See The Messiah in All

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“Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people!”

I serve on the General Board of our United Methodist Church Discipleship Ministries that launched this year a grassroots initiative called #SeeAllThePeople, designed to inspire a disciple-making movement across our denomination. Discipleship Ministries believes our denomination has looked too long for a quick fix to help guide discipleship efforts, and is calling the church to fully embrace the spirit of the Wesleyan tradition by being in relationship with thcommunities that surround our churches. “We cannot disciple people that we are not in relationship with. Discipleship begins with relationship,” said the Rev. Junius B. Dotson, General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries. “When churches create an intentional discipleship system, they move from tinkering and fixing to relationship and discipleship. We do this...to boldly show Christ's love to those around us."

It is a matter of seeing all the people, in our church and community, as all beloved children of God. We celebrate in this Advent season and Christmas the coming incarnation of God with us in the form of a newborn child. We are invited to come and see in the Christ-Child the very presence of God -- and to see in one another Christ's own presence.

Seeing one another, nurturing relationships and empowering connections as the beloved community has been our focus at Wesley — though with sadness we have experienced the loss of our sisters and brothers who have died or moved away. We mourn the recent death of Joseph Russell. Lou Marines and his wife Linda returned to northern California last October. Yet, in spite of all our physical separations, the bond of love remains. Presence fills the emptiness of absence. And we continue to see and embrace one another and new faces and lives we meet.

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Last Thanksgiving, Lou shared with me the following story by Megan McKenna, “The Messiah Is One of Us”: Once upon a time there was a wise abbot of a monastery who was the friend of an equally wise rabbi. This was in the old country, long ago, when times were always hard, but just then they were even worse. The abbot’s community was dwindling, and the faith life of his monks was fearful, weak and anxious. He went to his friend and wept. His friend, the Rabbi, comforted him, and said “There is something you need to know, my brother. We have long known in the Jewish community that the Messiah is one of you.”

"What,” exclaimed the abbot, “the Messiah is one of us? How can this be?”

But the Rabbi insisted that it was so, and the abbot went back to his monastery wondering and praying, comforted and excited. Once back in the monastery, he would pass by a monk and wonder if he was the one. Sitting in chapel, praying, he would hear a voice and look intently at a face and wonder, is he the one.

The abbot had always been kind, but now began to treat all of his brothers with profound kindness and awe, ever deeper respect, even reverence. Soon everyone noticed. One of the other brothers came to him and asked him what had happened to him.

After some coaxing, the abbot told him what the rabbi had said. Soon the other monk was looking at his brothers differently, with deeper respect and wondering. Word spread quickly: the Messiah is one of us. The monastery was suddenly full of life, worship, love and grace.

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The prayer life was rich and passionate, devoted, and services were alive and vibrant. Soon the surrounding villagers came to the services, listening and watching intently, and many joined the community of monks. After their novitiate, when they took their vows, they were told the mystery, the truth that their life was based upon, the source of their strength, the richness of their life together: The Messiah is one of us. The monastery grew and expanded into house after house, and the monks grew in wisdom and grace before each other and in the eyes of God. And they say still, that if you stumble across this place where there is life and hope and kindness and graciousness, that the secret is the same: The Messiah is one of us.

May we greet the Messiah, the Christ-Child Jesus this Christmas. May we see the face of the Messiah in all the people we meet, and may all the people we meet see the face of the Messiah in us.

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

What Does It Mean To Be A Reconciling Congregation?

 Story lies central in the heart of community — our personal stories are woven into our communal story. These stories form and shape our communal identity and sustain us in our life together. We share and live out our story through the gift of conversation, relating (relationship); “talking story” about the joys, celebrations, and blessings that enrich our lives. We also relate and share conversation about difficult concerns, issues and obstacles that challenge us. Conversation is key, especially in times of uncertainty and struggle, as we strive to live through the mire of fear and differences that threaten to divide and undo us. Community is an organism of living relationships that values and depends on all its parts to live.

As the community of the United Methodist Church we are presently facing a challenging issue that speaks to the heart of who we truly as the Beloved Community, the body of Christ, in the world. We are in the midst of conversation, “talking story” as to what our faith community is called to be as a welcoming and inclusive community of all people.

The General Conference, the legislative body of our United Methodist Church, has been in conversation through the “Commission on a Way Forward,” to examine thoroughly the issue of human sexuality, and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality. The Commission is also tasked with exploring options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.

We at Wesley seek to engage and share in this conversation as we discern what it means to be a truly Welcoming and Reconciling Congregation that embraces all people, each and everyone as God’s sacred creation. What is the definition of a Reconciling Congregation? In what ways are we presently modeling a Reconciling church? What does it mean for us to fully become a Reconciling Congregation — and what are we, individually and as a congregation, willing to sacrifice and commit to, in being and doing, as the beloved, welcoming and reconciling body of Christ? We invite you, members and friends of Wesley, to come and join in “talking story” together, as we discern these questions through “holy conferencing” conversations in the context of worship and prayer. God is present and longs to be in conversation with us. Please join us in worship on Sunday, October 1, at 9:30 a.m. Worship will conclude with our celebration of Holy Communion — on this World Communion Sunday, in Kimata Hall.

Please make every effort to attend.

Blessings always, Pastor Piula Alailima

HOLY CONFERENCING AND CONVERSATION “Becoming a Reconciling Congregation”

The General Conference, the legislative body of our United Methodist Church, has been in conversation through the “Commission on a Way Forward,” to examine thoroughly the issue of human sexuality, and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality. The Commission is also tasked with exploring options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church. We at Wesley seek to engage and share in this conversation as we discern what it means to be a truly Welcoming and Reconciling Congregation that embraces all people, each and everyone as God’s sacred creation. What is the definition of a Reconciling Congregation? In what ways are we presently modeling a Reconciling church? What does it mean for us to fully become a Reconciling Congregation — and what are we, individually and as a congregation, willing to sacrifice and commit to, in being and doing, as the beloved, welcoming and reconciling body of Christ?

We at Wesley seek to engage ....what it means to be a truly Welcoming and Reconciling Congregation that embraces all people, each and everyone as God’s sacred creation.

We invite you, members and friends of Wesley, to come and share together these questions in “holy conferencing” — conversations in the context of worship, where God is present in conversation with us. Please join us in worship on Sunday, October 1 (World Communion Sunday) at 9:30 a.m. We will begin in the Sanctuary, then move to Kimata Hall for “holy conferencing” — and conclude our worship with the celebration of Holy Communion. Please make every effort to attend.