Sermon Series: A Place to Call Home
Title: All Are Welcome
Psalm 133, John 20:19-22
April 14, 2019
Rev. Sandy Johnson
I wanted to point out that since we are doing communion now just on the first Sunday of the month, I’ll be adding a good 15-20 minutes to my weekly message! For those who may not remember we serve communion weekly from Advent to Easter and then once a month in the remaining months. So, this is the time of year when the sermon gets really long!!! I mean, really looooooonnnnnnngggg! You’re welcome!
Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
Letter from Bishop Bob Hoshibata,
Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,
In these days following the resurrection of Jesus, I greet you in the name of the Risen One.
Many have been waiting and wondering in prayer as the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church has been meeting to determine the constitutionality of the legislation that was passed at General Conference 2019. We give thanks for the difficult work completed by members of the Judicial Council and for the way they faithfully engage in their work.
Yesterday, the Judicial Council announced their ruling. In their decision, they determined that some of the petitions of the Traditional Plan were constitutional while others were ruled unconstitutional, and a petition related to a plan for churches to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church was ruled constitutional. Those petitions ruled constitutional will go into effect on January 1, 2020 in the United States. In Africa, Europe, and the Philippines they take effect twelve months after the next General Conference. The petition on a gracious exit goes into effect immediately.
This news is being received with joy by some and with deep despair by others. Clearly, we remain a deeply divided church about matters related to the inclusion of our LGBTQIA siblings in the church, the community, and the world. We are conflicted about how we hold each other accountable and how we move into the future, perhaps united and together or perhaps divided and apart. I am moved by many conversations I have had with persons of solid faith and character representing the whole theological spectrum who have shared that although we think differently, we can and should work together in unity of mission for the sake of our call by Jesus Christ. But from others I am also seeing and feeling the excitement and perhaps the inevitability of something new and exciting emerging from the rubble of The United Methodist Church.
At this moment,
no one knows what our future is going to be. There are many conversations
taking place in different groups and among various leaders throughout the
world. There are huge differences of thought separating those who favor
stricter enforcement of what they understand to be a Biblical prohibition
against LGBTQIA persons and those on the opposite side of the theological
spectrum who find those enforcements to be punitive and thus embrace a much
wider interpretation of the Biblical mandate to love one another as Jesus loved
us. And there are a great many whose thoughts about human sexuality and
Biblical interpretation are somewhere in between those two poles.
As I pondered this moment when we would receive the ruling of the Judicial Council, these words from a hymn I love came to mind:
JEFF PLAY VIDEO: https://youtu.be/Sgm9lkTNQmc
remind us that we are loved by God no matter who we are; and that we are called
by God to follow Jesus. Each of us has heard that call and felt that call in
our hearts at some time in our lives. Without it, our “faith” would be dead,
nothing more than the “creaking of a rusty gate.” (1 Corinthians 113:1, The
Message). But most important for us at this time is a strong and sure reminder
that no matter where our journey leads us, God is with us and we are reassured
not to fear the future or the changes that it brings.
At this pivotal moment in our church’s life, I am strengthened by my baptismal vows taken when I was a teenager. I recall those vows as I commit to lead our Desert Southwest Conference in this time of change.
- I renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of my sin.
- I accept the freedom and power God gives me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
- I confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put my whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve Christ as my Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.
And moreover, as I dream of a church that is fully inclusive, loving all persons, regardless of any of the roadblocks others might create:
- I promise to continue to call us to live into our vision of being a courageous church, loving like Jesus, acting for justice, and united in hope.
- I pledge to uphold in my leading, the reminder to us to hold to these values: trust, compassion, relationship, authenticity, boldness and collaboration.
- I pledge to continue to lead us in ways that reflect the vision of a One Church Plan. I believe in this because it honors the freedom that pastors have to officiate at same sex weddings as well as the freedom not to do so.
- I will support churches that refuse to allow same sex weddings on their campuses; and I will support churches that are called to do so.
- I will uphold the quality of our inquiry into the gifts and graces of candidates for the ministry of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world at the district and conference levels without intrusive inquiry into a candidate’s sexual orientation.
- I will lead in ways that encourage all to create spaces that practice open minds, open hearts and open doors.
- I will lead in ways that honor the gift of being fully oneself as we serve as laity or clergy.
- I will continue my strong commitment that disputes related to sexual orientation or gender orientation or about officiating at same sex weddings will not be resolved through church trials if at all possible. I will work so resolution to these matters may truly come when we live fully into relationship with one another and with God.
- I will pray unceasingly for those whose hearts are hardened against another person because of the conflict our church is in. My prayer and hope are that we will come to a day when we can decide with love and grace to live together despite our differences or that there may be something new and fresh emerging from the ashes and rubble of our beloved United Methodist Church.
So as we travel together into an uncertain future, I pray that we will not lose hope or faith in God. We are, you will remember, a people of resurrection faith! We hold fast in our trust that in all things, God will be with us.
So, let us keep engaging our congregation and our community in mission to touch hearts and souls and transform lives.
Let us share the love of Christ with all people.
Let us love one another even when we disagree.
Let us pray for each other as we discern what our future will be.
And in the Wesleyan spirit, let us do no harm, do good, and last but not least, let us stay in love with God.
Robert T. Hoshibata
I don’t know why, but sometimes God surprises me. I know he shouldn’t! Right?!
Even though we can’t always see him, he is always out in front of us, preparing the way, bringing encouragement right when we need it most. Days like today.
Each week I spend time in meditation and study to prepare for each Sunday’s sermon. When things happen in our world it is most often the case that the topic, I selected months ago is perfectly times to the topic of the day.
Today is no exception.
You see, sisters and brothers, All Are Welcome! Here in this place of worship. All are welcome because we are all children of God!
We are now in the in between time. Although much of the traditional plan was deemed unconstitutional, some harmful parts remain and the overall knowledge that our church body has voted against the very idea that, All Are Welcome, comes as an afront to many of us more progressive thinkers.
Now I know that we have some more politically conservative folks in the congregation, and I don’t want to alarm you, but you are a progressive, at least theologically speaking! Progressive or conservative, all are welcome. It didn’t matter to Jesus who you were, where you came from or what you did for a living.
It didn’t matter to Jesus that you believed, or that you needed to witness a miracle before you could count yourself enlightened. When the women returned from the tomb, out of breath and speaking about the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection, the other disciples discounted their story. They weren’t believed and they had to see for themselves. They ran back to the tomb to prove the women wrong.
In the Gospel of John, we read that Mary encountered Jesus and that she “announced to the disciples, “I have seen the LORD”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.” There was no talk about not believing her.
Scripture continues and tells about the night when Jesus appeared to most of the disciples. They were huddled together in their home, doors bolted shut out of fear of the Jews. Jesus appears and says, “Peace be with you!”
Jesus knew they were frightened. Their future was ruined. Their leader missing. They couldn’t imagine that what the women had told them the truth. Here Jesus shows up in their midst and declared “peace.” These poor men and women! They had been so frightened, displaced and distraught.
They had left Jerusalem and returned to Galilee, to their home towns. They continued to band together for security and some, I imagine, remembering Jesus’ words were praying he would appear. In that moment, Jesus verifies his resurrection and welcomes all of his people home.
He says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Receive the gift, receive the symbol of God, his very presence that lives within us. We may not be able to see the Spirit, but we can each feel the Spirit moving within us. Helping us to become more and more like Jesus. Like the Jesus who doesn’t exclude anyone.
From that moment on Jesus says, All Are Welcome. We are all part of his kingdom and regardless of a General Council vote or a Judicial Council decision, we understand Jesus, we recognize that we are to do our best to be like Jesus because Jesus loves everyone, no exceptions, not now, not ever, forever!
Sisters and brothers, in the House of Christ, all
are welcome. To find a place called
home, all we must do is invite Christ into our life, to commit to being Christ
imitators and demonstrating love to all.
It’s that simple. When the noise
of the world attempts to distract us we must keep our focus on Christ. And with one another’s help and support, we
will continue to be those Christians that mean it when we say, “All Are
 John 20:18
 John 20:21-22