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Lenten Meditation for Good Friday (18 April 2014)

Good Friday
(18 April 2014)
by Rev. Elder Hector Gutierrez

In your relationships with one another,
have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing
   by taking the form of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
 by becoming obedient to death –
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2: 5b-11

I chose this Paschal passage because is not possible to find a better Christology´s summary. In this short passage, we have a profound reflection about what is the best way to talk about the Mystery of Salvation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection, as parts of the same event.

In the understanding of many Christians, at least in the collective imagination of the Latino communities, Good Friday is always a sad day. Most of the people want to express with sacrifice their gratitude to Jesus for his passion. In my tradition, Good Friday has a larger impact on personal devotion than Easter Sunday.

Since the first day I learned you call this day “Good Friday” in English, I’ve loved it because it is a refreshing title. In calling it Good Friday, it asks for us to be aware — we are not only to commemorate the death of Jesus, sanctifying the pain and suffering, per se.

It is not only about the suffering and death. It is also about the “good” that happens. In the teachings of Christ, we come to understand that by his death, Jesus showed his great love for humanity and obtained for us every blessing and everlasting life.

Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson
(Photo: Bill Owen, Allegheny College)

Good Friday is not a sad day; instead, it is a good day for humanity. The main reflection for this day is that Jesus Christ, through his death on a cross, precisely got the real victory for us, which is Life Eternal, a gift from God.

Of course, we are to reflect on death today, but we should do so from God´s perspective and not from the concept this world imposes. For humanity, for Christians especially, eternal life is far more important that death; death is just the last earthly step to the fulfillment of our full realization of God.

I believe Good Friday reminds us we are to be in solidarity with our LGBT siblings who are crucified in some countries — like Uganda, Belize, Honduras, Brazil, and Russia — or with those currently crucified by poverty, incarceration, and HIV, as well as with other communities being persecuted unjustly. We must fight with them to obtain a resurrection from their situations.

Foreign Debt - Rafael Enriquez
(Art: Rafael Enriquez)

Leonardo Boff, in the book Passion of Christ, Passion of the World: The Facts, Their Interpretation, and Their Meaning Yesterday and Today, said:

To preach the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ today entails the following:

To commit oneself and all one´s energies for a world where love, peace and community of sisters and brothers, a world where openness and self-surrender to God, will be less difficult. This means denouncing situations that generate hatred, division, and practical atheism — atheism in terms of structures, values, practices, and ideologies. It means proclaiming, and practicing — in commitment, love and solidarity — justice in the family, in the school, in the economic system, and in the political relations. The consequence of this engagement will be crisis, suffering, confrontation, and the cross. Acceptance of the cross, of this clash, this confrontation, is what it means to carry the cross, as our Lord carried it: it means suffering, enduring, for the sake of the cause we support and the life we lead….

To carry the cross as Jesus carried it, then, means taking up a solidarity with the crucified of this world — with those who suffer violence, who are impoverished, who are dehumanized, who are offended in their rights. To carry the cross as Jesus carried it means to defend these persons, and to attack the practices in whose name they are made nonpersons. It means taking up the cause of their liberation, and suffering for the sake of this cause….

It is in MCC’s very DNA to be the Human Rights Church. This year, we must embrace as never before this call to lead the way in living as justice-seeking people. Let’s celebrate this Good Friday with the understanding that we are to be the voice for the voiceless and with the principal goal to share with everyone that another world is possible — and another type of church is possible, too.

Another World Is Possible
(Photo: franceshasso.net)

To be in solidarity with all who are crucified in this world — that must be MCC´s business card. And our business is to offer life — and life in abundance — for all our siblings.

Pray with me. “Oh God, Universal Father and Mother, we ask that as we celebrate this Good Friday, we feel in communion with all humanity, looking to you as we seek the meaning of life. We cordially welcome all countries and religions who reflect upon and seek you.”

  • Lenten Meditation for Easter Sunday (20 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Holy Saturday (19 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Good Friday (18 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Passion Sunday (13 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Palm Sunday (13 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Fifth Sunday (6 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Fourth Sunday (30 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Third Sunday (23 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Second Sunday (16 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the First Sunday (9 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Ash Wednesday (5 March 2014)
  • Earth Day 2014

    EarthDay2014CELEBRATE THE EARTH 
    EARTH DAY OBSERVANCE 
    April 22, 2014

     

    The first Earth Day was observed in 1970, marking the first occasion when millions of Americans united to demonstrate their concern for the deteriorating state of the environment.  More than forty years later, we join many others from all around the world in celebrating and advocating on behalf of the Earth. The importance of protecting the Earth and her increasingly scarce resources and fragile environment has become ever more apparent as we observe that the Earth’s climate has been warming and that the exploitation of the Earth for fossil fuels in the form of oil, coal, and natural gas has not waned.  In its most recent report last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that “the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentration of greenhouse

    gases have increased.”  Further, the IPCC concludes that the warming trend is unequivocal, reporting that “each of the last three decades have been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850.”  Now more than ever, citizens and policymakers need to act to make possible a sustainable future for generations to come.

     

    In the face of the reality of rapid ecological crises and degradation, we believe that as people of faith we are called to tend to God’s good creation, seek justice for the vulnerable and oppressed among us, and be good stewards of the bounty and beauty of the Earth.

     

    This year, the focus for Earth Day is on Green Cities, an effort to encourage lawmakers, businesses, and citizens to make sustainable investments in clean energy and advocate for public policies that promote energy efficiency and limit greenhouse gas emissions.  The IPCC has concluded that efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development and equity can be improved by limiting the effects of climate change.  The Moderator’s Public Policy Team agrees and calls on our elected officials and concerned people of faith to advocate for policies and practices that help us create a healthier environment for a sustainable future for all.

     

    On Earth Day, April 22, we can all do our part to act as good stewards and advocates for the environment, ensuring that later generations will be able to benefit from all the beauty and bounties of the Earth.  You can reaffirm your commitment to protecting the environment by volunteering, letting your representatives know that you support sound environmental policies, or making a small lifestyle change to reduce any negative impact on the environment.  If everyone chooses to do something small, together, we can create a better world for future generations.

     

    To help you further reflect on God’s earth as gift, we are please to share the following resources:

    This statement was prepared by the Public Policy Team of 

    Metropolitan Community Churches/The Global Justice Institute, Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Chair.

    For more information, contact the Public Policy Team at rmccadvocacy@mccchurch.net.

    Lenten Meditation for Passion Sunday (13 April 2014)

    Passion Sunday
    (13 April 2014)
    by Rev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson

    Matthew 26 and 27

    The Passion Narratives are a central feature of each gospel, focusing on the last week of Jesus’ life.

    The passion drama is a story within the story of Jesus, one that includes all kinds of losses: betrayal, abandonment, physical suffering, humiliation, and death, as well as loss of control, of relationships, and of justice.

    Passion Jesus in Gethsemane
    (Photo: fministry.com)
    Some theologians say the passion “unlocks the significance of Jesus’ life and ministry.” Some would rather focus on Jesus the Teacher, or healer, and leave out the violence and pain of this part of the story.

    Other scholars point out the painful truth that the passion story, written first as an internal Jewish conversation, became fodder for lethal anti-Semitism for millennia. Passion plays from the middle ages, all the way through Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” have fed into dangerous, racist stereotypes.

    This ugly underbelly fits into a larger narrative of the ways in which the dominant culture uses religion to oppress and to marginalize. Christianity that is held captive to this narrative must be overthrown by the prophetic, liberating gospel we have come to know. And overthrowing is always costly, thus “the passion.”

    For this reflection, I have reduced my own understanding of Jesus’ passion to a message more simple and stark: Through losses, changes, and challenges — though weary — do not give up!

    Dave Cape, from On the Road with Jesus, says:

    I continued to press on, limping, my feet aching, slipping, sliding, desperately wanting to sit down, chilled to the marrow. Even in this sopping wet state I could feel the hot tears welling in my eyes. Eventually I cried out to God and said, “God, what is this all about? Why am I out here? What am I doing here? Am I crazy?” then came the still, small voice of the Spirit as I sensed God saying, “No, David, I am just teaching you to endure; I am just checking you out.”

    Finally after some six hours Carol arrived to collect me and I could hardly bend down to get in the car. I looked at her and said, “If I were a quitter, today would be the day I quit.” But as Carol turned the car, I knew once again that God was saying, “No one, after putting their hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the (Kin)dom of God!”

    do not give up
    We have all been there, for many reasons, as diverse as each of our stories. Who can we go to, to admit that we wonder how we got here? We wonder if what we are doing makes a difference. We wonder if we are really crazy to care, to love, to work for justice, to minister, to do what we do, day after day. God, are you checking us out?

    We are also checking You out!!! We are asking who You are, and what You want, and what You want with us in particular.

    Jesus suffered his moments as well, as he journeyed to Jerusalem. After pouring himself out on a three-year, unrelenting road trip, he must have wondered, “Am I crazy? God, is this really what you want? How will it all end?”

    The point of the story is, if we do not give up, if we hold on and hold out, and if we endure, we can trust the God we know in Jesus to use our suffering as the compost for something new, and good, and just. That will make a difference, changing lives and history.

    I think of so many. Like those parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School (Newtown, Connecticut, USA), who bravely put their suffering to work so that others will not have to suffer the way they have. Or those LGBT people in Uganda who are standing proudly and suffering for justice with so little protection. There is a powerful intensity of “suffering transformed” that inspires awe and courage in the rest of us.

    David Kato
    (Photo: dadychery.org)

    Suffering is part of being human. Unnecessary, undeserved suffering is the most poignant and mysterious of all. Jesus’ suffering and loss, his humanness before the Mystery, makes him most accessible to us, and most like us.

    Finally, can we, like him, offer up our suffering and passion — our tears, our pain, our doubts, and our fears? Can we keep on and not quit until that day when hope and victory arrive at an empty tomb?

  • Lenten Meditation for Easter Sunday (20 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Holy Saturday (19 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Good Friday (18 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Passion Sunday (13 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Palm Sunday (13 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Fifth Sunday (6 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Fourth Sunday (30 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Third Sunday (23 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Second Sunday (16 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the First Sunday (9 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Ash Wednesday (5 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditations 2014

  • Lenten Meditation for Easter Sunday (20 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Holy Saturday (19 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Good Friday (18 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Passion Sunday (13 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Palm Sunday (13 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Fifth Sunday (6 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Fourth Sunday (30 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Third Sunday (23 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Second Sunday (16 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the First Sunday (9 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Ash Wednesday (5 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Palm Sunday (13 April 2014)

    Palm Sunday
    (13 April 2014)
    by Rev. Elder Hector Gutierrez

    The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”

    Matthew 21:6-9

    “Hosanna to David’s son!”

    With Palm Sunday´s celebration, we begin our spiritual itinerary into Holy Week. One more time, we are convened to the paschal mystery as Hans Urs von Balthar said, “There in Jesus´ paschal mystery we recognize that God has not just redeemed the world but disclosed God´s own being”[1]. I think we will never understand the profound reflection in this mystery, because it overwhelms us. That´s the reason we need to come again and again to this celebration, not just once a year, but every Sunday in our worship.

    Palm Sunday offers to us, in a concentrated, advanced way, all that we will celebrate during the Holy Days because present to us is the figure of Jesus, as the suffering King that is acclaimed, yet at the same time scoffed at.

    When the Cheering Stopped
    (Photo: philmoser.com)

    This Palm Sunday, we are not just recalling what happened almost 20 centuries ago; we have the opportunity to live with the same hope those in Jerusalem showed to Jesus in his triumphal entry. The call of the Christian liturgy is for us to be keenly present to the realities of an unjust world and live into our responsibility to change it.

    For me, it is so hard to imagine the Palm Sunday that Jesus experienced was a festive and organized celebration, with the people exhibiting good behavior. Of course, that is not what happened. I imagine their actions were more like an authentic, joyous manifestation of their hope. Finally, they felt it was the right moment to express loudly their expectations, not just in the spiritual way, but in their full lives with all their being. It was more like a protest, motivated by the sense that something was about to change for the better.

    Another World is Possible...
    (Photo: indymedia.org)

    We can celebrate in a new way this day, remembering that Jesus made his entry to Jerusalem mounted on a donkey, showing humility, gentleness, and peace, and surrounded by the crowd that was his community. We, as MCC, can celebrate Holy Week in the same spirit by being with the people in need, showing we have the conviction to reply to God´s calling with renewed, radical, inclusive acceptance of all people.

    Let me share with you one experience from my early days as a clergy person. I was ordained a catholic priest in 1994. My first mission was in a small town that had just one ranch. The new priest was required to be in charge of the ranch, which had around 50 families living on it. I will always remember the day I arrived in that community. I experienced an incredible welcome two miles before the chapel; all the people were waiting for me so they could offer a special reception with a mariachi, fireworks, and shaking hands with everybody. Of course, nothing comes without some requirement from our lives. I understood with humility, that was my Palm Sunday in my life as a priest.

    This is Not the Change We Hoped For!
    (Photo: news.mongabay.com)

    In the same community, just weeks later, I experienced the other not so comfortable face, when some people would stand up and leave the chapel because I was the priest in charge to celebrate the mass. At that time, I shared my ministry with a very old, traditional, and retired priest, who used to celebrate the mass in Latin. He told the people that I, the new priest, was a product of the devil because I did not use the Latin. This experience marked my ministry and my conviction; it helped me keep in my mind and heart that I would need to be prepared to live the reality that just because I am a clergy person does not mean I would always be welcome. Not everywhere would I hear “tu casa es mi casa.”

    I used to celebrated Palm Sunday in the communities with banners that showed what change was needed in the context where we lived. The crowd that welcomed Jesus in Jerusalem had the expectations that something new would happen soon. If we have the goal to welcome Jesus in our community with our palms, we need to also have the commitment to work to change the unjust things and behaviors in the world so that it can be a new day for our many siblings to expect a better future.

    Moderator Nominating Committee Alternates for General Conference 2016

    The MCC Governing Board has appointed Beulah Durrheim (South Africa) and Stuart Sutherland (Australia) as Alternates to the Moderator Nominating Committee (MNC). They will serve dual roles as MNC alternates and as Committee aides. Should circumstances arise that do not allow one or more of the MNC members to fulfill their roles through General Conference XXVI in 2016, one or both would be appointed to serve those terms. Additionally, they will participate in the processes and decisions of the MNC, having voice and no vote.
    We are pleased to introduce the alternates to the Moderator Nominating Committee: Beulah Durrheim (South Africa) and Stuart Sutherland (Australia) 

    Beulah Durrheim PIC

    Beulah Durrheim is currently the Pastoral Leader at Good Hope MCC in Cape Town, South Africa, a position she has held since September 2012. She also serves as the Spiritual Director for Africa Upper Room Ministries, as well as managing staff meetings in the Western Cape.

    Prior to this, she has served as a Pastor in two Methodist churches for a period of 10 years. She has participated in various pastoral search committees with the task of interviewing and finding replacement pastors. She has been a recent advocate of LGBTI rights, in particular testifying at a variety of meetings within the Methodist church, e.g. Synod (meeting of all the ministers in the Western Cape), youth groups. She has also made herself available to the presiding Bishop to participate/facilitate the conversations regarding same-gender relationships.

    She ran her own business, Creative Expressions, where she specialised in facilitating ceremonies, retreats, creating and designing teaching materials, and finding creative ways of facilitating spiritual journeys. It was a spiritual ministry based on the belief that every baby blessing, memorial, wedding, retreat, etc. should be a unique experience, tailored according to the personalities and needs of the client.

    She has also volunteered to serve on Chrysalis and Emmaus, inter-denominational spiritual enrichment and training weekends for church leaders. She has served in various leadership roles for 10 years and was elected to be the Community Leader for Chrysalis in the Western Cape from 1999 to 2001. This has included her leading and facilitating team selection committees.

    She and her spouse Charmaine were married in 2008, and they have two beautiful cats named Andor and Taishar.

    She holds a Bachelor of Theology degree from the University of South Africa.

    Stuart Sutherland picStuart Sutherland is currently the Vice Moderator of MCC Good Shepherd in Western Sydney, Australia (MCCGS), where he assists the church in organising fund raising events, leading worship, as Church Representative to local GLBTI Organisations, as MCCGS Representative to local churches, and as MCCGS Legal Representative.

    He is a lawyer/solicitor and barrister and has been practising for nearly 14 years.

    His job is the Principal Solicitor at Logical Legal Solicitors in Newtown, Australia. His partner Michael helps him run the law firm and works as his executive assistant. He has been helping MCC Sydney and MCC Good Shepherd in Australia with legal advice and governance issues.

    He attends the Supreme Court of New South Wales, District and Local Courts of New South Wales, and Federal Circuit Courts. His area of practice involves Corporate Law, Wills, Estates, Powers of Attorney, Guardianship, Family Law, and Mental Health.

    He has been active in the LGBT community representing clients in courts and providing legal advice. He has also been active in the past with organising the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras that is held in February/March each year.

    He assists Intellectual Disabled people in the community and worked as volunteer solicitor for the Intellectual Disability Rights Service. He has been the President of the Central Coast of New South Wales Blue Light Discos. He was one of the founding law firms on the National Pro Bono Scheme of Australia.

    Stuart holds a Master of Laws from the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, and a Bachelor of Laws from Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. He has been a part-time lecturer at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. He plans to finish a Juris Doctor at the University of Technology, Sydney.

    Stuart lives in Granville, Australia, with his partner Michael and their 8-year-old cross maltese/shiatsu, “Fido”, and their foster dog, a 3-year-old miniature poodle, “Barney.”

    Stuart and Beulah will join MNC members: Elisa Vega-Burns (Chairperson), Rev. Kevin Downer, and Rev. Dr. Lea Brown. Read more on: http://mccchurch.org/moderator-nominating-committee-for-general-conference-2016/

    Elisa Vega-Burns RevKevinDowner Rev. Dr. Lea Brown
    Elisa Vega-Burns, Chair Rev. Kevin Downer Rev. Dr. Lea Brown

     

    You will hear more in the next couple of months from the Moderator Nominating Committee regarding the process for recruiting and soliciting candidates to stand for election as the next Moderator of MCC at General Conference 2016.

    Please join us in welcoming the Beulah Durrheim and Stuart Sutherland!

    Reverend Onetta Brooks
    Chair, Governance Committee
    On behalf of the MCC Governing Board

    Lenten Meditation for the Fifth Sunday (6 April 2014)

    Fifth Sunday
    (6 April 2014)
    by Rev. Elder Dr. Mona West
    The Raising of Lazarus from Martha’s Perspective
    John 11: 1-45

    On this fifth Sunday of Lent, I invite us to hear the familiar story of the raising of Lazarus from Martha’s perspective. What follows is what I imagine Martha would have said about what happened that day:

    Oh, hello. Just tidying up a bit. You know, I have a reputation for that. You remember that story, don’t you? Jesus had come to our house for dinner — the house that my sister Mary and my brother Lazarus and I lived in — we were his family of choice, and he was always hanging out at our house. Well, I was flying around in the kitchen clanging pots and pans trying to get everything ready. I was pretty stressed out about having Jesus over for dinner, so I really flew off the handle when I noticed my sister Mary was just sitting around chatting with Jesus instead of helping me out. So I said, “Jesus, don’t you care that I am in here doing all this by myself? Tell Mary to get in here and help me.” He replied, “Martha, Martha, Martha, you worry too much. Mary has chosen the better part.”

    Mary, Martha, and Jesus
    (Photo: pinterest.com)

    Well, I have sort of gotten a bad rap from that story ever since, but my brother wouldn’t have come back from the dead if I didn’t have chutzpah to march down the road and meet Jesus that day.

    I have to say, I was a little miffed with Jesus for not showing up sooner. Mary and I had sent word to him several days earlier that Lazarus was ill. So when I heard that Jesus was on the road just outside of town four days after we had buried Lazarus, I went out to meet him. With my hand on my hip, I said, “If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” And no sooner had those words come out of my mouth, I said in the same breath, “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

    Trust
    (Photo: goodriskgovernancepays.com)

    Have you ever had that happen to you? You know, it’s like you make a complaint and a statement of trust all in one sentence. I pointed out to Jesus that because he was late, Lazarus was dead, then turned around and implied that he could do something about it.  Conversations with Jesus are often like that. He is just as interested in our complaints as he is in our trust and faith.

    Well, Jesus and I got into this whole theological discussion. He said to me, “Your brother will rise again.” And I thought he was talking about the belief our religious leaders, the Pharisees, had taught — that at the end of the age, the righteous dead would be raised. So I responded, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” But Jesus threw me for a loop when he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”  Then he looked into my eyes and asked, “Do you believe this?”

    believe (GC 2013 theme)

    All of a sudden, I realized Jesus had shifted the conversation to a deeper level than just what the Pharisees taught about resurrection. He was asking me about my relationship with him. So there I was, standing in the middle of the road, and by this time my hand had come down off my hip, and in the eternity that gathered around that simple question from Jesus, “Do-you-believe-this?” I answered, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” It was a confession of faith that transcended any theological category or debate. Jesus was inviting me to move out of my head — thinking about him, Lazarus, what the Pharisees taught about resurrection — and to move into my heart: “What do you believe about me Martha?”

    After that conversation, the strangest thing happened. Jesus went to the tomb where Lazarus had been buried for four days. There was a huge stone covering the entrance, and Jesus told those who were gathered there weeping and mourning to take away the stone. Well, you know me, the practical one. I quickly turned to Jesus and said, “Ewh! There is already stench, and you want us to open up the tomb?” Jesus replied, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” In that moment, I knew that consenting to rolling away the stone would not only change Lazarus’ life forever, but mine too.

    So they rolled away the stone, and after Jesus had prayed a very simple prayer, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” We had never heard Jesus raise his voice. I mean, it was really loud. I think that is where you get the phrase, ‘loud enough to wake the dead.’  And sure enough, a few seconds later, we saw this mummy-like figure stumble out of the tomb, squirming, trying to stay upright, trying to walk, but Lazarus’ hands and feet were still bound in his grave clothes and his face still wrapped in a shroud. We all just stood there speechless, and finally Jesus said, “Unbind him. Let him go.”

    You could say this is a coming out story. Jesus is always calling us to come out. To come out of the places that are killing us — maybe it is a job, or a relationship, or an addiction, or an attitude. Jesus says ‘come out.’ Jesus is asking us to consider the things in our lives that keep us bound and stumbling — half alive: fear, hatred, resentment. Jesus says those have no hold on us as his disciples.

    Come Out
    (Photo: testimoniesofhope.com)

    Oh sure, Lazarus came out that day, but I did too. I came out as a disciple of Jesus. My confession of faith in Jesus as the Messiah was life changing. I had served Jesus meals in my home many times, and we had had many conversations, but that day on the road when he told me that he was the resurrection and the life, when he told me that everyone who lives and believes in him will never die — a great shift happened in my soul. Suddenly, I realized that the kind of life Jesus was talking about was ‘abundant life’ here and now. In that moment, without actually saying the words ‘come out,’ Jesus called forth a knowing in me that had been there all along, but now I was ready for it. Now I was ready to live more fully into the life that was before me.

    Well, it’s about time for me to go. But before I do, let me just ask you, “How do you need to come out? What stones in your life need to be rolled away so you can hear Jesus’ voice of life more clearly?” Those are some life and death questions to think about as you journey toward Easter.

  • Lenten Meditation for Easter Sunday (20 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Holy Saturday (19 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Good Friday (18 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Passion Sunday (13 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Palm Sunday (13 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Fifth Sunday (6 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Fourth Sunday (30 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Third Sunday (23 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Second Sunday (16 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the First Sunday (9 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Ash Wednesday (5 March 2014)
  • MCC Announces the Judy Dale Scholarship Fund for Lay Leadership

    Metropolitan Community Churches is pleased to establish a scholarship fund in honor and memory of our iconic lay leader, Ms. Judy Dale. Judy’s service as a District Coordinator, her presence on MCC boards and councils, and her steadfast commitment to the priesthood of all believers has shaped the ministry of the laity in MCC for years to come. Rev. Dee Dale, Judy’s beloved partner, has approved the establishment of this scholarship fund.

    Money received for this fund will provide scholarships for the LEAD (Laity Empowered for Active Discipleship) program, MCC’s premier lay leadership training program. These scholarships will allow persons to participate in the initial LEAD retreat, as well as offer some financial support for current participants to complete course requirements. Currently, there are 89 people in the LEAD program in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australasia. LEAD retreats for 2014 are scheduled for May in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, and for September in the Philippines.

    On 26 April, Rev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson will be presiding at Judy’s memorial service at MCC Louisville (Kentucky, USA). If you would like to honor Judy’s ministry by making a donation to the scholarship fund, you can click the Donate button below or send a check to P.O. Box 50488, Sarasota, FL 32432, USA.




    Judy-Dale

    Lenten Meditation for the Fourth Sunday (30 March 2014)

    Fourth Sunday
    (30 March 2014)
    by Rev. Elder Darlene Garner

    No matter what our chronological age might be, many of us are probably still trying to make sense of our lives — to answer the proverbial question, Who will I be when I grow up? The global movement of MCC and our congregations are also beginning to engage the question, What is it that God is calling us to become and to do as 21st century people?

    E. E. Cummings quote
    (Photo: addicted2success.com)
    As though in response to our questions, the lectionary for the 4th Sunday in Lent presents four scripture texts for our reflection and consideration. The text from 1 Samuel 16:1-13 tells of Samuel’s search for a new king of Israel. Psalm 23 reminds us of God’s constant presence with us, even when we are in the midst of our deepest fears. John 9:1-41 presents Jesus as the light of the world, within the context of a transgressive healing story. Then Ephesians 5:8-14 calls all of us out to live as children of light.

    This is the one. 1 Samuel 16:12b
    I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Psalm 23:4b
    I am the light of the world. John 9:5
    Everything that is illuminated becomes a light. Ephesians 5:13b

    From the moment of the birth of Metropolitan Community Churches, God claimed us as God’s own and said, “This is the one.” This is the newborn Body of Christ that can heal the broken world. As diverse peoples from every nation, this is the one that can embody my unconditional love, break down walls of exclusion, and bring forth justice and peace.

    Caroline A. Shearer quote
    (Photo: happyhealthy365.wordpress.com)

    MCC has gone through a lot of trials and tribulations through the years, and God has been with us every step of the way. When we were hiding in closets of shame, God led us out toward reconciliation of our sexuality and our spirituality. When our families rejected us and we were excluded from other communities of faith, through God’s grace, we created a beloved community that offers an Open Table where all people can find a place. Even when AIDS and other forms of disease ravage our bodies, God gives us the strength to overcome even as we offer comfort, consolation, and care. We have come, and are coming, through all of that and so much more. As we now look toward the future, we have no fear, for we know that God is still with us.

    MCC is illuminated by the light of Christ, and the spirit of Christ shines through us. This means that even today we are the light of the world. We are still a strong beacon of light that breaks through the darkness of ignorance and fear. We illuminate pathways to wholeness, holiness, and healing. We brighten the hopes of people seeking to begin a relationship with God and the aspirations of people yearning to be free from discrimination and oppression. Just because we exist, people can pursue their life purpose, the world can find its way to justice, and all of us can know peace.

    As wonderful and life-giving as MCC is, we cannot allow it to come about that tomorrow our light will have been overshadowed by the accomplishments of our past. We were not created to continue being who we were in former years. God is calling us now to transform ourselves into who God created us to become — an embodiment of God’s unconditional love that perpetually breaks down walls of exclusion and brings forth justice and peace.

    Dear Past, Dear Future
    (Photo: marsitariani.wordpress.com)
    While the needs of God’s people for acceptance and love are enduring, the world in which MCC ministers has changed considerably since we began in 1968. The future is not behind us; it is not even right now. God is calling us to a future that lies ahead. MCC recently adopted a new statement of vision that articulates who God has called us to become:

    Metropolitan Community Church is compelled by an unfinished calling and a prophetic destiny.
    We are a global movement of spiritually and sexually diverse people
    who are fully awake to God’s enduring love.
    Following the example of Jesus and empowered by the Spirit,
    we seek to build leading-edge church communities
    that demand, proclaim, and do justice in the world.

    The MCC Governing Board, Council of Elders, and Senior Leadership Team are gaining great clarity about what is needed from us in order to lead our movement closer toward this vision. We are as focused as a laser beam in pursuit of this vision. Yet YOU are the one for which the world still waits.

    Think Big
    (Photo: meejmuse.com)
    My hope is that each MCC congregation and, indeed, every member of MCC, will also pray and focus on our collective vision. Cast your light right where you are to see the things you can do that will transform our global vision into your local reality. And fear not. God will be with you in everything that you do to become a leading-edge church community that will demand, proclaim, and do justice in the 21st century world.

    “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us….
    There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you….
    We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.”
    Marianne Williamson

  • Lenten Meditation for Easter Sunday (20 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Holy Saturday (19 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Good Friday (18 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Passion Sunday (13 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Palm Sunday (13 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Fifth Sunday (6 April 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Fourth Sunday (30 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Third Sunday (23 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the Second Sunday (16 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for the First Sunday (9 March 2014)
  • Lenten Meditation for Ash Wednesday (5 March 2014)
  • EMERGE: SPECIAL EDITION

    People of African Descent, friends, and allies conference

     

    2014 MCC Conference for People of African Descent, Friends, and Allies

    15-17 MAY 2014

    FIRST MCC of ATLANTA

    ATLANTA, GEORGIA

    BE THE CHANGE

    register

    The theme for the 2014 PAD Conference is “Be the Change” reflecting MCC’s commitment to Transforming Ourselves as We Transform the World. There will be amazing programming, soul-stirring worship, and informing plenaries on a wide range of topics that will support churches, clergy, and other leaders in becoming even more diverse and inclusive.

    HOT OFF THE PRESS!

    As a part of Saturday’s second plenary, “Intersectional Justice: Why Should I Care,” the Rev. MacArthur H. Flournoy, Director for Faith Partnerships and Mobilization at the Human Rights Campaign, will offer an opening talk to help us understand the significance of connecting justice and faith, especially in relationship to our layered identities. The following dynamic speakers will also accompany him, share their inspirational journeys and perspectives about embodying/being the change, and explain why it’s important to invest our time and talents into the liberation of others.

    PANELISTS 

    RevCedricReverend Cedric A. Harmon has a BS in media management from Emerson College and has completed extensive graduate work at Wesley Seminary. Cedric’s deep faith calls him to do the work of justice and equality, and to equip others to do the same. He served as pastor of a “radically inclusive” congregation in Washington, DC and is currently Co-Director with Ann Thompson Cook of Many Voices – a new nonprofit creating a Black Church movement for gay and transgender justice.

    KylarKylar W. Broadus is senior policy counsel and director of the Transgender Civil Rights Project, at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington, D.C. He was a full professor of business law at Lincoln University, a historically Black college where he previously served as chair of the business department. In 2010, Kylar was appointed to serve as Division Director within the Section on Individual Rights and Responsibilities of the American Bar Association and continues to serve in that capacity, as well as Co-Chair for the Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

    RevDrJoanThe Reverend Dr. Joan M. Martin, William W. Rankin Associate Professor of Christian Social Ethics at Episcopal Divinity School, has been a member of the faculty since the academic year 1993, and began teaching in 1994.  In addition to her teaching and committee responsibilities, she serves as the coordinator of the Doctor of Ministry degree program, and advisor to the institutional anti-racism and anti-oppression, “Change Team II.” Presently, Martin is a member of the Womanist Group in Church and Society Steering Committee of the American Academy of Religion, and also serves in the Wabash Consultants Program.  Martin is an ordained Presbyterian minister (PCUSA).

    RevDeWayneRev. DeWayne L. Davis is the Senior Pastor of All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church in Minneapolis, MN. He currently serves on the MCC Moderator’s Public Policy Team and was a participant in MCC’s inaugural class of the Leadership Mentoring Retreat. He holds a B.A. in Economics and Philosophy from Howard University and an M.A. in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland at College Park.  DeWayne received his Master of Divinity degree with honors from the Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

     

    LUNCHEON POP TOPICS

    During the conference there will be an amazing pop topic at each lunch gathering on Friday and Saturday. We will not only have an opportunity to break bread together, but will also hear about some of the inspiring work going on in our communities! The speakers will share briefly on the following topics and then attendees will have time to ask a few questions. And, of course, there will be plenty of time to eat and reconnect with friends and loved ones.

    register

    POP TOPICS SPEAKERS

    RevRolandStringfellowFriday, May 16th - We are excited to have our very own Rev. Roland Stringfellow, Pastor of MCC Detroit, join us to talk about the internally transformative work of the Umoja Project, an effort designed to facilitate safe, non-threatening dialogue about the diversity of human sexuality and the tension that sometimes exists within African-American faith communities in relation to LGBT individuals, as well as the curriculum that any church and organization can participate in.

    Rev.Dr.JenniferSLeathSaturday, May 17th – We welcome the Rev. Dr. Jennifer S. Leath to the PAD conference for the first time as she brings to us her talk, “No Place Like Home”?: The Formation, Vision & Mission of The Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics & Social Justice (CARSS). CARSS is a new project of Columbia University that seeks to facilitate dialogue with African American religious and thought leaders who are committed to sexuality and gender justice.

    Worship Preachers

    Find out more information about our worship preachers.

     News to know

    Conference Hotel Rate Deadline

     

    Attending the 2014 PAD Conference? Deadline for the conference rate at the beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Atlanta North Druid Hills – Emory Area is swiftly approaching. Reserve your room TODAY! Your credit card will not be charged until you arrive at the hotel.

    DEADLINE for Conference rate is APRIL 22, 2014.

     

    GenderNeutralRestroomsGENDER NEUTRAL RESTROOMS

    The PAD Conference is increasing access to restrooms for all people attending conference. Mindful of the challenges that facilities labeled “Men” or “Women” pose to many, the conference staff and host church devised a plan for more gender inclusive bathrooms facilities.

    Each bathroom will be labeled with either one of three signs: “Everyone”, “Women” or “Men”. We hope that this will meet the needs of all individuals. We seek to offer a conference in which all members of the community may choose the restroom that best matches their gender identity and expression.

    If you have questions or concerns, please contact Rev. Vickey Gibbs at RevVickeyGibbs@MCCchurch.net.

    ROOMMATE CONNECTIONS

    Do you want to attend the PAD Conference, but need a roommate? Let someone know. The PAD conference is providing a connection space where those who want roommates can find someone. Click here and see you in Atlanta!

    View the schedule to see all of the excellent programming in store for you.

    helpwanted

    VOLUNTEER TODAY!

    Do you have time to volunteer during the 2014 People of African Descent, Allies, and Friends Conference?  We are looking for people with kind hearts and generous spirits to volunteer their time. Volunteer opportunities include (but are not limited to): conference registration, worship (usher, greeter, acolyte), workshops, audio visuals, hospitality, VIP Buddies, and so much more.

    To find out more about all of the volunteer opportunities: http://padconference.mccchurch.org/register-attend/volunteer/

     

    Looking for: Musicians, Dancers, and Singers/Choir Members

    Contact: CassandraWhite@MCCchurch.net

     Can I Get An Amen!

    For many attendees the PAD Conference has made a difference in their lives, for their families, and and for their churches. We thought hearing some of their testimonies would inspire you. In this edition, we get an “Amen!” from Goldie Brown, Resurrection MCC, Houston, Texas. In her testimony she shares how enriched she has been attending the PAD Conference. For more testimonies, click here.

    From Goldie—

    Attending and joining an MCC church gave me a safe place to worship. Our worship services are very diverse allowing the members to see glimpses of their faith somewhere during service. Another entity where I see glimpses of my culture is from the services and activities during the PAD conferences. Both give me a sense of belonging. During PAD, a connection is made, friendships developed and networking conducted. PAD is a time to present our unique challenges and exchange of ideas and or solutions. I look forward to seeing those I have met from previous conferences. I get to put faces with names. When I travel, I look up those names. I also learn about the unique challenges that our allies face and help find solutions through listening and education. PAD is a much smaller (although attendance grows with each one) collection of people who are more like me than not. I bring back what I’ve learned and share them with my church. I get excited about connecting with those in my church who look like me and those who don’t. The bridge fades and is replaced with like minds and hearts. Plus I get to sightsee a new city!

    Register to join us for this powerful and inspiring event.

    Be a Pillar to help someone attend the conference.

    Volunteer to help make a difference at the conference.

    Become an Exhibitor or Sponsor to promote your business, movement, or ministry.

    If you have any questions, please contact Rev. Candy Holmes, PAD Conference Planning Chair for more information.

    ThankyouHRClogomany voicesmccedsMCCAustinFMCC
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