Preached at the University Place Community of Christ Congregation on Sunday, May 19, 2013

I was 15 years old when I attended my first Community of Christ World Conference in 2000. My grandmother took me. I wasn’t a delegate but every single session there I was sitting in the balcony just soaking in all that was going on. My first very vivid memory was walking into the Temple the first night. First, just being in the Temple for the first time was almost too much to handle as it is. I toured the Temple when it was still being constructed but it was my first time since completion. As I walked into the Temple Foyer that Saturday evening a choir from French Polynesia were joyfully singing songs in their native tongue. I didn’t necessarily know the words but I knew they were of love and praise for Jesus. And that is the thing about World Conference, prayers are offered in native tongues from around the world, you walk through the halls and pass by groups of people from around the world talking to each other in their beautiful languages. And the Holy Spirit comes over you. And you get it. Maybe not word for word of what is being said but you get it. And you are filled. And you experience true community with people of different cultures from around the world. And through that experience you leave World Conference more empowered to serve and to bring the message of Christ to others. And For me, World Conference is very much my Pentecost experience. I have been to the past seven World Conferences and every conference has been unique and different but I always leave sensing the Holy Spirit and the urgency to share the Good News!

On this Pentecost Sunday let us listen to the scripture story from Acts. As I read the story I encourage you to breathe in these words. Allow the text move within you. Close your eyes if needed to allow you to truly focus on these words. Before we do though, let’s go to our Heavenly Creator in prayer.

Holy one. The one who strengthens us and moves within us to do great and wonderful things. We ask that you rest upon us at this time as we prepare to listen to your Holy text. May we be open this morning to the promptings of your Holy Spirit and allow these words to speak to us in possibly new and profound ways. May this be our prayer. Amen.

Breath In, Breathe Out…

Acts 2:1-21

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

On this Pentecost Sunday there are three things I invite you to take away from this scripture text.

One, that true community is needed and for true community to be formed we need to unite in our diversity. What does it mean to live in true community with each other? I am sure we all can think of experiences where we have leaned on others in times of need. This is community. Times when we have spent hours laughing and telling stories with friends we haven’t seen in a while. This is community. When you know that your neighbors are looking out for your children and you are looking out for theirs. This is community. Now it gets tougher. When you can look into the eyes of those who are different than you (whether it be cultural, ethnic, religion, sexual orientation, physically, politically)…yes, When you can look them in the eyes and truly love and accept them and see them as a brother and sister in Christ.  This is community. When you no longer live just for yourself and your family but for the wellbeing of all. When you no longer support structures that seek to oppress populations of the world. Even to the point of death. This is community. And maybe the hardest of them all…When you allow yourself to be vulnerable with God and others. When you share your weakness, and insecurities, and fears, and struggles, and pain with those close to you. And folks, we are horrible at this in our congregational life. These are those people that we should be able to come to. We have a tendency to keep things bottled up inside and let them fester instead of working through them with each other. When we allow ourselves to become vulnerable with each other and with God. This is community.

Two, we need to let the Holy Spirit breathe through us and around us. We need to be constantly engaged in practices where we intentionally allow ourselves to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. We have to be intentional about this. For when we become intentional in focusing on our spiritual lives then it evolves into our way of life.

I have attended Spiritual Growth retreats where I will have these mountain top experiences and will feel so close to God. Where I am overcome with presence of the Holy Spirit. Then I go home. And I go about my daily tasks. And it fades away and I’m no longer intentional about it. We must become disciplined about opening ourselves up. And when we do, amazing things can occur in our life. When we let the Holy Spirit in then transformation can occur. And when it does then other lives will be transformed as well because we used our transformation as a tool to bring the message of Christ to others. Our transformation becomes a part of our testimony. When I opened myself up the promptings of the Holy Spirit it was strongly impressed upon me that I was to serve in the Puyallup Community. And for three years I did that. And I know that I was called to be there during that time to work in the community with the poor and oppressed. Then last summer it was apparent to me again that I was to move. And I had this profound experience that I was to move to Southern Oregon. And I responded.

Three, that we take the challenge in the final verse of our text this morning where it says “Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That as Disciples of Jesus Christ we take this to go forward in mission and be the message of the peace of Jesus Christ. Folks there are people in our neighborhoods who are in desperate need for the uplifting power of the Peace of Jesus Christ in their lives. There are people who are in need of radical transformation. And it occurs when in relationship with those who represent Christ. Those that have said, “Here Am I, Send Me.”. Relationships are crucial to our ability to bring the message of Christ to others. To being the message of Christ to others.

We, not just Community of Christ, but the entire Christian tradition, are so good at playing church. But for what cost? We spend all of our energy and resources and focus on keeping building, our “holy” structures, open 1 morning a week. In some congregations it might be more. Whose lives though are truly being transformed and coming to know Christ because of this? How many Disciples are we really creating by playing church? And yet, as a Christian tradition, we continue to respond this way time and time again.

And you know there is little Johnny in the apartment building down the road who on some days of the week might go without a meal. How is Johnny’s life being changed because there is a Christian church in his community? And, in reality, most of the time it’s several Christian churches. Or Susan in the house across the street who is beaten by her husband and gets by because of the excuses she makes to her friends. Who struggles with wanting to justify it because of her own poor perceptions of herself. How is Susan’s life being healed because of the churches in her community that spend more time being concerned about how they worship on Sunday morning than they do about being in relationship with their neighbors? It may not be intentional but it is the message that Christianity is sending, especially in the U.S. where Christianity is dying because it is seen as being no longer relevant to those around us. Or maybe we spend so much time in committee meetings or priesthood meetings disagreeing on how we should move forward that we never get the work done. We need our own Pentecost experience to move forward. It’s not that we’re speaking in our native tongues but we’re speaking from our diverse opinions and views that we don’t truly listen to the person next to us is saying. We need a Pentecost awakening that unites us despite all those things that can separate us. A Pentecost awakening that unites to move forward in mission and be about the work of Jesus Christ.

Earlier I mentioned the structures that oppress. The structures related to economics, businesses, politics, education, and so on. You see this is where we start to get nervous that the preacher is going to start talking about politics from the pulpit. These are not political issues though. They are issues that are politicized but they are social justice issues. As a people of faith we must stand up and speak out on the social justice issues that we witness. The atrocities that are committed against groups of people. The oppression that we often times even enable and justify it because of our own perception of what our wellbeing is.

I was sharing in a small group session at the Youth Leaders training yesterday. I had purchased M&M’s for a mixer that we were doing. The Chocolate we choose to buy is one of the major times that we choose whether to oppress or not. Most of the popular chocolate we buy in the stores is produced by child labor and trafficked children in parts of Africa. Children who are illegally trafficked to work in cocoa fields. Children as young as seven who are taken into these dangerous cocoa fields and made to work. All so we can have our Hershey’s bar. And it hit me again yesterday while in the workshop that here I was, with this knowledge, buying M&M’s and justifying it because I needed it for this game. Instead of buying fair trade chocolate we buy what’s cheap and taste good and justify it because we are blind to the realities of the world or because just one today is not going to hurt anything in the grand scheme of things or because it just simply tastes so good. With so many decisions we make, especially decisions at the store, we are choosing whether we are supporting oppression or not.

And as a people of faith, we have to better than that. As Disciples we have to do better in reaching out to those in our community who are in need. We have to do better in supporting structures that positively impact people’s lives. Because we are Disciples of Jesus Christ. And As a Disciple of Jesus Christ we have chosen to enter the waters of Baptism to become a new creation of God and serve God by living out the teachings of Jesus Christ and serving others. D&C 164:5 reminds us that, “It is imperative to understand that when you are truly baptized into Christ you become part of a new creation. By taking on the life and mind of Christ, you increasingly view yourselves and others from a changed perspective. Former ways of defining people by economic status, social class, sex, gender, or ethnicity no longer are primary. Through the gospel of Christ a new community of tolerance, reconciliation, unity in diversity, and love is being born as a visible sign of the coming reign of God.”

On this Pentecost Sunday allow the Holy Spirit to work through you and empower you to move out and create communities of Joy, Hope, Love, and Peace by fulfilling the Mission and Message of Jesus Christ. The Good News is that Jesus came to bring his message to the poor, in all of its forms, and bring them hope. So must the people that bear his name. The Good News is that the Holy Spirit moves through us to transform us and send us forth to serve. When we respond, others will respond as well.

I leave you this morning with the words of one of our beloved hymns, revised by Evangelist Danny Belrose for this time and place:

Send me forth with Christ’s commission; Fill my soul with new resolve. Let my hands and feet be agents of God’s grace, and with love I will erase the lines of prejudice and hate.I will share enduring values of my faith.

Melt my fears and trepidations! Grant me courage for life’s path.Set my eyes on new horizons to pursue, and with joy I will proclaim God’s love in all I say and do.I will join each helping hand to make life new.

Be a voice of transformation, gently hands to help and heal. Be an ear to hear creation’s wounded plea. Be a friend to those who have no friend and in God’s blessed name we will demonstrate God’s dream for unity.

Call me forth, to active service andmy prompt response shall be, “Here am I, send me!” Hand in hand we’ll work together building peace and harmony. We will share the peace of Jesus with all we see.

Amen.

479978_10152770141450228_2140210978_nIt’s hard to believe that it’s already been 9 days since the 2013 Community of Christ World Conference came to a close but that is the reality. It was my hope to post along the journey but I ended up being too busy wrapped up in the festivities and then my brain was too fried at night to write before going to bed. I will attempt to reflect on the highlights of the week that are still fresh.

I attended my first World Conference in 2000 and have been to every consecutive one since. My grandma Lillie took me to my first one and I immediately became hooke149011_10152771007785228_802200420_nd. I wasn’t event a delegate to that conference but at 15 years of age I still attended all legislative sessions. I was captivated by them. I remember a few specific things from that first conference. One of the most memorable moments was walking into the Temple that first evening and being greeted by the French Polynesian choir singing joyous songs of praise. It was then I first realized that Community of Christ was an international faith community. Another memorable moment was the flag ceremony. Back then they would parade the flags down the center of the auditorium and then put them on the rostrum for the week. This was another neat reminder of our International status.

Every conference since I can probably pick out moments that touched me in some way. From the Ordination of Steve Veazey as prophet/president to the inclusion of Doctrine & Covenants 163 to the amazing Spirit of Peace that rested upon the 2010 World Conference. Here are the moments/experiences that I remember fondly from the 2013 Community of Christ World Conference:

> Young Adult Activities – The Young Adult were sure active at this years conference. I was on the planning team again for the Young Adult events. I chaired a sub-committee that put on two Information and Discussion sessions. One focused on three legislative items before conference (i.e. Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, Drinking of Intoxicants, and Basic Beliefs) and the other one focused on Priesthood Faithfulness. Other activities throughout the week included Bowling, Dinner, Young Adult Ministers Luncheon, and more. On Tuesday evening we had a Young Adult Worship after the evening Worship. This was a definite highlight of mine. Ben Smith, a minister from Australia, gave a great message. We did some sharing in small groups. We sang. We listened to scripture being read. We praised our Lord together!

> Passing of Legislative Items – It seems that most, if not all, of the legislative items or their substations passed at Conference this year. Personally, I was happy to see Drinking of Intoxicants and Baptism & Membership pass. Both of these don’t actually dictate any policy change but they do request the First Presidency to come back with contemporary guidance which could lead to policy changes. Other legislative items relating to Wholeness and Well-Being, Baptismal Prayers, Supporting Indigenous and Minority Peoples, and Action towards Nuclear Weapons Abolition also passed. All of the legislative items that passed seem to in some way help assist us seeking the Worth of all Persons. What a blessing to be apart of a faith community that values this Enduring Principle.        10011_10152771006740228_1128544709_n

> Flag Ceremony – During the opening legislative session we witnessed the tradition of the flag ceremony. The flags are hung around the railing in the upper level of the auditorium and are unravel as each country is announced and what year Community of Christ was established there. I always find this to be a rather touching opportunity to witness our Unity in Diversity. The flags don’t represent nationalism but they represent the many different people that are apart of the Body of Christ and those that are in fellowship with Community of Christ.

> Baptism & Membership – This was the legislative that I felt called to speak on. Here is what I shared with the conference, “I stand today in support of this legislation. I haven’t always felt this way though. We have seen legislation about baptism and membership come up many times over the past several conferences. I have always been uncomfortable with the idea that we would accept other baptisms prior to age 8 when the child didn’t make the decision themselves. It went against what I thought was my view and the churches view of the nature of being a Disciple. Though as I continued to pray and consider this over the past couple of years I have come to an understanding where I realize that I was casting judgment on someone else’s faith journey. I realized that it was not my place to decide whether some one else’s heritage, life experiences, and spiritual journey were making them a true disciple of Jesus Christ. And that if a change in our policy were to come in the future because of this passing I actually believe it would give more integrity to the sacrament of bap320077_10152771009445228_486626646_ntism when making new disciples. I believe in the power of our sacraments, especially that of baptism. this resolution doesn’t change that but empowers it. And let’s be honest here, we have people in our communities all around the world who are hungry, without clean water, don’t have dignified shelter, facing battles of all kinds, and yet we continue to spend our time revisiting whether we will let all disciples in Community of Christ or keep them out of full fellowship with Community of Christ when instead we should be focusing on addressing the issues that really matter. I look forward to future  conferences where we hopefully don’t spend so much money and use so many resources to come to the conferences and spend a lot of time deciding who and how we let people in Community of Christ and instead spend our conferences focusing on the true mission of Jesus Christ and how we can address those things that really matter most.  Let us value the worth of all people and where they are in their relationship to Christ on their journey. I hope this passes and that the First Presidency comes back with opportunities to allow us to welcome more to live out their discipleship in Community of Chri524229_10152771009290228_1671561370_nst.”.

> New Calls to Ministry (Ordinations) – We had several ordinations this year but a few in particular touched me. First, it was great to see Apostle Scott Murphy called to serve as a Counselor in the First Presidency. Scott was my pastor at the Cedarcrest Congregation in Marysville, WA, when I was growing up. When he left to go work for the church we all knew God has some big things in store for him. Our Council of Twelve Apostles became more diverse this conference. Mareva Arnaud Tchong from French Polynesia, Arthur Smith from Canada, and Barbara Carter from the USA, were all ordained as Apostles. This adds two more females to the Council as well as more representation from beyond the USA. It was particularly touching to see Mareva ordained an Apostle. I kept thinking about what this has to mean for the people of French Polynesia. James Poirier and Steven Graffeo were also called as Counselors in the Presiding Bishopric. Another neat moment was seeing Linda Booth chosen by her peers to be the first female President of the Council of Twelve. The church will definitely benefit from her continued service as the President of the Council of Twelve.

> Words of Counsel – Unlike previous years where Words of Counsel have been presented I am noticing that I am continuously finding parts of the Counsel that inspires in new ways. It’s like every time I read it I am reading it with new eyes. There are things that speak to me that I didn’t even notice previously. Some quotes from the Counsel that continue to speak to me and that I believe will help shape Community of Christ into the future are, “Lovingly invite others to experience the good news of new life in community with Christ. Opportunities abound in your daily lives if you choose t547304_10152771008940228_575846773_no see them.”, “Tithing is a spiritual practice…”, “be aware, it is not right to profess oneness and equality in Christ through sacramental covenants and then to deny that equality by attitude, word, or action. Such behavior wounds Christ’s body and denies what is eternally resolved in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.”, “God calls whoever God calls…”, and “As Christ’s body, lovingly and patiently bear the weight of criticism from those who hesitate to respond to the divine vision of human worth and equality in Christ. This burden and blessing is yours for divine purposes.”. To read the Counsel it in it’s entirety, click here. I think I might begin a blogging series that looks deeper into these Words of Counsel.

> Twitter Delegation – This was definitely one of my favorite things about conference! It is also how I was able to meet so many awesome new people. I’ve only recently started to actively use my Twitter account. I remember thinking a few weeks ago that I may never get to 1000 tweets on my account. Well, not only did I hit that during conference but I exceeded it. Within the ten days of being in Missouri I made several hundred tweets. It helped make the the legislative sessions pass by and even helped me to better understand the legislative items. I cherish my Twitter moments with old friends and new friends!376062_10152787032800228_625741359_n

> Frozen Custard – Yes, I had to post about this! No trip to conference can happen without a few trips to Sheridan’s Frozen Custard. I made it there twice and then to Custard’s Last Stand another time. I must say that I think Custard’s Last Stand is my new favorite Custard place. Sorry Sheridan’s!

> New Friends and Old Friends – As always I got to meet lots of new people from all over the world. Also was able to get reacquainted with friends I haven’t seen in a while. Always one of the best things about World Conference!

> House Rental – A group of 7 of us rented a house together for the week. This made for some very interesting moments. “Nuff said.

> Weather – We had some weird weather throughout the week. We went from a sunny weekend to possible snow flurries to stormy weather. We were under a tornado watch on Wednesday. Since it is my 485168_10152771008345228_1593088369_ndream to spend at least one tornado season being a storm chaser I loved being under the Tornado watch. We had thunder and lightning and rain that pelted the ground. I loved it!

> Peace, Salaam, Shalom – We believe in Peace! – This became the unofficial anthem of the 2013 World Conference. A video that some church members made called “Peace Through All People” that depicted church members from around the world singing and playing along to the song “Peace, Salaam, Shalom”. It was done in the same way that the Playing for Change videos are filmed. Then during the Hymn Fest on Wednesday Evening the Songwriters of the song came and lead us in singing it. This was definitely a highlight! To learn how this song came about, click here!

> Different Languages – One of my favorite things about conference is hearing the singing, sharing, and prayers done in the native tongues of the delega480087_10151460230378661_1687580697_ntes from around the world. It shows just how diverse Community of Christ is. I don’t understand what is being said, and yet, it inspires me in profound ways.

I am sure there are highlights I am forgetting. It was a GREAT conference experience. Unfortunately, it was shortened this year. I definitely noticed the difference. I look forward to a conference with a normal length in 2016. Also look forward to having conference in June! Just three more years. Until then I have SPEC, Peace Colloquy’s, and other experiences to hold me over!

God is calling for a prophetic community to emerge, drawn from the nations of the world, that is characterized by uncommon devotion to the compassion and peace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. – Doctrine & Covenants 163:11a

When I attended the 2007 Community of Christ World Conference I was on the edge of my seat listening to President Steve Veazey share Words of Counsel to the church. “Uncommon Devotion” was one of the phrases that immediately stuck out to my that night. Later in the week the conference body accepted it as Section 163 of the Doctrine & Covenants. “Uncommon Devotion” was such a powerful phrase that the Young Adult group that I was the Co-Leader of in the Seattle area planned worship services around it.

So why does it speak to me? As Christians, we aren’t always that good in living out our faith. We offer a lot of lip-service but we seem to struggle to “walk the walk”. For me, Uncommon Devotion is a phrase that speaks to the need for our lives to be holistic in our approach to living out our Discipleship. That we have to “practice what we preach” and that we need to so in a way that it becomes our norm. That it just becomes who we are. We need to making the “uncommon devotion” common in our lives.

This means being counter cultural. It means volunteering for organizations that share your Christian values. Being an activist and stepping up and speaking out for causes. Praying. Buying from companies that have good practices (this I especially struggle with). Putting aside your fears and insecurities to help the marginalized. Worship in the context of Community. Reading scriptures and other texts that will help us learn and grow. Feeding the hungry. Providing the wanderer with shelter. Clothe the naked. Spending time with friends and family and strangers. 

Consider the ways that you can live out your uncommon devotion.

It is important to note that even though I am an employee of Community of Christ that the views expressed on this blog are of my own interpretation. This is especially true as I prepare to post on the happenings of the Community of Christ World and USA National Conferences. The writings made on this blog are simply one voice from the community. Please read the blog posts with that understanding. If my opinions and views may offend you then don’t read my blog or choose to engage in a health conversation about those topics in the comments section of the post. This actually goes for all future posts. Thank you.

Blogging Again…

Posted: April 10, 2013 in Random

After a couple of years of no blogging, I’m back. I look forward to writing again.

This blog will primarily begin with my personal reflections of the Community of Christ World Conference and USA National Conference.