all, I pray that each of us will find ourselves rejoicing and thanking God for what we do have. And continue the good work of making Grosse Pointe UMC a welcoming congregation! Pastor Ray more...

Pastor's Pondering - Christmas

Some time ago I came across a "modern day parable" that illustrated the true meaning of Christmas. The parable goes something like this:

A man could not understand or believe the Christian narrative that God had provided a redeemer in the form of a baby, born to a virgin and eventually to be crucified on cross, offering salvation for all. As he did not believe any of this, he also felt hypocritical attending the Christmas Eve Service with his wife and daughter each year. One year he decided that he would stay home as his family went to the service and upon their return they would proceed with the rest of their Christmas traditions.

While his family was attending church, he discovered a flock of birds crashing into a window of his house in an attempt to escape the early winter storm that had arisen. He thought about how foolish the birds had been in delaying their migration south for the winter and were now faced with the possibly of freezing to death. He soon reasoned that the birds were attracted to the light coming from the window and felt that if he could entice them into his barn that they could survive the night and could begin their journey south in the morning.

In an effort to attract them into the safety of his barn, he first opened the barn door and turned on the light inside - no birds entered the offered safety! Next, he brought out bread crumbs and laid a trail of them from the outside into the barn - still no birds entered. Finally, in desperation he began to flap his arms and run about the barnyard hoping that a few birds could be chased into the barn and others would follow - still no birds entered the offered sanctuary of the barn! Dropping to his knees in frustration, he wished that he could become a bird and thereby lead the others to the promised safety.

Just at that moment, the church bells rang out signaling the end of the Christmas Eve service. As he continued to kneel in the barnyard, listening to the church bells ring out, he came to understand that God had become a human being so that others would follow him into the safety and sanctuary of redeeming grace! That night the man realized that God's love was incarnate in the form of the baby Jesus, that he too could walk into the light of salvation and find the security of God's redemptive love. That night the man found the true meaning of Christmas!

This Christmas, may the light of God's love lead you, fill you and bless you and yours throughout the coming year! Merry Christmas!!

 

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