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Monday, July 1, 2013

Pastorgraphs: “A New Beginning”

E-Vangel Newsletter
July 1, 2013

Pastorgraphs: “A New Beginning”

Today marks the start of a new year for United Methodists. Many churches say hello to new pastors, and church leaders begin their new appointments. I cannot recall a year with as much turnover as this one: a new Bishop, District Superintendent, and new pastors at our closest neighboring UMC churches (First San Diego, Normal Heights, and Trinity).

It is humbling to realize I am beginning my fifteenth year at 33rd and Meade (twelve years as pastor of Christ UMC, and now starting my third year as Director of Christ United Methodist Ministry Center).

The last few months have been among the most productive, and at the same time, most stressful of my ministry in San Diego. The improvements to our facilities have been dramatic. We have made a significant dent in some long overdue upgrades. But our 62-year-old 25,000 square foot building requires constant attention and upkeep.

The stressful part has come mostly from a few neighbors who seem to have nothing better to do than complain about everything we do. And it is not just complaints – it includes insults, name-calling and implied threats. A rumor started that the City of San Diego paid for the recent resurfacing of our parking lot. A neighborhood email chain picked up the rumor and incited the already angry residents, whose lives, like ours, have been disrupted by the year-long sewer/water upgrade fiasco. Others complain if we move the garbage dumpsters from one end of the building to another. Still others…well, you get the picture.

So it was fortunate that Pastor Owens asked me to preach yesterday at Exodus Church. I used the lectionary text in Luke 9 where Jesus sent an advance team to Samaria so he could go directly to Jerusalem one last time. The Samaritans refused, and the disciples asked Jesus if they could call down fire and brimstone on the Samaritans. Jesus rebuked his disciples, saying that is no way for Christians to act. You know, it’s that “love your neighbors as you love yourself”, “pray for those who spitefully use you”, and “turn the other cheek” stuff. It sounds really good until someone is spreading hateful, spiteful lies about you. But I needed to hear it. And I have resolved to love our neighbors, even when they are not so lovely or loving in return.

In an attempt to deal with the anger, rumors and legitimate questions, the City held a neighborhood meeting last Wednesday night. Guess where we met? That’s right, at our church! I welcomed the neighborhood into our Social Hall, and said getting to know each other better through our shared ordeal was one positive outcome of this fiasco. I told them United Methodists have “Open Minds, Open Hearts and Open Doors”, and that we were opening all three for the meeting to bring neighborhood healing. I concluded with a prayer, reminding all of us, especially me, that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. (And make no mistake about it, we have many wonderful neighbors.)

Every great leader of the Old and New Testaments and throughout church history was criticized, suffered, and many were put to death. Noah was ridiculed, Moses suffered constant complaints, David fled to a cave in fear for this life, the prophets suffered mightily. Paul wrote: “Five times I have received … the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys; in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-28). Calvin and Luther were persecuted, Wycliffe was put to death for translating the Bible into English, and Wesley was excommunicated from the Anglican Church he loved so much.

So today is not just the beginning of a new Methodist church year, it is a day of new beginning in doing the hard but essential work of ministry, even when “men say all manner of evil against you for my sake”. This is an opportunity for me to grow spiritually and mature in my faith, and I humbly accept the challenge to be a loving neighbor!

I love you, neighbor, Bill Jenkins

From the Quote Garden:
“Forgiving is love's toughest work, and love's biggest risk.  If you twist it into something it was never meant to be, it can make you a doormat or an insufferable manipulator.  Forgiving seems almost unnatural.  Our sense of fairness tells us people should pay for the wrong they do.  But forgiving is love's power to break nature's rule.”
~ Lewis B. Smedes ~

Christ United Methodist Ministry Center
“Christ in the Heart of San Diego”
3295 Meade Avenue - San Diego, CA 92116 - (619) 284-9205

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