Monday, November 28, 2016

Reflection 11/27/16 We are called to Love and Action (Matt. 24:36-44)

In other words Jesus is coming look Busy….That saying and this text always seemed odd to me.  I mean the whole dire warning be ever on watch, be on guard because God , the son of man, may just show up and poof one will be gone and one will be left standing alone on a hill. 

You know what? we are terrible at this…We are the opposite of that energizer bunny we are never ready.  Well almost never ready.  Maybe , a select few who can see the end is nigh prepare themselves and try to prepare their loved ones  otherwise the rest of us go about living our lives minute by minute hour by hour never looking back…never really looking ahead and definitely never looking side to side.

I mention side to side because this is the time of year most human kind looks to the side, to the margins.  It is almost as if Christmas has become a time of a giant guilt trip and we do all we can do to make up for lost time or at least a little something to ease our guilt.  That does not say much for us.  One of the great things about being human is our great potential for love and to figure things out.

What would happen if the world stopped trying to get more stuff, buy more stuff, and become president just in order to be able to say I am the winner?  What would happen if we stopped and instead of saying not in my back yard we said yes in my yard, yes how can we help, yes we can build a high-rise of no cost units that the city maintains and supports for those who cannot support themselves.

Yes I know it is a crazy idea.  Yes I know there are all sort of logistics that surround it but what would happen if a whole city, country, world decided that care of those in the margins should and has now become our highest priority. What would happen if we became a completely egalitarian society?  I know Pie in the sky or star trek but any way…

Our time on this planet is so short and we cannot possibly do everything but if we do just one thing it makes a difference.  Live your life for today.  Be aware of the here and now.  Pay attention to the world around you.  Around you; that is in front of you, behind you and whats on the left or right.  Who is left in the margins?

For some reason we think we have a whole lifetime even when there are constant reminders that things happen…there are constant reminders that no one and nothing is forever…there are always reminders that there is no next guy…you know what I mean…the whole concept that is somebody else’s problem. Someone else will do something about it…Well there is no next guy and there never has been! The next Guy is you/Us!

Jesus through the Gospel calls out to each and every one of us to be ready, to expect God’s call on our hearts, on our lives and in our daily day to day.  But not only to expect God, not only to pay attention to God in our life’s but to respond to it. Too truly stop and say how can I be your hands in the world today?  Better yet say yes I will be your hands and feet and ears and eyes in the world today.

You know national security and even our local LAPD have a thing “see something say something” How does that transliterate here?  I mean it truly does, doesn’t it?  God is saying be at the ready…If you see something, say something, DOOOOO Something.  For God sake do something!

Oh I hear your head and your heart having a fight now.  I should do something; there are things I can do says the heart but the head the stops things up.  It says no you need that extra dollar!  Oh no I need that extra minute.  My time is precious!  I work hard for my Money! I will get in trouble if I say something.  I pray for them that’s enough.

Praying is never enough.  Oh what did that preacher just say?  I said praying is never enough!  Praying is a first step! If you are called to pray for someone, for some action, for some tragedy, that is just a first step.  The next step is to get up and do something more.  Maybe you are moved by a tragedy in the news.  It may even be a global event or around the world.  Yes pray but then do something locally.

In this time in this place where human capacity for hatred seems to be growing…it’s not, it is just getting more coverage, respond with love and action.  Go through your cupboards and donate that can of peas you are never going to eat.  Make a donation to the AIDS Life cycle.  Go to a local rally and be there to offer comfort and prayer.

Go to the Global Ministries website of the UCC and see what you may be able to contribute too.  You do not have money to spare take the change out of your pocket every night and put it in a jar.  I bet by Easter you will have a few dollars to donate.  Be brave volunteer with the interfaith food pantry they have times and volunteer needs on their website.

As you know I had started the solar empowerment project in Tijuana.  I am happy to say they are near completion and starting a final stage.  I will have a campaign up and running in the next week to fund the final $8700 dollars needed for the project.  Now I do not have $8700 heck technically I have no money.  But I have time and energy and I can write and I can ask.  You can ask as well for this or any other project.

We are all given by God hands hearts eyes and brains or at least o few of these things.  It only takes one of these to make a small difference.  In this season of Advent let us become ready.  Let us keep our eyes on the worlds around us and see where we can bring Love, Hope and joy.  Do not let fear and anger be your guide but the love of God. If we allow the love of Christ in our lives to be our Guide then this will be a joyous Christmas season.  If you allow the practice of sharing your god given Gifts with the other then this will be a year of Gods reign, Gods Kindom here on earth.  And when the time comes, and it will, we can look into the light of all love and say I am ready for you Lord.

Sermon 11/6/2016 All are alive to God! (Luke 20:27-38)

November 10th 1972 “The members of the Valley Study Group Presented their petition to the board of Home missions at the District Conference and were given Mission status by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches” We are a long way form 1972.
That day in History we had “The hijacking of Southern Airways Flight 49 started on November 10, 1972 in Birmingham, Alabama, stretching over 30 hours and 4,000 miles (6,400 km), not ending until the next evening in Havana, Cuba.”[1]
The cover of life magazine Questions for a peace 543 POW’s what shape are they in?  1271 MIAs; how many are alive?  Where does it leave us? An Ohio town talks of the war. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip celebrated 25 years
The Dow would just clear 1000 that Monday of course today it is over 18000.  The dollar had the buying power of 5.75 today, the inflation rate was at 4.06%.
The median price for a new home in the USA was just 29100[2].  Yet in California it was 28,100 [3]we were actually lower than the national average.
 President Nixon was just reelected as President of the United States
The hottest day of 1972 in Los Angeles was October 6, with a high temperature of 93°F. For reference, on that day the average high temperature is 74°F and the high temperature exceeds 82°F only one day in ten. The hottest month of 1972 was August with an average daily high temperature of 78°F.[4]
Happy anniversary 44 years of growing together of seeing pastors come and go some of you have witnessed it all some of you all this is still very new.  We have been a strong congregation and at times we have been a burdened congregation. 

So that is just a little bit of our history there is much more on the altar behind us.  I left it up because technically this is all saints Sunday.
Today’s reading from Luke Jesus is questioned by the Sadducees who do not believe in the resurrection.  This story appears in Mathew and Mark’s Gospel
.  I am the God of the Living Jesus is referring to eh promise of the resurrection or the promise of Life after this one.  Whether or not you believe in a physical or a spiritual resurrection there is more to this life than. Well this life!  We just celebrated day of the dead, all souls, all saints.  We celebrate because we know deep down that though are loved ones may be lost to us in this world they are very much alive in the next.
“In almost every culture there is a belief that the dead should be honored, be it out of respect or a fear of ghostly retribution. In some cultures there are holidays set aside specifically to commemorate the dead, which vary from reserved veneration to a killer party.”[5] 
The Inuit people believe their ancestors would visit them and appear as the northern lights. The Lakota people hold the tradition that the dead ones spirit lingers for a year after passing and “a special place is set up for the spirit, who is fed every day.  Members of the family and community can come and visit, eat, and sit with the spirit and family.  After a year the spirit is released.”[6]
The Japanese celebrate the Obon festival, “the Japanese believe on the interconnection and interdependence of almost everything on earth from humans, nature, the elements and including the spirits. They give honor and express their gratitude not only to their immediate relatives who have recently passed away but also to their earliest human ancestors who lived decades, centuries and millenniums ago.
The Japanese believe that at the start of Obon, the spirits of their relatives and ancestors come back to the physical world and visit them. Aside from offering prayers and holding memorial services at Buddhist temples, individual houses and establishments hang lanterns believing that their lights will guide the spirits. And on the last night of Obon, people send off the spirits back to their world with the help of floating or paper lanterns, candles, bon fires, etc.”[7]
So we just celebrated all hallows eve, all souls day, all saints day there is obon in Japan, Chuseok in Korea, Gaijatra in Nepal, QingMing in China, Pitru Paksha in Hindu Tradition, [8] Just to name a few.  Many of these festivals include leaving out food for the visiting ancestor.  Okay I know it’s symbolic but you do not feed the dead.  Our God is the God of the Living!  From long before Christianity to faith traditions all around the world there is an inherent knowledge that there is life beyond this plane of existence.  There is a promise of something more and not just something more but a place where we are united with those who have gone before us, a communion of saints if you will.
So today as we celebrate the anniversary of this congregation we share in memories and lives of those who have gone before us.  Who built this road that we are on and allows not only to look at the past but look at where we have gone.
I came to this congregation not knowing anyone.  Bob and I were starting to date and we knew what ever and how ever our lives were to evolve it would involve our congregation.  We were married here, I was ordained here.  We have had quite a few couples married here.  You all have shared your lives with this community.
We built a garden, planted seeds for a going greener way of being with changing out the lights bulbs, reduced paper, put solar panels not only on this building but on Las Memorias Hospice and rehab center in Tijuana.
We have put on plays, made our space available for movie shoots, important films like sinners and Corpus Christi playing with redemption.  We have put on festivals and yard sales. We have fed our community.  But first and foremost we are a loving community who try to do our best to welcome all.  We are human and we have failed at time, we make amends and move on.
We have so much to be proud of and so much to look forward too as we grow and change.  The future is unknown and perhaps scary but we need to face it and be active in it. We have become a very active part of the united Church of Christ and they are very happy to have us.  WE are their first ECO Justice Church, we were just proclaimed and Accessible to all Church one of four in the nation according the United church of Christ Disabilities Ministries website.
We, as a congregation, have put scarves and hats and socks on the homeless. Brought toys to children affected by HIV.  Helped out a women’s shelter.  Provided underwear and socks to an orphanage in Africa one year.
We provide a safe place for outreach and support groups dealing with recovery form multiple abuses. We are a space for the over 50’s group of the LGBT Center of Los Angeles. We have a working relationship with our local police station in north Hollywood as well as the LAPD.  We are represented at Clergy and laity united for economic justice, united church of Christ AIDS Network and Claremont school of Theology.
For a small congregation you are powerful and should be proud. You prove that God is a God of the Living and this Congregation is very Much alive!

[1] Wikipedia, Southern Airways Flight 49,
[2] Census, median price of a home,
[3] ABC real-estate, California Real Estate Median Prices of Existing Homes since 1968, December 15, 2005,
[4], Historical Weather For 1972 in Los Angeles, California, USA,
[5] Carissa McDonald, 10 Festivals that Honor the Dead, Medium, accessed November 2, 2016,
[6] Jack Eidt, Life and Death; Lakota Spiritual Practice, Medium, accessed November 2, 2016,
[7] Nathan Glover, the Japanese festival of the dead: Obon, Medium, accessed November 2, 2016,
[8] McDonald, 10 Festivals That Honor the Dead.