Join Us for a Very Special Christmas Eve Service at 4:30pm
As of July 1, I have the great privilege of introducing myself as the pastor of Laguna Country United Methodist Church. On July 2, I’ll be preaching at the church for the first time, from Matthew 10:40-42. This short reading shows us that little things matter. Even a cup of cold water offered to the “little ones” will result in a reward from Christ.
Receiving the prophets and righteous among us will earn us the rewards of prophets and righteous people. This sounds great until we realize that a prophet’s reward might mean death. A righteous person’s reward might mean ridicule or rejection. And there was a time in the U.S. when providing a cup of water to someone of a different race could lead to real trouble.
Jesus knew that little things matter, but that didn’t make them easy. It sounds simple to say, “Love everyone as you love yourself.” But most of us do a terrible job of loving ourselves, let alone loving others in healthy, life-giving ways. Yet, the little things we do to help live into these “simple” instructions are the steps to discipleship that keeps us on the path with Christ. And so we offer a cup of water, a warm welcome to every person, and an open mind and heart to those who teach us ways to strengthen our faith, deepen our discipleship, and improve our world. For these are all the things that change us for the better. Perhaps if we each picked one simple thing each day, we would pave a road of faithful discipleship that will make it easier for others to take their own simple steps toward loving God, loving self, and loving neighbor.
Little things matter as we take the steps of love that will make this church and our world the places we yearn for them to be. Simple or not, I look forward to taking these steps with you in the years to come.
Yours on the journey,
Pastor B. J.
December 3, 2023 Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7
“Tear Open the Heavens” Advent 1
The world’s a mess. If only God would rend the heavens and come down! Maybe then we would pay attention. Maybe then we would acknowledge that what we are doing is wrong. Maybe. We don’t know if seeing the awesome power of God would lead us to our knees or if it would move us to amend our ways. The Judeo - Christian tradition has always flirted with the relative advantages of brute force versus love and persuasion.
December 10, 2023 Psalm 85:8-13; Isaiah 40:1-5
“When Heaven and Earth Meet” Advent 2
Isaiah pleaded with God to rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble and the nations would quake (Isaiah 64:1-2). But once God rends the heavens and comes down, then what? The psalmist offers a clue, promising peace to God’s people. God’s glory will dwell in the land:
“Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky” (Psalm 85:10-11, NRSV).
December 17, 2023 Psalm 126; Isaiah 61:1-4
“Holy Dreamers” Advent 3
“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy” (Psalm 126:1-2).
If the psalmist can proclaim these words at Israel’s rescue from exile in Babylon, how much more can we sing them at the restoration we find in Christ, as heaven and earth meet? How much more can we shout for joy that heaven and earth meet in us and through us? We are not simply freed to dream, we can scarcely help ourselves.
December 24, 2023 Luke 1:46b-55; Luke 1:26-38
“With God, Nothing Is Impossible” Advent 4
Smith Wigglesworth, an author with the coolest last name ever, wrote: “There is nothing impossible with God. All the impossibility is with us when we measure God by the limitations of our unbelief.” As the adage goes, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” Self-doubt can cripple our personal development and severely limit how successful we become in life. But when our beliefs become our measure of what God can or can’t do in our world and in our lives, the consequences are even more debilitating for us.
CHRISTMAS EVE – December 24, 2023 (4:30 pm)
“For Us a Child Is Born” Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-20; John 1
We, who dwell in darkness, have seen a great light. We, who dwell in a land of deep darkness, light has shined - all because a child has been born for us. Isaiah calls this child: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6b). And we worship this child with such devotion and adoration that we risk setting our churches on fire each year to honor both his birth and his continued presence in our lives.
December 31, 2023 TBA