Birds

“One chief idea of my life is the idea of taking things with gratitude and not taking things for granted.”
— G. K. Chesterton

Charles Hartshorne is one of my heroes. He died about twenty years ago at the age of 103. He earned his PhD in philosophy at Harvard and served as assistant to his teacher, the great mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. It was Whitehead who described God as “the fellow sufferer who understands.” Like his teacher, Hartshorne influenced many 20th & 21st century religious thinkers to see God as deeply involved and affected by Creation, suffering and exulting with all of Creation, including human beings. One of his books is deliciously titled Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes. In it, he argues that God’s power is persuasive, not coercive; God’s power is relational, inviting a response from Creation.

Author of some 20 books and 500 articles, Hartshorne was not simply a brilliant theologian. He became an expert ornithologist in the last third of his life. One of his claims about birds is that some, like some people, sing for the pure joy of it: they take delight simply in being alive. Do you hear the theological overtones? Throughout the Bible, and especially in the Psalms, we read how all of Creation sings God’s praises. Even the birds of the air and whales in the sea! And what is praise? Simply a way of saying “Thanks, God!” Taking things with gratitude instead of for granted, as Chesterton says.

With the birds of the air, let’s remember to give thanks for the gift of life and the abundance we share – and not just on Thanksgiving, but everyday!

Blessings,
Jeff


Seasons of Creation

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it …” Psalm 24:1

Some thirty folks attended the recent “Kingdom Dinners,” sponsored by our Church & Society Team. Over the two weekly dinners we viewed and discussed the National Geographic Society documentary “From Paris to Pittsburgh,” learning how Americans are developing innovative ways to respond to the climate crisis.

As Christians, we recognize our responsibility to care for God’s creation. Individually, many of us are reexamining our lifestyles and making changes with this in mind. Collectively as a church, we hope to move toward carbon neutrality: we laid conduits under the new parking lot for solar covered parking and electric vehicle charging stations down the road. Our Giving Garden is helping many reconnect with the earth and appreciate its bounty. One of the Girl Scout troops that Dayspring sponsors has led our recycling efforts, placing recycle bins throughout the campus. The children and
youth are leading us.

On the world stage, Swedish teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg has mobilized hundreds of thousands of young people to challenge those in power to act before it is too late. Some seven million people across the globe recently participated in “climate strikes” that she initiated. “And a child shall lead them …”

We will be considering in worship this month and next aspects of Creation and our role as faithful stewards. I also hope you’ll join us on October 20th, when we will hold our 4th annual Blessing of the Animals, to honor the four-legged (and clawed, winged, and finned) companions with whom we share this planet

Blessings,
Pastor Jeff


  1. Oct 20: Animals
  2. Oct 27: Ocean
  3. Nov 3: Storm
  4. Nov 10: Cosmos

The Use and Misuse of the Bible 

            “Most folks use the bible the way a drunk uses a lamppost:
            more for support than for illumination.” 

                                                                        – William Sloan Coffin

The late, great Methodist mystic, philosopher and Civil Rights leader, Howard Thurman, who as a boy read the bible to his illiterate grandmother, once asked her why she wouldn’t let him read from Paul’s letters. “What she told me I shall never forget,” he writes. Grandma Nancy said the master’s minister would conduct services for the slaves and invariably quote from Ephesians: “Slaves be obedient to them that are your masters . . . as unto Christ.” She continued,

Then he would go on to show how, if we were good and happy slaves, God would bless us. I promised my Maker that if I ever learned to read and if freedom ever came, I would never read that part of the bible.

The master’s minister was preaching from the bible, yes? But Grandma Nancy wasn’t having any of it. Born into slavery, Nancy Ambrose had a hunch that the God of love who created all human beings equal wouldn’t stand for it either. Parts of the bible simply are wrong. The bible has been used as a tool to enslave Africans and sanction witch-hunts (where literally thousands of innocent women were slaughtered in the name of God). The bible is at the root of apartheid, anti-Semitism, the oppression of women and LGBTQ+ persons, and divine sanction of the exploitation of the natural world.       

Written by many individuals over many centuries, the bible is bound by cultural norms. So it must be read with caution and care. Yet the bible also transcends the times and places in which it was written. It is the bedrock of our faith tradition and the primary way of learning about Jesus Christ.

Author Frederick Buechner uses the metaphor of a window to illustrate how we can maintain the importance of scripture along with our ability to read it carefully and critically. The bible is like a window through which we can glimpse the Divine. Buechner notes that we look through the window, we don’t worship the window. And just because there are smudges, swatted flies, and hairline cracks obstructing our view, we don’t throw out the window! We learn to distinguish between the window with its flaws and what lies beyond. Although a flawed and imperfect window, the bible is a source of inspired (not dictated) guidance and wisdom, fashioned by people of faith who have helped generations of seekers catch a glimpse of the mystery beyond. 

On Sunday, September 15th, we will be presenting our third-graders with bibles. May we recommit ourselves to read this very human book that has revealed the Divine to countless generations with care and prayer, recognizing how it can be used and abused.

                                                                                Blessings, Pastor Jeff


Parables of the Kingdom

Parables of the Kingdom

What do you suppose the following have in common: a 9-volt battery, an onion, a life vest, newspaper, copy of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, candle, bubbles, sun block, children’s video game, laxative, telephone, map, hammer, microwave popcorn, baseball bat &
glove, coffee grinder, and a garage door opener?

These were items I placed on the Communion table when I began a sermon series on the Parables of Jesus at a previous church. “Jesus’ parables were drawn from everyday life,” I explained, before inviting worshippers to pick an item, ponder and share how it might serve as a parable of the kingdom of God for today. Needless to say, it made for an interesting worship
experience!

We’ve been considering the parables of Jesus this summer at Dayspring. I have found that folks are quite interested in learning how the historical and
cultural contexts inform their meaning. Did leaven have negative connotations in that world? What would it mean to leave 99 sheep to fend for themselves? What characteristics make mustard stand out in the botanical world? Are there other parables of Jesus found outside the Bible?

My mind has been blown reviewing some of the scholarship around Jesus’ parables; I hope serious reflection on them have helped us all recognize
what a provocative figure Jesus was and the challenge he presents to our lives.

New Testament scholar Brandon Scott has served as a guide for this series. He says that in his parables, Jesus re-imagines the world. “The reimagined
world, called the kingdom of God, presents his followers with a new option for living, one that contrasts with the default world of the everyday. The new world is both terrifying and liberating.” If you’ve been in and out of town this summer, feel free to catch up on our Livestream archive page here.

I hope to see you this Sunday as we continue the adventure …

– Aug. 4 The Hidden Treasure (Matthew 13.44)
– Aug. 11 The Prodigals (Luke 15.11-32)
– Aug. 18 The Samaritan (Luke 10.30-35)
– Aug. 25 Pastor Michael’s last Sunday / Choir Celebration
– Sept. 1 The Unforgiving Slave (Matthew 18.23-34)
– Sept. 8 The Dinner Party (Luke 14.16-24)

In the meantime, here’s a little homework: “The kingdom of God is like a garage door opener that stopped functioning ….”

Grace and peace,
Pastor Jeff


The United Methodist Church is in disarray.

In February, a special session of the General Conference (the legislative branch of the UMC) was convened in St. Louis to determine the role of LGBTQ people in the church. By a narrow margin, over 800 delegates from around the world voted for the so-called “Traditional Plan,” which disallows LGBTQ clergy and includes punitive measures for pastors who conduct same-gender weddings. That vote prompted this pastor to drape black cloth over the “United Methodist Church” portion of our sign, mourning the decision and grieving the continued harm perpetrated by the church on LGBTQ folk. Yet I had remained hopeful. Many of us believed the Judicial Council (kind of the Supreme Court of the UMC) would find the plan unconstitutional. Last Friday, the Judicial Council largely upheld the Traditional Plan, as well as a plan for churches to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church. The petitions that were ruled constitutional – including no LGBTQ clergy and no samegender weddings – will go into effect in the U.S. on January 1, 2020. The petition on a “gracious exit” goes into effect immediately. You may review the Judicial Council’s decisions at http://bit.ly/JCR1378 and at http://bit.ly/JCR1379. An explanation of both rulings is at http://bit.ly/UMNSApr26.

Our bishop, Bob Hoshibata, writes:
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 also seeing and feeling the excitement and perhaps the inevitability of something new and exciting emerging from the rubble of The United Methodist Church.

We don’t know what the future holds. We are presently in a holding pattern. But rest assured your pastors (along with many others), your bishop (and many others), this annual conference (and many others), as well as the Western Jurisdiction, pledge to resist what we believe to be harmful and discriminatory language and practices. We journey in faith with these supportive words from our bishop:

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’s keep engaging our congregation and our community in mission to touch hearts and souls and transform lives

Let’s share the love of Christ with all people

Let’s love one another even when we disagree

Let’s pray for each other as we discern what our future will be

And in the Wesleyan spirit, let’s do no harm, do good, and last but not least, let us stay in love with God.

~Bishop Robert Hoshibata

I remain convinced that a bolder, more inclusive, grace-filled expression of the faith will emerge — the kind that Dayspring already strives to embody. May we continue to be a church for all people

Pastor Jeff


Dayspring Arcadia

2020 VISION

Dayspring UMC is a church that aspires to live into God’s dream for the world. Through inspiring worship and social justice advocacy and action, we are a healthy church that seeks to fulfill our mission of creating disciples of Jesus Christ who touch and inspire people through an open and diverse community. In 2017, we celebrated 50 years of God’s work in our community and began to wonder what God might have in store for us for the next 50 years.

Dreaming Possibilities

Aldersgate UMC

At a staff meeting in March 2018, Pastor Joel shared a prayer concern that some of our United Methodist Churches were struggling and their future was uncertain. We prayed and asked for God’s direction and wisdom, especially for the pastors of these churches. Last April, staff members began to wonder how Dayspring might possibly adopt and revitalize an existing congregation in Phoenix. Many conversations with church leaders and conference staff ensued, and Dayspring leaders were excited to explore possibilities. Pastor Jeff shared the vision with our district superintendent, Rev. Susan Brims, who mentioned that Rev. Tom Kiracofe would be ending his part-time appointment at Aldersgate UMC in Phoenix and that they would need pastoral support. Pastor Jeff began to wonder if Aldersgate might serve as a satellite for Dayspring’s mission and message. Pastor Tom invited Pastors Jeff and Joel, along with SPRC chair David Barnhouse, to dream possibilities. Pastor Tom shared the story of Aldersgate and its current situation. We learned that the people of Aldersgate are a small but committed group of primarily 70-90 year-olds who desire to leave a legacy and want to be part of a greater vision.

Rev. Brims convened an “Elijah Team” with members from both churches to begin visioning in earnest. Dayspring Covenant Council chair Ed Johnson, along with outgoing lay leader Amy Notbohm and incoming lay leader Regina Walker, as well as David Barnhouse and Pastors Joel and Jeff have been meeting regularly (sometimes weekly) this year with leaders from Aldersgate and Rev. Brims. Like John Wesley’s Aldersgate  experience, our hearts have been strangely warmed and we are excited to share this vision with our congregations.

VISION: Dayspring Arcadia

To create a vibrant United Methodist presence in the Arcadia area by extending Dayspring’s ministry of radical hospitality, inspired worship and justice work to the Aldersgate campus.

LOGISTICS 

Multi-sites vary in pastoral and staffing strategies. We recognize that an existing faith community is present at Aldersgate and celebrate their willingness to welcome a new strategy for vitality. We would embrace this community using their gifts and talents and explore with them what this would be like in this new model of ministry. In this model, Dayspring clergy will be sharing the vision and mission in various ways, and the Dayspring clergy and lay leadership will have complete worship/missional/programming oversight. 

Aldersgate would retain trusteeship and responsibility of the Aldersgate campus and foundation for a transitional period (TBD) with Dayspring representation, and existing Aldersgate members would be welcome to serve on Dayspring’s administrative teams. The annual conference would provide significant financial support to ensure a smooth transition.

In order to be successful in this journey there will need to be a dedicated staff person who has the leadership skills to assist the clergy in “listening” to the Aldersgate community and the Arcadia neighborhood – and to develop a process that will help build relationships within the church and broader community. Moreover, we believe we have identified a person well suited for this role: Amy Notbohm. Amy has served as Dayspring’s lay leader for three years and co-chaired our last capital campaign. Before coming to Dayspring, she was part of the new church start in Chandler called Jacob’s Well. She brings a wealth of understanding and experience to this vision of ministry and will graduate from the Claremont School of Theology in May 2019 with an MDiv. Plus, she’s excited about the prospect!

We hope you will attend a congregational meeting to learn more. We have scheduled two informational meetings to take place on Sunday, March 31 at 11:45am in the fellowship hall and Monday at 6:30pm in the sanctuary. If you are unable to attend either of these meetings, Pastor Joel will be coordinating an additional informational meeting, please contact him at joel@dayspring-umc.org.

Pastors Jeff & Joel


Hope for a People Weary of Violence

“… they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;”
Micah 4:3

My daughter Claire, a high school senior, came home from school on Valentine’s Day deeply troubled. “What’s the matter, sweetheart?” “During third period my friends and I realized today was the first anniversary of the Parkland shooting and that we were the same age as the students who were killed.” On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing seventeen students and staff members and injuring seventeen others. It was
the deadliest shooting at a high school in U.S. history.

Claire was in the sixth grade when the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred, on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut–the deadliest mass shooting at a grade school.

Claire’s middle and high school years have been framed–and marred–by horrific gun violence. A generation of students going to school in fear. Lockdowns commonplace across the land. Claire reports that the sudden opening of a classroom door (usually a youth returning from the bathroom) can elicit anxiety on the part of student and teacher alike. Especially following a mass shooting.

On March 24th we will observe Gun Violence Awareness Sunday at Dayspring. It is the first anniversary of “March for Our Lives,” the youth-led event that brought together hundreds of thousands of people of all ages at hundreds of sites across the U.S. Over fifty Dayspring members marched, led by a dozen of our youth. “My backpack IS NOT a bullseye,” read the sign Claire made and carried that day. This March 24th, Shane Claiborne will preach at both services and a 2:00pm event featuring Claiborne and Michael Martin, co-authors of Beating Guns: Hope for a People Who Are Weary of Violence. I’m looking for some hope. I know Claire is. How about you?

Pastor Jeff


A Generous Way of Being Christian


What might that look like? I think, for me, it starts with a renewed love of Jesus and a profound appreciation for his way of love. I am energized by New Testament scholarship of the past two decades that peels back layers of tradition, revealing the historical Jesus. Scholars like John Dominic Crossan, Brandon Scott, Amy-Jill Levine, and Marcus Borg help paint a compelling portrait of someone I have decided to follow and dedicate my life to. Some call that ‘discipleship’. Jesus said simply, “Come, follow me!” as he went about encouraging people to live into God’s Kingdom–God’s dream for the world. Discipleship reflects a passion for Jesus and a commitment to his mission. So it’s not simply what we believe, but how that finds expression in our lives. That’s why one of the questions we ask of new members is, “Will you seek to follow Jesus and live according to his teachings?”

“Progressive Christianity” is sometimes used to describe a thoughtful, open, contemporary Christianity. An expression of the faith that embraces critical biblical scholarship and welcomes metaphorical readings of Scripture, allowing for fresh, relevant understandings of the text. One that takes the Bible seriously without taking it literally. This helps us understand how tribalism, slavery, the subjugation of women, and heterosexism are but cultural byproducts from a distant time and place that need to be put to rest once and for all. Along with the Bible, as good Methodists, we are free to believe and practice our faith in ways that honor both tradition and our experience, as well as reason. Far from being frowned upon, critical thinking and questioning is encouraged. As the poet has suggested, “Live the questions.” Sound familiar?

Progressive Christianity honors other paths to the sacred. It recognizes that no faith tradition has a monopoly on God, and that we are not in competition with other religions. That’s why we’re offering a class this month called The Jesus Fatwah: Love Your Muslim Neighbor as Yourself. Another example: Rabbi Dean Shapiro of Temple Emanuel will be preaching at Dayspring on Feb. 17th and will remain for Q&A at 11:45am.

Progressive Christianity isn’t threatened by science or evidence-based discovery. Those images coming back from Hubble, for example, can be awe-inspiring. Science can deepen our appreciation and respect for the ongoing unfolding of Creation. Did you know that United Methodist Churches are encouraged to commemorate Evolution Sunday? It falls on the
Sunday closest to Charles Darwin’s birthday, which is Feb. 10th this year.

Recent studies have shown that alarming numbers of 18-35 year olds have not only left the Church but are passionately disinterested in it! The #1 turnoff: “the Church is anti-gay.” Hopefully you’re aware of the special General Conference of the UMC to be held Feb. 23 –26 to determine whether or not our denomination will be fully inclusive of LGBTQ people. Additional reasons that millennials give for leaving the Church: it is “anti-science”, “anti-women”, “hypocritical”, and “judgmental”. Progressive Christianity attempts to address these and other concerns by offering a positive alternative for being in community and following the way of Christ. Those are some of the ways we at Dayspring attempt to express an open, inclusive, generous Christian faith centered on Jesus and his message of the Kingdom of God.

Pastor Jeff


December 25, 2018

Joy to the World!

United Methodist Hymnal – #246

let every heart prepare him room,

and heaven and nature sing!

 

Well – I’ve made it for 24 days without a huge push for music. I guess it’s time. Hans Christian Anderson wrote, “Where words fail, music speaks.” It’s true. I’ve become aware that even in the most profoundly moving scenes in a motion picture or television show, the music underscoring it has more to do with my instinctive reaction than the scene itself. The hymn lyricists and even the authors of the Bible realized the same things. Why else would something as significant as Jesus’s birth be accompanied by singing? In the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman speaks of music, “I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a great place dares to dream.  And for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.” Music has the power to transport us to another place and time. Music can help us celebrate, or comfort us when nothing else can. Music is the ultimate gift from God. Why else would angels sing at the birth of Jesus? And it continues today. The carols we sing elevate our celebration of this season far beyond what it might be otherwise. “Joy to the world! The Lord has come!” Today, tomorrow, next year, and all the years after, may music fill your life with hope, joy, peace and love, that you might always hear the angels’ song.   Merry Christmas!

 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace among those

whom he favors!”

LUKE 2: 14

      

Gracious and loving God, like a choir of angels, we gather to sing praises at the arrival of your Son. We thank you for the gift of love, and the example set by the newborn King. But we also thank you for music, giving us the most beautiful way to praise you for all you have done.  Bless our song, that we might join the angels again in welcoming the Christ Child.  Amen.


December 24, 2018

Silent Night, Holy Night

United Methodist Hymnal – #239

. . . While earth’s peoples, with one voice,

Jesus their brother proclaim!

 

There is so much lore about the origins of this most beloved of all Christmas carols. Rumors of a failing organ in the church at Oberndorf, Austria, may not be true. No wheezing pipes, no mice chewing through the leather trackers. The organ, in fact, was in use for several years after. Rather, the composition of such songs for Midnight Mass was a common practice. What we do know is that the curate, Joseph Mohr, gave the poem to organist, Franz Gruber, who set it to music. It was performed for the first time, accompanied by guitar, at Midnight Mass, Christmas Eve 1818, exactly 200 years ago. My selection of a lyric actually is translated from the original German. The original lyric concerns itself far more with salvation, and God’s incarnation as human, than does the “sleep in heavenly peace” version we are familiar with. But it might also be noted, that the original piece was much more of a folk song than a lullaby. Still, something about the lilting melody has maintained its popularity for 200 years. Today, we to envision the Virgin Mary, supported by Joseph, rocking her infant son to sleep, surrounded by a magical glow, with heavenly beams shining into the stable, illuminating the tiny king’s face. It’s our story, our history. The birth we have celebrated and re-imagined for nearly two thousand years. In the stillness of that holy night, the world changed for all time. Love was born that night, and that is what we should be celebrating.

 

And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger;

because there was no room for them in the inn.

LUKE 2: 7

      

God of peace, on this holiest of nights, we pray that you would again come into our lives like you did so many years ago. Make yourself known in the faces of our loved ones, and all those we encounter. May the love born that night soften our hearts, as we put others before ourselves. And finally, help us to discern your will, that we might bring about your kingdom here and now.  Amen.