Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In my short time with you, I have been impressed by your participation and dedication to church ministries and activities. I have witnessed abundant kindness for one another in worship, fellowship, and administration. No one can question the devotion you have for your church.
I encourage you to continue your unselfish caring, especially weeks and months from now, when into your building project differing opinions about “old” and “new” may emerge. Remember that your faith and the spiritual wellbeing of your congregation surpasses all earthly things. As you have welcomed me, Vickie, and Rachel, please share the same loving grace to Rev. Jerry Cho and his family when they join you in July. No matter where we find ourselves, our spiritual journey still continues in One Spirit.
~ Privileged to serve with you in the Kingdom of God, Pastor Randy
Building Update On Thursday, February 22 the District Committee on Church Location and Building met to review our plans for the new sanctuary. Our meeting included a tour of our entire church campus, a presentation on our reasons for the new sanctuary, and a review of the building plans. The meeting went very well, and the Committee voted unanimously to approve our plans for the new sanctuary.
Detailed information regarding the new sanctuary along with FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) will be distributed in a few weeks. At the same time, the Current Sanctuary Group is working on alternatives for the current sanctuary, which will be presented on May 1 st . A church conference to vote on the new sanctuary will be scheduled this spring, and you will be receiving more information on that soon.
In order to make communication as smooth as possible, I ask that questions on the new sanctuary or the current sanctuary be directed to Dominic Petit, our Building Chair. He will be happy to show you the plans and answer any questions. I look forward to our congregation moving forward with the new sanctuary as we work together on Building Our Faith and Our Future.
In Christ, Pastor Eric
Lent begins on Wednesday, February with an Ash Wednesday service. Ash Wednesday focuses on our sinfulness and our mortality - we’re not perfect, and we’re not immortal, both of which are part of being human. Ashes are a traditional sign of this.
Ash Wednesday is also the beginning of Lent. This is an explanation of Lent from umc.org, the official website of the United Methodist Church:
“Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means "spring." The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry. Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.”
We can best prepare ourselves for Lent by making a commitment to a concrete spiritual practice. Here are some examples:
1. Practice the presence of God in your everyday life. This is what prayer is. Tell God what’s on your mind. Seek his help, and expect to receive it. Say short prayers throughout the day, such as “Help me”, “I thank you”, “forgive me”.
2. Give up something for Lent. Typically this is something pleasurable but not helpful. Examples might be alcoholic beverages or some unhealthy food. The point is not that these are sinful things. Rather, giving them up reminds us that Jesus gave up his life for us. The focus is on sacrifice.
3. Add something for Lent. Have a time of grace at mealtime if this is not part of your devotional life. Spend more time with family. Reach out to the poor in some concrete way through giving or volunteering
4. Fast. Pick a meal to give up once a week. Use the time to pray.
5. Read a gospel passage every day. The gospel of John is a great book to read during the week because of its personal focus on our relationship with God.
6. Attend church every week, including the special services of Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday - as you are able.
Any of these practice will help us grow closer to God. The message series during Lent will focus on building our relationship with God. I invite you to participate by committing yourself to Lenten practices and attending weekly worship.
See you in church, Pastor Eric
As we move into the New Year, we celebrate the Epiphany. The Epiphany is better known as the coming of the wise men. It is a separate celebration from Christmas because the wise men didn’t come until much later, about two years after the birth of Jesus. By this time Jesus was living in a house. The wisemen had seen the star of Bethlehem and believed it heralded the birth of a great king. So they organized a journey west to visit him. When they arrived they found the toddler Jesus and gave him expensive gifts of gold and spices. These gifts were given to honor Jesus, but they also served to support Jesus, and pay for travel to Egypt so that Jesus could grow up in safety, protected from Herod.
As we celebrate the New Year, let’s think about how we honor Jesus with our gifts. Part of that gifting is monetary, but on a deeper level, how do we use our talents and abilities for Jesus? The mission of Jesus depends on our willingness to use our talents in the work of the church.
A second thing to think about it is that Jesus spent some of his early childhood as an immigrant in a foreign land. His family took him there for asylum – to be protected from Herod, the unjust and violent leader of Palestine. What might that fact say about our attitudes about immigration? If Jesus’ family became immigrants, perhaps we can open our hearts to those who need the protection of our country from unjust rulers.
We all need each other in the human family. Jesus’ family needed monetary assistance and to be welcomed as strangers. During this Epiphany season, let us consider how we might provide help and welcome to the strangers in our lives.
Blessings on your New Year,
As we move into Advent, God calls his people to prepare. The four weeks of Advent - with hymns, carols and Advent wreaths - is a relatively recent practice. Traditionally, Advent was seven weeks long, and its purpose was penitential - which means looking at our lives, seeing where we fall short of God’s call to holiness of life, and then amending our ways. Advent also gave people time to meditate on the holy mystery of the Incarnation, when God become man.
What’s unique about the Christian Faith is not the Crucifixion, not even the Resurrection (there were Greek and Roman gods that died and rose) but the Incarnation - the belief that God, in all his splendor and majesty, became man in Jesus Christ; and not in a superficial sense - like Joseph donning his many colored dreamcoat - but in an all-the-way to the bones kind of way. Christians believe this so firmly, that in ancient Christian tradition, and still in the Catholic and Orthodox churches today, Mary is called the Mother of God, because she gave birth to Jesus who was truly God.
And yet, Advent is not a somber season. It’s a season of giving, sharing, and generosity. It’s not a season to focus on sins of commission - like breaking one of the Commandments - but rather sins of omission - when we fail to give to our less fortunate neighbors out of hardness of heart; when we fail to be generous out of fear we won’t have enough money; or when we fail to love our family and friends, because we are holding onto grudges that are within our power to release.
During this season of Advent, I challenge all of us to conform ourselves more closely to Jesus, who is the model of generosity. He was not afraid to humble himself, even to the point of death on a cross, so that we could receive the greatest gift of all - forgiveness and the chance to begin again with God and our neighbor.
Blessings on your Advent preparations, Pastor Eric
God owns our lives. That may strike you as intrusive, but it’s true. We are God’s creatures. He made us and gave us the estate we call our lives. We are only temporary managers of that estate. We are called to be good managers: taking risks when necessary for growth, and properly caring for and protecting the assets we already have.
But stewardship is about so much more than money It’s about using our connection to God, our presence in worship, our financial gifts, our service in the church and community, and our stories of faith - for God’s purposes. Stewardship is about going to worship when we don’t feel like going, it’s being inspired to pray for someone we hadn’t thought about in a while, choosing to go on a mission trip for the first time, or sharing our Christian story with someone who hasn’t heard it before.
Stewardship is about managing our human, financial, and physical resources in such a way that we can move toward God’s vision and live out Jesus’ mission. It’s about being inspired and educated by God among the people we call our church family, then moving out into the community to help people and change society according to God’s plans for the world.
In the end, stewardship isn’t about money. It’s about being a unified community under God and inspired by the Spirit to follow Jesus and build God’s kingdom on earth. That’s exciting. And I can’t wait to tell you more.
See you in church.