I love to help people build things. When performing in shows I loved being a part of the whole process that resulted in a big production. When I worked in the public school system and in music ministry, I enjoyed working together with people to create the highest caliber of music possible in each group I directed. In my life as a pastor, I find that the greatest reward is watching life changing ministry occur in the hearts and minds of the people in my community. Building souls is awe inspiring to say the very least.
While I have been actively involved in church work for most of my adult life, I can honestly say that the congregation at First United Methodist Church of Truth or Consequences will always hold a special place in my heart. T or C was the first place I was called a pastor. It was the place that I learned to spread my wings and truly live into the calling that God placed on my life many years ago. I entered into a special bond with the T or C congregation that continues to empower our church and community. Our connectional thread continues to be the Holy Spirit. Together, we step out in faith knowing that it is through Divine leadership that we are all made new.
Sunday, June 17th, will be my last day with the people of this wonderful congregation. I will be moving from Southern New Mexico to lead worship in Rio Rancho, NM. My ministry will continue in a different place, with different people, and different concerns. I will always be grateful to the people in T or C who filled my spirit full of joy each week as we celebrated the risen Christ. To say my cup is full of love for you is an understatement. I appreciate the tools that you gave me to build a place where all are welcome.
It is with the spirit of joy and trust that I turn to my new church in Rio Rancho. Please know that I am a person who feels truly blessed to have worshiped with some amazing people. As I acknowledge the presence of God in the lives of those who went before me, I look forward to you and am excited about embracing this new part of the journey. We push forward knowing that God will lead us as we transform our world with the incredible message that God loves all of us.
I was walking through a grocery store the other day and happened upon a sign that read “Easter items, half off!” Inside the sales bins there were chocolate bunnies and various and assorted candies. Everything was marked “for sale.” Naturally the theologian in me almost exploded. I thought about the many times that I raced towards Easter having endured the obstacle course known as Lent. It was as if Easter was the official day of celebration and the race was over. The victory having gone to the winner and everything else was a letdown.
For those of us who worship in liturgical churches, last week only marked the beginning of the Easter season. Our themes focus on the triumph of the Spirit and how humanity has received the most incredible gift that could ever be given. We celebrate God and the incredible workings of the Divine in humanity. Christ has risen indeed.
The early church fathers looked forward to each Sunday as being a mini-Easter. They celebrated the victory of the risen Christ and emphasized the wonder of the resurrection and the power of God every week. Their praises to God were for a lifetime and not limited to one day or even one season. Their lives and understanding of the mystery of God’s gift of love empowers us to keep the faith by telling the story of our God throughout the year. We, like the early church fathers who have gone before us, share our journey that is forever intertwined with the story of how Divine love has changed us.
Easter is not just a day filled with Easter Bunnies and great chocolate. There is no such thing as Easter being “half off.” Our full time joy in God’s wonderful and radical love for us is about a total commitment and not simply backing off after a national holiday. Our wishes for a happy Easter are not limited to one day, but are a living testimony to the glory of God! It is with great joy and gratitude that I wish you a very “Happy Easter!”
It is hard to believe that tomorrow is Palm Sunday. In one short week we will journey into the darkest places of our faith only to celebrate the greatest joy the following Sunday. This Lenten season has been about our walk with God. Our focus centered around the fact that God is present with us even if we stray as far as we can possibly go. No matter how far we wander, God is there. We hold true to this hope. We celebrated our encounters with God through the act of Communion throughout the season.
Palm Sunday reminds us that we stand on the edge of a cliff much like the early Hebrews did. Remember the story? The young Israelite nation looked over the incredible land that God had promised to them with wander and amazing joy. There was one problem. In order to claim the land the Israelites had to walk through difficulties and trials to get into the great promise that awaited them. In the end the Hebrew nation received their reward.
Christ did the same thing. Beginning with the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knew the prize that awaited him. He knew that God would have ultimate glory in the resurrection story. The only thing was that Jesus had to endure the trial, flogging, and utlimate horrible death on a cross. The reward was in plain sight, but the journey to the prize was difficult and painful.
In all honesty, we stand at the edge of cliffs many times in our lives. We catch a glimpse of the wonderful possibilities that await us, but sometimes never get there because we refuse to journey through the darker more difficult roads that lead us to our reward. The journey changes us and makes our hearts ready to openly receive the gift with much more gratitude than we had when we were simply looking over the edge of the cliff. Sometimes the path is not as dark as others. The truth remains, we still must journey through to get to the beauty that awaits us.
My hope for everyone is that we all realize that we must pick up our cross and walk the road that leads to our joy and hope. We understand and live in the knowledge that continues through the darkest times; that God is on this journey with us. There is no path too dark nor too deep that God’s presence is not an absolute reality. It is nice to stand on the edge of the journey and see the beauty of the promised land, but at some point we must sacrifice our view from the edge of the cliff to cross through the rough parts of the journey so that we can live in the land flowing with milk and honey.
This week I am using the reading from the liturgy found in the Gospel of Mark 1:29-39. I am drawn to the story not as an interpreter of the story itself, but how the message of healing is one that is developed for all people. We read the miracle stories found throughout the Gospels and at times find the greatest messages in the fact that Jesus “cured” a person or group from a fatal illness. It is very easy to maintain a personal theology that, in the cases of healing, Jesus answers the prayers of the needy.