“Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one.” Matthew 5:37
I’ve always figured that politics was strictly taboo in a church setting, didn’t you? We United Methodists are a free-thinking and definitely non-partisan denomination that welcomes just about everybody into the fold. Our mission is making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and we’ve been working on it as a congregation here in Watsonville since we started on the banks of the Pajaro River back in 1852. Unlike others, we’d never in a million years—at least in my lifetime—tell you how you must mark your ballot.
So, what do politics have to do with our faith, anyway? A lot!
I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but here’s what historians say. The people called Methodists have been actively involved in social and political matters from their founding in 18th century England. Methodists were among the primary advocates for the abolition of slavery across the British Empire, the organization of labor unions to protect workers from dangerous working conditions, the ending of the debtors’ prison system, and the creation of new systems of care for poor children. (umc.org) Cool, huh!?
Given this heritage, we Methodists have continued to advocate for other social or political issues since that time – women’s suffrage (i.e. right to vote,) temperance (abstinence from alcohol,) civil rights, health care and care for the environment, to name a few. In other words, believers like us have been stirring up political trouble for a long, long time! And I believe that’s a good thing.
As one preacher puts it, politics, (or política in Spanish,) is about people and the relationships between people or groups of people. Life itself is political, and there is virtually no decision we can make, nothing we can say, no action that we take that does not have political consequences, for we do not live in isolation from other people. When I sneeze, my neighbor catches cold. Or the coronavirus.
Honestly, the way I see it, there’s no part of our lives that isn’t concerned with politics, one way or the other. And when I say politics, I don’t mean mud-slinging or other vicious rhetoric. I mean exercising our democratic right and privilege to vote our conscience. In my mind, it’s another version of asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” (WWJD)
And maybe, just maybe, with this approach we can make this whole presidential election season better than it is.
Let’s keep in mind the advice that John Wesley (founder of the UMC) wrote in his journal on October 6, 1774 in reference to the British Parliamentary elections held in the fall of that year: “I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them, 1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy: 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against: And, 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”
Sounds like a plan to me!
As Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary, General Board of Church of Society of the United Methodist Church explains, “Voting is a matter of faith, citizenship and democracy. It is a kind of prayer and faithful testament to the belief that every citizen bears a responsibility and equal right to determine the future of governance in society.” (https://www.resourceumc.org/en/content/voting-a-prayerful-act)
I think they’ve got it right.
It’s time for the Blessing of the Animals Online Gathering, premiering on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020 at 10:00 am, and available thereafter, on our Facebook and YouTube pages. I love this service and hope you do, too. It’s clear our task is to project and care for the animals–even the wild ones. Or to put it another way, we all have a place in the choir–or congregation! If you have a pet and want to join along, please do. We are also offering free “Certificates of Blessing” for those who are able to bless their animals with us. Just let us know the details of your animal–name and date you join in.
I leave you with this blessing:
“God, the Divine Eagle, is strong enough to care for you and me. The mighty Creator of this vast universe has wings strong enough to save you – from your fears, from your present trouble, from your weakness, from yourself, and from your sins.
All of us have sins which enslave us, that hold us captive in weakness. But this God, who majors in strength, bursts asunder the chains of our bondage. So strong are the wings of our Eagle-God that even [God’s] name carries deliverance for us.”
I pray you are delivered by the Holy One. In Jesus’ name, amen.
“When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and [the Lord] brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” Deuteronomy 26:6-9
The Old Testament of the Bible includes a book of law called Deuteronomy, which gives the history of our Christian faith and how we should live. It includes the history of Jesus’ ancestors, the Jewish people, and how they suffered terribly. The people of Israel were deported, taken into slavery, ultimately exiled, and roamed, lost in the desert.
Dealing with the fires in this time of pandemic is making our lives, and the lives of many others, extremely challenging. Some of us feel lost, too!
This of course is why we need each other now more than ever. It’s why these days we worship God virtually through our weekly Online Gatherings, and witness to God’s saving grace in whatever creative ways we can come up with. It’s why Jesus makes all the difference, especially now. Our lives include hard times, and we need help—holy help that is! These Bible stories of faith give us courage to face these disasters. In God’s love, we can begin to leave our pain and messed-up selves behind.
No wonder this Scripture from Deuteronomy speaks to us. We could use a land flowing with milk and honey about now! Not in excess, but at least enough to get by and share with our neighbors. Which brings us to our survey.
Reopen Church Survey Results In! What Happens Next?
Thank you to the 50+ people who responded to our Reopen Church Survey about returning to in-person worship and programs. Our leaders will be meeting to review the data, offer their feedback, and lay the groundwork for our next steps. Here are a few highlights of our survey results:
This week, Governor Newsom announced that California has a new “Four Tier” blueprint for reducing COVID-19 with revised criteria for loosening and tightening restrictions on activities, as directed by the California Department of Public Health. Our Bishop Minerva Carcaño has also confirmed that our Cal-Nevada Conference protocols for reopening are still in place, and all local church plans must be approved before implementation.
We will adhere to these guidelines.
In the meantime? This is God’s holy ground, and God’s holy church. And whether you realize it or not, we are God’s holy people. All of us. A broken, lost people, in need of redemption, and God’s help.
We have much to be thankful for, even in this time of fires, evacuations, the pandemic, and other disasters. We have each other. And what about the riches of our lives? What are we to do with our bounty? Share it with others, that’s what! Starting with the first fruits. They go to God.
This is the promise and affirmation of salvation. This is what we mean by a land flowing with milk and honey. You my friend are standing on holy ground. Thank God!
In light of the fires raging in California, we’re inviting you to join us for Evacuation! God is My Rock and My Salvation, Sunday, August 23, 2020, premiering at 10:00 am, and available thereafter at our Facebook and YouTube pages, as I tell the story of how I have been evacuated from my home. As the Scripture says: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from God comes my salvation. God alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:1-2) The question is whether we really believe it.
Do you want to help? Here are suggestions from the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County:
If you’re in the Santa Cruz County area, you can:
1. GIVE SUPPLIES
Due to COVID-19 considerations, the County requests that all donations be in new condition. Please bring all donations to the Santa Cruz County General Services Warehouse at 1082 Emeline, Santa Cruz.
SHELTER ITEMS: Large, family-sized tents, Sleeping bags, sleeping pads, Blankets, Pillows, & Tarps
WATER AND SNACK ITEMS: Bottled water, Granola/energy bars, *Other food donations may be brought to Second Harvest Food Bank
PERSONAL ITEMS: Hand sanitizer, Personal hygiene products, Toiletries, Large plastic storage bins, Coloring books, crayons, *Clothing and other personal item donations please bring to the nearest Goodwill
HYGIENE SUPPLIES: Surgical masks, Empty spray bottles (for county-supplied bulk disinfectant)
2. DONATE TO THE FIRE RESPONSE FUND
Any donation size will help. Make an online donation to the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County here. 100% of donors’ gifts will be used for grant making. All donations are tax-deductible.
And if you’re in the area:
Volunteer at a Fire Shelter in Watsonville, Santa Cruz or Soquel. Learn about opportunities through the Volunteer Center. Help pack and distribute food with Second Harvest.
I want to add something else. We definitely need your prayers to cope with this disaster. Please keep ’em coming!
It’s time for communion and another Watsonville First Online Gathering on YouTube and Facebook, linked at this website. This week we’re focusing on Jacob wrestling through the night in Genesis 32:22-31, with the theme: “I Will Not Let You Go!” We’ve also got new special guests and surprises in store. Be sure to get your bread and juice ready–or whatever food you have at hand, so you can join in.
My message includes an exclusive interview with David Honda, Chief of the Watsonville Police Department.
We talk about the tragic death of George Floyd, police violence, peaceful protests vs. looting, defunding the police, taking a knee and more.
I hope you’ll join us.
Yours in Christ,
We are excited to update you on our latest Online Gathering, slated to premiere this Sunday, April 26, at 10:00 am. See the links on this website for easy access. But I have a question first. Do you have a compass?
You know, one of those little dealies you might have used as a Boy or Girl Scout, to find your way around in the woods?
These days, most of us don’t have an actual compass sitting around the house. But there are plenty of ’em in the App store of your smartphone. They’re free and easy to use, and they help us figure out the 4 directions: North, East, South and West.
HINT: If you’d like to join me this Sunday, please use your compass to determine the directions at your home before we start. There’s a special blessing in store for you, and you’ll be able to join right in.
I’m also thinking maybe we need to make better use of our spiritual compass, too. United Methodist Pastor Charley Reeb puts it this way: “A compass always points to magnetic north to help us travel in the right direction. The good news is Jesus gave us “true north” in his teachings. When we are lost and confused all we have to do is remember Jesus’ most important lesson and we can get on the right path again.” That sounds good to me!
This week in our Online Gathering we celebrate Native American Ministries, one of the special offerings taken in United Methodist Churches to benefit Native people and their communities within our denomination. But that’s not all. My Native American friend Derrick Rainbow will be sharing a special prayer with us, too. Plus, there’s beautiful music and messages brought to you by our Worship Team. It’s definitely a group effort, and we hope you’ll come. Can’t make it Sunday? That’s okay too, as our Online Gatherings are posted on Facebook and YouTube, giving you plenty of time to find us. See you soon!
“It is time for humanity to reset our spiritual compass from self-centeredness to other-centeredness.” Bernice King
Our church is part of an ongoing program where we normally distribute fresh food for families on the first Thursday of each month, in partnership with our local Second Harvest Food Bank. (AR & Fred Pointer oversee this program for us!)
However, back on April 2, the 35 families waiting in our back parking lot that day got nothing, because the food bank ran out of food! To remedy this, Second Harvest has agreed to provide us with 70 bags of fresh produce TODAY April 23 at our church, for pickup by families at 4:30 pm. Our Watsonville NETworX Coordinators led by Angelica Martinez are leading the effort, and safe distancing protocols will be in place. We’re asking folks to please patiently wait in line in the back parking lot inside your vehicle, and groceries will be put in your trunk until we run out.
Please let anyone know who is experiencing food shortage or financial difficulties about this. If they’re unable to make it, the Food Bank will also be giving out food at the fairgrounds tomorrow (Friday, April 24) beginning at 9:00 am – 1:00 pm, 2601 East Lake Avenue, Watsonville.
Thank you for your consideration and help, and please keep us and our community in your prayers!
Writer Robert Frost once said, “The people I am most afraid of are the people who are scared.” We know what happens when people act from a place of fear. Just look at the world today—it’s scary! Admittedly, there’s more than enough to be afraid of. In a pandemic, anything can happen.
The question is, how do we cope? How can we keep on going when so many things we’ve always relied on seem to be falling apart before our very eyes? To put it another way, how can believers like us face our fears? How can we move towards peace and healing even in times like this? And where oh where is our courage?
That of course is where God comes in. Whatever way you want to describe it—a Higher Power, Creator of the Universe, mysterious and Almighty Yahweh, or Holy Spirit—we believers know that the buck doesn’t stop with us. We know deep in our hearts where we belong, and that is together. That’s the only way I know to face our fears.
And you know what else? Even now, we trust that God is here.
This Sunday, our celebration continues! Join us for our Earth Day Sunday Online Gathering on April 19th, premiering at 10:00 am. You won’t want to miss it. As always, it can be viewed later on our Facebook or YouTube pages–just search the name of the church: Watsonville First United Methodist. To make it easier to find, just go to our website. One click and you’re there!
Plus, there’s one more “first” for us. Our talented website developer has added a “Donate” button to our website. When it’s time to give your tithes and offerings, we’re here to help. Check it out online at our church website, below. And see you soon!
Yours in Christ,