"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of Christ Jesus concerning you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of the prophets, but test everything, hold fast to what is good and abstain from every form of evil." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

"People may hear your words but they will feel your attitude." Rev. John Maxwell

It is getting hot out there, isn't it? A recent article in the Arizona Republic said that the high temperatures will eventually bring some good results; the rain that falls from the monsoon requires a higher heat to create the variables to forge a healthy monsoon season. So, there is some good news! Looking forward to the rains!

The heat of theological inquiry has been turned up for us United Methodists as well. Our foundational principles have been turned upside down and some stress is being felt throughout our collective. Bishop Karen Oliveto lead the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference two weeks ago and it was an inspiring conference built around serving and identifying the ones who are struggling to find basic provisions; food, water, jobs, assistance and education, just to name a few. I am so thankful for Jane and Lloyd Vowles and their leadership at the Conference on behalf of SHUMC. You two are wonderful and we thank you for your service! And, it is always great to have Rev. Buddy there with me. Thank you for being such a gift in ministry to me and to SHUMC!

Still, we found ourselves in some situations where the heat was turned up. The Clergy session found those who disagree with decisions about the leadership of our Conference, withdrawing support for clergy we voted on for ordination. Some questioned the direction of our denomination: are we accommodating to culture in our struggle to define ministry, or are we testing the spirits and hearts of people by asking questions about call and sin? How can we make sense of our life of faith using Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience? So many other questions are before us. The heat is on theologically, ecclesiologically, and structurally. And this is not a bad thing, for as Paul tells us in Galatians, test your own work rather than your neighbor's work, for therein lies your strength (Galatians 6:4). And that is my take away from the Conference; we have work to do as the people of Shepherd of the Hills. We are serving, loving, and worshiping in and beyond our community and that will not change, no matter who our Bishop is. We will do the work Jesus is calling us to do, and in doing so, our service will not be a matter of opinion as to what is right or wrong, but a matter of bringing provision, support, and hope to others. We can walk away from the work that is being done because of something that is happening in Denver, or we can grasp the tasks handed to us as the people of SHUMC and stay the course, noting that each one of us will be held accountable for our decision, not the Jurisdiction's decision to ordain bishops.

Yes, I am a practical theologian. I believe that the power of the Holy Scriptures is far bigger than my opinion as to what they say. If Scripture is not urging me forward, challenging my ideas of the sacred and the profane and helping me to treat others better and respond to their needs, then they are just words on a page. But I believe they are so much more than that; they will help me find light and grace in the most confusing and challenging of times. They will guide me to find a life worthy of the high calling of Christ Jesus and bring me to a place where I can celebrate the Holy Spirit's work as a new creation with a salvation that comes because God loves me, and so I am to love others.

In the fall, we will set a few weeks aside to dive into the biblical perspectives on this issue. I ask you to do one thing with me: let us pray without ceasing that God will speak to us, use us and keep testing the work we are doing with anticipation that the Lord will do more than provide answers, but instead will keep us purposefully directed toward the kingdom that is coming. The rains will fall, and the struggle, I guarantee you, will be worth it for all who are faithful.

Peace, love and grace to all you saints of SHUMC……Rev. Michael




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