Author Archive

September 17: Be the Church: Enjoy this Life!

Posted on : Sep 14th, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

One of the comments I often hear from people is that we have way more fun in worship than most churches. It is said with joy and pride. I think that’s true and I hope that’s true. I believe worship should be joyous. It should be a celebration of the goodness of our lives in the presence of God.

Many Christians have taken all the fun out of Christianity. This whole thing about the Fear of God, Reverence, and Awe, has resulted in a stifling style of Christian worship. In the Christian tradition, every Sunday is supposed to be a remembrance and celebration of the Resurrection. Easter Day is probably the most joyous day in our tradition. So why should we revert to deadly worship on the other 51 Sundays of the year?


September 10, 2017: Share Earthly & Spiritual Resources

Posted on : Sep 7th, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

There is certainly no lack of need in our world. I am both amazed and sometimes shocked at the level of need that is present today. It seems that almost every evening there is at least one story in the news about a tragic or unexpected death and most of them conclude with an appeal to help with funeral expenses through a “GoFundMe” page. Then there are the larger needs, such as requests for financial support for those whose lives were destroyed by famine or natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, and now, Hurricane Irma.

As we’ve discovered in our Bible Study with the book of Acts, ever since the beginning of our Christian story, people have been in need. And in response, the followers of Jesus shared their resources. Most of those who followed Jesus lived in poverty. Jesus lived in poverty. He simply trusted that whatever he and his followers needed would be supplied by God. That seems to have been the case. I don’t know of any scripture where the disciples or Jesus ever were not provided for!


September 3, 2017: I AM with you.

Posted on : Aug 31st, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Unfortunately, the need to fight for the powerless hasn’t been an easily galvanizing task, throughout human history. It’s less burdensome to simply turn one’s gaze in a different direction, when difficult things happen to those people societies consider to be less worthy of respect, i.e., because of one’s ethnicity, faith, sexual orientation, etc. Many people in the United States continue to wrestle with the divine Judeo-Christian commission to fight for the powerless.


August 27, 2017: Be the Church: Love God

Posted on : Aug 25th, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

As we continue our series entitled “Be the Church” this Sunday we will look at what it means to love God. I was examining the large banner we have in the sanctuary with the logo “Be the Church” and it troubled me somewhat that in the list of things we are to do in order to be the Church the imperative to love God was toward the bottom of the list. Why was it not first on the list especially since our scriptures today are so clear that the first and greatest commandment is to love God?


August 13, 2017: “e-racism”

Posted on : Aug 10th, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Racism, like sexism, just doesn’t seem to want to give up. Just when we think it is starting to die out, it comes back to life like a raging forest fire.

The Charlottesville City Council in Virginia voted to remove prominent Confederate monuments from public parks. Now the city has become a hotspot for white nationalist and supremacist rallies. In fact, a big white nationalist / supremacist rally is planned in Charlottesville on Saturday, August 12. UCC clergy and laity are gathering in support of racial justice and to oppose the message of the white nationalists and white supremacists.


August 7, 2017: When Female Preachers Flourished

Posted on : Aug 8th, 2017 | By | Category: Still Speaking

“Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says.” I Corinthians 14:34

Many years ago, I led a Bible Study at a church that was struggling with “what the Bible says about homosexuality.” They knew Romans 1 and I Corinthians 6, by heart, and they were not all that open to what I had to say. So after a fair amount of time, fielding one bible quote after another, I asked if any of them knew what I Corinthians 14:34 said. Dead silence. Someone finally found it in their bible and read it aloud. I asked them if they believed that – knowing full well they had a woman pastor.


August 6, 2017: Who is in and who is not?

Posted on : Aug 3rd, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

One of the greatest challenges to the survival of Christianity is the issue of inclusion and diversity. It’s been that way for a while, but it’s getting worse with each passing year.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said “it is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.” At the time, eleven o’clock in the morning was the standard time of Protestant Christian worship services. How much progress have we made in Christian churches since Dr. King raised this concern?

The Multiracial Congregations Project led by Michael Emerson, a Rice University sociologist, defines a multiracial congregation as one where no one racial group is more than 80% of the congregation. Using that standard, Emerson has found that only 8% of all Christian congregations in the U.S. are racially mixed to a significant degree: 2-3% of mainline Protestant congregations, 8% of other Protestant congregations, and 20% of Catholic parishes. Why these differences?


July 30, 2017: There’s more fruit in a rich man’s shampoo…

Posted on : Jul 27th, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

… than on a poor man’s plate.

Almost every night there is at least one homeless person who sleeps on the concrete entryway that leads into the courtyard. There are also numerous persons who sleep in the church gardens, especially behind the large tubular structure that supports the signboard above the sanctuary. The growing homeless population has become a fact of life in Los Angeles.

Abilio, our custodian and gardener, as well as Laurie and I, have to clean up the mess that is left behind many mornings. Not only is there litter and clothes, there is human waste. At least twice a week, Abilio has to clean up piles of human waste from the front and side gardens. It is not glamorous work!

As I drive around Los Angeles and meet with pastors and religious leaders throughout our city, I see and hear the same stories. Churches are becoming refuges for the growing homeless population. They usually have nice wide walkways and many churches have lots of stairs leading up to the entry doors. For some reason, even people of no faith have a sense that you don’t harass the homeless when they are sleeping on church property.


July 23, 2017: The Earth Is God’s, Not Ours to Wreck

Posted on : Jul 20th, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

This Sunday we begin our summer worship series “Be the Church.” About a year ago the UCC came up with nine affirmations of what it means to be the church in the 21st century. As I’ve shared with you before, there is huge difference between going to church and being the church. In the next nine weeks we are going to focus on one of each of the UCC’s affirmations about what it means to be the church – the hands, feet, head, heart and compassion of Christ in our current context of ministry.

This week we begin with the first affirmation, “Protect the environment.”

For those of us who grew up attending Church School, many of us learned “memory verses” of scripture in our Sunday School class. One of the verses I was taught was the first verse of Psalm 24. “The earth is the Lord’s (we didn’t use inclusive language in those days!) and the fullness thereof.”


July 16, 2017: “United We Stand….”

Posted on : Jul 13th, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Genesis tells us of two sons, born of the same parents and carried together in the same womb, but separated by what we might call in today’s time “instant gratification.”

The reading from Matthew always reminds me of how often I tried to get California poppy seeds to grow and replenish themselves in our home that we lived in as a family for 38 years. Apparently the soil was too clay like. Perhaps it suffocated the seeds so that they could not grow. However, whenever I am out and about, I notice poppies growing out of small cracks in pavements and sidewalks.