Feb 062014
 

Photo of Rev. Dr. Robert Shore-Goss

In continuing my focus on an “Open Christianity,” my sermon is entitled, Jesus was never a fundamentalist.

We do not expect change from religious folks. We have come to understand that religious love the past, and they are afraid of the present because they fear it presents change. They are terrified that the changes the future will bring will be much more more dramatic in comparison to the present.

This is so true of fundamentalists. There is only one interpretation of scripture; there is only meaning to God’s laws. It is written for all time. So when the scribes and Pharisees bring the woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus, they say to him: “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

We understand that these scribes and Pharisees are fundamentalists and legalists. They comprehend God’s rules written and given in stone tablets to Moses. They are afraid of alternatives to their interpretation of the rules. After all, God gave the law of 612 prescriptions to observe, and there is only one way to understand and interpret them. Any flexibility in interpretation of the laws and rules of religion creates fear in fundamentalists. The Pharisees and scribes who condemned the woman caught in adultery understood the law as written in stone. There was no other possible outcome than stoning the woman to death.

And Jesus was notorious as a religious rule-breaker. He challenged their hardened and literalist interpretations of God’s laws. Their hearts were as petrified as their interpretations–and so he wrote in the sand. It was yet another parable to teach them that God’s laws were not written in stone but in the sand. There was flexibility in applying in any laws with the scripture “Be as compassionate as your God is compassionate.”

Fundamentalism is fear-based; it fails to trust God in the present and the future. Yet Jesus consistently warns against fear more than anything else. He says often, “Do not be afraid.” This one line appears over 300 times in the Bible. Fear distorts our relationship with God by narrowing our listening to what is really important in scripture: mercy and compassion, love and forgiveness. It results in moralism and dogmatism. Father Richard Rohr writes about the blindness of fundamentalism in stressing literalist and narrow interpretations of the law:

Jesus is clearly much more concerned about issues of pride, injustice, hypocrisy, blindness, and what I have often called “The Three Ps” of power, prestige, and possessions, which are probably 95 percent of Jesus’ written teaching. We conveniently ignore this 95 percent to concentrate on a morality that usually has to do with human embodiment. That’s where people get righteous, judgmental, and upset, for some reason. The body seems to be where we carry our sense of shame and inferiority, and early-stage religion has never gotten much beyond these “pelvic” issues. As Jesus put it, “You ignore the weightier matters of the law – justice, mercy, and good faith . . . and instead you strain out gnats and swallow camels” (Matthew 23:23-24). We worry about what people are doing in bed much more than making sure everybody has a bed to begin with.

….Christianity will regain its moral authority when it starts emphasizing social sin in equal measure with individual (read “body-based”) sin and weave them both into a seamless garment of love and truth. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/zhoag/2013/06/17/richard-rohr-homosexuality/

The most common spiritual malady of contemporary Christians is “fundamentalist fear.” Most of us need a release from the almost demonic hold it exercises upon spiritual practice. It keeps us from appreciating the true and authentic richness of the epiphany of Jesus, breaking rules and disrupting our hardened hearts as he quietly tries to teach us that God’s laws are not written in stone but in the sand. It can be swept away by God’s compassion and mercy and can change by the Spirit instructing to release fear for the rich spiritual relationship with our loving God.

During this month and March, I am conducting a World Spirituality series on Wednesday evenings 7:00-8:15 PM (February 12, 26, March 12 & 26). I’m exploring Buddhist Spirituality: the Buddha’s message, the various types of Buddhism, what Buddhists practice and believe, and how we as Christian might engage in open and respectful conversations with Buddhists. Each presentation will end off with a Buddhist spiritual practice to enrich your spiritual life.

For my own spiritual journey, Buddhism has enriched and deepened my faith experience as a Christian – opening me to a deeper understanding of compassion, mindful attention to human and animal suffering, peace-making and non-violence. I will introduce the major spiritual Buddhist leaders such as the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, and the practice of “green Buddhism.”

On February 16th, Allis Druffel from California Interfaith Power & Light will preach on Climate Change Sunday about the Earth and our faith responsibilities for the Earth.

On February 23rd, Douglas Graves, an ordained clergy from the Community of Christ, will be preaching. The Community of Christ is a denomination that broke off from the Mormon Church 10 years after Joseph Smith founded the movement. It has continued as a church of over 100,000 members that have just gone through the decision to ordain openly gay/lesbian clergy and perform same-gendered wedding. I have been giving some assistance Douglas on his theological studies, and when he is in LA, he joins us for labyrinth meditation practice.

We will also welcome the President of Claremont School of Theology preaching at our Sunday service on April 6th.

Come and bring a friend to service this Sunday.

Peace,

Rev. Bob

Jan 312014
 

Photo of Rev. Dr. Robert Shore-Goss

This Sunday, the gospel is taken from Jesus’ delivery of the Beatitudes. I will focus on God’s Spirituality of peace-making that crosses cultures, religions, and history. The following is an excerpt from Father John Dear, peace-activist, about the spiritual writer Henri Nouwen, whom I quote frequently. It communicates the message that there is no separation from following Christ as a peace-maker and being a writer on spirituality:

My friend Father Bill O’Donnell tells a surprising story about Henri Nouwen. It was the early-1980s. The Reagan administration was waging a brutal war on the impoverished people of Nicaragua that left tens of thousands dead. In the center of it all stood the right-wing Catholic Cardinal, Obando y Bravo, who bragged about keeping a gun in his desk drawer, ready to be used on any intruder. The Cardinal condemned liberation theology, the base Christian community movement, as well as all those who promoted justice and peace. He embodied the just war theory, the oppressive male hierarchy, and the war-making church.

Those days, the Managua airport was filled with international activists and church workers trying to offer their solidarity. Father Bill was waiting for his flight back to the U.S. when he noticed the notorious Cardinal standing in the middle of the airport. Beside him stood a tall, thin man, pointing at the Cardinal, yelling at him, and waving his arms in frantic argument, trying to convince the Cardinal to stop siding with the U.S. government and start supporting the Nicaraguan poor. Finally, the stunned Cardinal walked off in a huff. My friend, Fr. Bill, went over to compliment the tall, thin man.

“I’m amazed that you spoke like that to the Cardinal,” Bill said, “Who are you?”

“My name is Henri Nouwen” the man said, putting out his hand.

Bill was shocked. He had read many of Henri’s pastoral books and never expected such a prophetic performance by one of the leading writers on the spiritual life, much less to meet the great man there in Nicaragua at the height of the contra war. Bill concluded that he had vastly misunderstood Henri Nouwen, just as others have done, and that Henri Nouwen was a true prophet of peace and justice.

“Nobody can be a Christian today without being a peacemaker,” Henri wrote in his book Peacework.

http://www.fatherjohndear.org/articles/henri_nouwen.htm

In February and March, I will hold a World Spirituality series on Wednesday evenings 7:00-8:15 PM (February 12, 26, March 12 & 26). I will explore Buddhist Spirituality: the Buddha’s message, the various types of Buddhism, what Buddhists practice and believe, and how we as Christian might engage in open and respectful conversations with Buddhists. Each presentation will end off with a Buddhist spiritual practice to enrich your spiritual life.

For my own spiritual journey, Buddhism has enriched and deepened my faith experience as a Christian – opening me to a deeper understanding of compassion, mindful attention to human and animal suffering, peace-making and non-violence. I will introduce the major spiritual Buddhist leaders such as the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, and the practice of “green Buddhism.”

On February 16th, Allis Druffel from California Interfaith Power & Light will preach on Climate Change Sunday about the Earth and our faith responsibilities for the Earth.

On February 23rd, Douglas Graves, and ordained clergy from the Community of Christ, will be preaching. The Community of Christ is a denomination that broke off from the Mormon Church 10 years after Joseph Smith founded the movement. It has continued as a church of over 100,000 members that have just gone through the decision to ordain openly gay/lesbian clergy and perform same-gendered wedding. I have been giving some assistance Douglas on his theological studies, and when he is in LA, he joins us for labyrinth meditation practice.

Come and bring a friend to service this Sunday.

Peace,

Rev. Bob

Jan 242014
 

Photo of Rev. Dr. Robert Shore-Goss

I just returned after a brief vacation in Arizona.  For my spiritual message, I would like to share a message of Father Richard Rohr, entitled  “Remember: Mysticism: Inner Experience.” It captures some of the experience of the desert solitude of meditation.

We must learn to think as Jesus thought. (Sunday)

A mystic is one who has moved from mere belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience. (Monday)

It is we alone who desecrate God’s one incarnate world by our inability to see truthfully and to show reverence. (Tuesday)

The goal of mysticism is divine union. (Wednesday)

The morality of a mystic is a response to union, not an earning of union. (Thursday)

Once you have one sincere moment of divine union, you will want to spend your time on the one thing necessary, which is to grow deeper and deeper in love every chance that you get.(Friday)

Rest: Object Meditation

Look around you and notice your surroundings at this moment. Let your eyes fall on some object-perhaps a candle, tree, rock, or creature. Simply observe the object, without judging or labeling. Give your full attention, senses, and presence to this object.

Gradually let your gaze soften and take in the more-than-matter-ness that is also here. Deepen your awareness of God’s presence within this thing and within you.

Rest in silence for several minutes (or continue with a longer time of contemplative prayer) and then turn your gaze to bless the rest of the room, landscape, and world in which you find yourself, one in Love. We are one in Love.

 http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Richard-Rohr-s-Meditation–Sabbath—-Mysticism–Inner-Experience–Object-Meditation.html?soid=1103098668616&aid=-0vT_gUc6NQ

Blessings.    

In February and March, I will hold a World Spirituality series on Wednesday evenings 7:00-8:15 PM (February 12, 26,March 12 & 26). I will explore Buddhist Spirituality: the Buddha’s message, the various types of Buddhism, what Buddhists practice and believe, and how we as Christian might engage in open and respectful conversations with Buddhists. Each presentation will end off with a Buddhist spiritual practice to enrich your spiritual life. 

For my own spiritual journey, Buddhism has enriched and deepened my faith experience as a Christian – opening me to a deeper understanding of compassion, mindful attention to human and animal suffering, peace-making and non-violence. I will introduce the major spiritual Buddhist leaders such as the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, and the practice of “green Buddhism.” 

On February 16th, Allis Druffel from California Interfaith Power & Light will preach on Climate Change Sunday about the Earth and our faith responsibilities for the Earth.

On February 23rd, Douglas Graves, and ordained clergy from the Community of Christ, will be preaching. The Community of Christ is a denomination that broke off from the Mormon Church 10 years after Joseph Smith founded the movement. It has continued as a church of over 100,000 members that have just gone through the decision to ordain openly gay/lesbian clergy and perform same-gendered wedding. I have been giving some assistance Douglas on his theological studies, and when he is in LA, he joins us for labyrinth meditation practice.

Come and bring a friend to service this Sunday. Rev. Joe is preaching: “Drop Your Nets.”

Peace,

Rev. Bob

Jan 162014
 

NOTE: Pastor Bob is on vacation this week and we refer you to Rev. Megan More’s Article for the pastoral message.

Rev Megan More Blog Shot

My sermon this Sunday is about an extraordinary man, a man of conscience and conviction, a man of peace and a man of God. But the sermon is not just about him, but about three men, all linked to a common cause of freedom and liberation.  The first of this group is an Indian, humble, wise and dedicated to peace, which helped topple an oppressive rule and freed a nation.  For this, he was also martyred for what he believed in.  The second man was influenced by the former. He didn’t follow a path of peace at first, and found prison as a result.  Nearly three decades he lingered, cut off, alone.  But when he emerged, his early anger and bitterness was gone. He was transformed into a man of peace who united a nation torn by segregation and hate, and for that, he became their first Black President.  The last name is the one we celebrate this weekend. Like the first, he was dedicated to peace. He was a visionary. Like the first, he was also martyred for what he believed in. But what all three of these men have in common is that they transformed their worlds.

Gandhi overthrew the British to help free India using peaceful non-violent protests. Mandela united South Africa in the wake of apartheid and helped create a united nation. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helped to end segregation in the United States, also with non-violent protests.

We celebrate Dr. King’s birthday this coming Monday (even though the anniversary of his birthday (January 15, 1929) was this past Wednesday). In fact, we celebrate him this whole weekend. He was a pastor, a speaker, an organizer and a visionary with a Dream.  That dream for Dr. King was cut short by an assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1968, but like any God-given dream, it gains a life of its own.

Gandhi’s dream lives on through the two great men he inspired, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King.  All three are gone now, but not their messages, nor their dreams. As Dr. King said that historic day in Washington DC, “some day a person will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the quality of their heart.” The quality of the hearts of all three men was great beyond measure.

So we celebrate this man, and in doing so, we celebrate all three men. We also celebrate Peace and Love in doing so. We celebrate compassion for all people, and forgiveness. We celebrate hope. The mission and dream of these men is not completed yet. There is still suffering, bigotry and hate in the world. People still kill others or oppress them because they are different: different skin color, different religions, different life styles.  Much needs to be done still, and it is their legacy, if we believe in what they stood for, to continue that struggle, to liberate minds and hearts and spirits, bring light where there is darkness, and hope where there is only despair.

Let us continue to do their work.  Let us continue to do God’s work.  Love.

May God bless you all,

Rev. Megan More, M.Div

Clergy on Staff
Jan 102014
 

Photo of Rev. Dr. Robert Shore-Goss

Water is an important topic within the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Water is described at the beginning of creation when the Spirit hovers over the primal water as creation is taking place. When Moses and the Israelites left Egypt for the desert, they complained to Moses, grumbling about the lack of water to God. Moses is instructed to strike the rock at Horeb, and water springs from the ground. In a conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus describes himself as the “water of life.”

Water is vital to human life. This week, at the start of the season of Epiphany, we read about the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. Jesus is immersed in the waters of the Jordan River when God reveals that this is the beloved child of God and then Jesus starts his ministry by going into the wilderness for forty days to prepare himself for the proclamation of the grace of God’s reign.

 Water is so important to humanity and other life.  Here are some staggering facts from the UN website:

  • 85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet
  • 780 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation
  • Six to eight million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases
  • Global population growth projections of 2-3 billion people over the next 40 years, combined with changing diets, will result in a predicted increase in food demand of 70% by 2050
  • Water availability is expected to decrease in many regions, yet future global agricultural water consumption alone is estimated to increase by ~19% by 2050, and will be even greater in the absence of any technological progress or policy intervention
  • Water for irrigation and food production constitutes one of the greatest pressures on freshwater resources, and agriculture accounts for ~70% of global freshwater withdrawals (up to 90% in some fast-growing economies)
  • Diets that are shifting from predominantly starch-based to meat and dairy require more water: producing 1 kg of rice requires ~3,500 L of water while 1 kg of beef requires ~15,000 L
  • About 66% of Africa is arid or semi-arid and more than 300 of the 800 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live in a water-scarce environment.

http://ecojesuit.com/water-for-all-and-jesuit-response-2013-international-year-of-water-cooperation-and-world-water-day-2013/4870/

How does Jesus’ baptism relate to the above statistics from the United Nations? There is an environmental recognition that Jesus’ baptism has had ecological significance since early Christianity. There has been recognition from early scriptural times that water is connected to the Holy Spirit. It is a natural symbol for God’s abundant grace. This explains Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman about “living water come down from heaven.” There are clear implications for Christian communities and for ourselves on the stewardship of water and the right to water for all life. Come and share my exploration of Water Baptism and Earth Spirit this Sunday.

In February and March, I will begin a World Spirituality series on Wednesday evenings 7:00-8:15 PM (February 5, 26,March 12 & 26). I will explore Buddhist Spirituality: the Buddha’s message, the various types of Buddhism, what Buddhists practice and believe, and how we as Christian might engage in open and respectful conversations with Buddhists. Each presentation will end off with a Buddhist spiritual practice to enrich your spiritual life. 

For my own spiritual journey, Buddhism has enriched and deepened my faith experience as a Christian – opening me to a deeper understanding of compassion, mindful attention to human and animal suffering, peace-making and non-violence. I will introduce the major spiritual Buddhist leaders such as the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, and the practice of “green Buddhism.” 

On February 9th, Allis Druffel from California Interfaith Power & Light will preach on the Earth and our faith responsibilities for the Earth.

Come and bring a friend to service this Sunday.

Peace! 

Rev. Bob

Jan 032014
 

Photo of Rev. Dr. Robert Shore-Goss

Happy 2014! I start off with a passage from the Book of Hosea, chapter 4:1-3.

… God has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or kindness, and no knowledge of God in the land;
There is swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery;
They break all bounds and murder follows murder.
Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish,
And also the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air;
And even the fish of the sea are taken away.

God had a controversy with the inhabitants of the land 2600 years ago, and God has a controversy with us. God links human distress to environmental degradation. We humans seem to have learned little in the years separating us from the words of Hosea. Faithfulness, kindness, and knowledge are interrelated not only to humans, but are connected to other life and the land. This holistic vision of compassionate care is how God comprehends all life on our planet. Human actions impact us and the wider ecological environment of the Earth.

Sallie McFague, ecofeminist and theologian, understands the Greek background of the word ecology from the Greek oikos, household. She comprehends the Earth as the household; it is composed of human beings interrelated with all other forms of life, Earth processes, and the Earth herself. In her recent book, A New Climate for Theology, she shares with us household rules in living on the Planet:

*Take your share.

*Clean up after yourselves.

*Keep the house in good repair for future occupants.

These are the house rules that humans must adopt for us to safeguard life on the Earth. I will expand on each rule during the year. We need to be mindful of these house rules as we try to live with reverence for life and care for Earth. In 2014, as timetables on the advancing impacts of climate become revised, let us not lose hope. Let us live with hope as we begin Epiphany, the church calendar that focuses on God’s manifestation of Christ. I want to end with Sallie McFague’s words of hope:

God is the thread of hope that desperate people hold on to. God is the scrap of life and goodness still in us. God is what keeps us from giving up. God is not a being, but whatever life or love there is, no matter how small. We hold on to whatever shred of hope is left. It is very small sometimes – but it is enough. “Because the Holy Ghost over the bent/ World broods with warm breast and ah! Bright wings.” – Gerard Manley Hopkins

May these words be inscribed in your heart and touch your spirit in 2014.

On January 8th at 7 pm, join Environment California and local solar developers for a Solar Night at Metropolitan Community Church in the Valley (5730 Cahuenga Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601). Environment California, a non-profit environmental group, discusses the Go Solar L.A. campaign, which is calling on the Los Angeles city government to commit to 20% local solar power by 2020. Come learn about the effort to make Los Angeles into a world solar leader, and find out more about how you can get involved in the campaign! Local solar companies will also be on-hand to provide information about options for going solar for your home or business. If you’ve considered buying or leasing solar panels, this is a great opportunity to have your questions answered. Light refreshments will be provided.

Mike Abramson offers MCCV congregants an opportunity to see God’s Gypsy for $10 at the Lillian Theater in Hollywood. Here is a description of the play, running weekend through January 12:

God’s Gypsy is a bold, sexy and humanizing portrait of the 16th century mystic, St. Teresa of Avila, who became one of the most controversial reformers of the Catholic Church. Spoiled with beauty and riches, Teresa was sent to a convent as a young girl to learn discipline, but instead discovered an unparalleled spiritual fervor. Adapted for the stage from Mujica’s painstakingly researched novel, “Sister Teresa”, Teresa’s days of youthful romance, secret Jewish ancestry, cloak-and-dagger political dealings during the Spanish Inquisition, and fits of spiritual rapture unfold in a riveting account of sisterhood, faith, and the miracle of salvation through one woman’s personal relationship with God.

And here is the trailer from youtube: http://www.youtube.com/v/u78NUcn_Lhk&fs=1&autoplay=1

On Sunday, January 5th, after service, the playwright, director and several actors come to MCC in the Valley to perform a scene and talk about sexuality and spirituality of St. Teresa of Avila.

See you for Sunday worship and fellowship.

Peace!

Rev. Bob

Dec 232013
 

Christmas Message 2013
From Rev. Dr. Bob Shore-Goss

I just signed an op-ed piece with a coalition of Los Angeles religious leaders entitled “Giving Thanks for the Gift of the Sun.” LA has some 300 days of sunshine, but less than 2% of the power is generated from the sun. I am aware that we will hold a Solar Night on the evening of January 8th at 7 PM at our church for faith communities, businesses, and home owners to help reduce energy usage and move to become a carbon neutral space. Ideas from Christmas and the Feast of the Magi spark the crazy conflation of the gift of the sun and the gift of Christ because another solar event heralded the birth of the Christ child. Both the sun and Christ are gifts from God.

Some Christians, drawing from an ecological perspective of God, view the Christmas celebration of the birth of Christ as environmental hope for our present century. I have begun to read the gospels from a “green” perspective as well. Christ was born into a world when the poor needed hope at the time of oppression and suffering from the Roman Empire. We have been accustomed to view the birth of Christ during the Pax Romana, the Roman Peace. This was a Roman propaganda myth, for the period was anything but peaceful. The Roman legions maintained the power and exploitation of the peoples of the Mediterranean world. The Empire generated a religious theology that cultivated Augustus Caesar as the “Son of God Apollo.” No power could stand against the military, religious, financial, and political power theology of Rome with the divine Emperor Augustus.

In Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to a child in a cave with animals present. The cave in Bethlehem was not only at the margins of the Roman Empire in an obscure province; it was at the margins of the margins – a stable with domestic animals. A light shone above the place of Jesus’ birth, and shepherds and the magi traveled to witness the wondrous flicker of light. The child would grow up to proclaim God’s liberation and our potential to claim God’s reign. God’s reign, unlike the Roman, would champion the poor, the slaves, the marginalized, and the social outcasts. Jesus reminded the poor and the marginalized that God’s power was measured in vulnerability, love, compassion and peace. God’s reign stood against the Roman Empire, and it would challenge the Empire with a revolutionary message of love, unconditional grace, forgiveness, and non-violence as its weapons to combat brute violence, coercive power, and greed.

The new Roman Empire crosses the Earth and dominates itself. It is what I call the fossil fuels industries and corporations that have few checks and balances. Fossil fuels companies have co-opted even liberal legislators in California into believing that fracking is safe, even though there is danger of contaminating the water table.

Most of Los Angeles’ energy and much of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels whose dirty carbon emissions have contributed to global warming, extreme weather events, wildfires and droughts, extinction of species, and impact the health of people and animals alike. Our greed for fossil fuels continues to grip humanity with a short-sightedness and consumer greed that will impact life severely this century.

But many churches are, likewise, complicit in their guilt with the fossil fuel empire. They turn a deaf ear to the cries of life and the Earth at the reckless exploitation and harm of the Earth’s weather systems wrought by the fossil fuel empire. Their focus is “Forget ‘Save the Earth’, save your soul.” They support the climate change deniers by denigrating God’s creation and Earth and viewing global warming as having little importance. This is true of many church leaders, including our own in MCC. The UCC has taken the prophetic stance of encouraging all church properties to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.

Our Christmas candle, representing Christ, shines brightly during the day and is energized from the sun. I come to work and look at our 90 solar panels, and I am aware that they generate clean solar energy for ourselves and others. They take the abundance of sunlight to generate more clean energy. It becomes for me a parable of how God’s extravagant grace works in the work. And I can’t help look at them, thinking that Christ is the light of the world. But I would reframe in environmental terms — Christ is the Earthlight, God’s greening power.

At Christmas Eve service, when we light our candles and sing Silent Night, we are proclaiming our hope to bring the sunlight of Christ into our church, our homes, our city, our nation, and our planet to challenge the fossil fuel empire that governs our planet and creates climate change and upheaval. Christ is the Earthlight, generated from God’s sun. God’s greening power (viriditas), is an extravagant and gracious energy bringing life and sustaining life through Christ the Earthlight and the winds of the Spirit.

My wish for Christmas and hope for the New Year is a greener Christianity, a greener world challenging the fossil fuel empire with a revolutionary spiritual movement spreading the message Christ the Earthlight. Join me to work on your family, your neighbors, your faith communities, your businesses to help make 2014 a greener year for Christ. Abandon the outdated theologies that proclaim “Forget ‘Save the Earth’ save your soul.” Embrace the greening grace of God’s life this Christmas and have hope that together with God we can lessen the ravages of climate change for coming generations.

Merry Christmas.

Rev. Bob

Dec 202013
 

Photo of Rev. Dr. Robert Shore-Goss

We celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas on Wednesday. I want to separate my Christmas message from announcements.

On Saturday evening, the 21st at 6 PM, we will have a bonfire in back of the church with Christmas music and ask you to bring some food to share.

This Sunday MCC in the Valley is running a toy drive for children living with, and impacted by HIV, at the Bullet Bar from 4 -8 PM. It has been organized by Rev. Joe. You may drop toys off at church on Sunday. Also, we are collecting socks, hats, and toiletries for the homeless. They will be distributed to homeless in North Hollywood by Father Art Chiapa-Cook Christmas morning. On Saturday morning, December 28th at 8 AM, Father Art and folks will gather at church to make sandwiches and construct bags of food to distribute to the homeless in North Hollywood Park.

Our Christmas Eve service is a traditional candlelight worship with traditional Christmas carols. Come home to celebrate the birth of Christ. We ask you to bring a dessert to share for fellowship afterwards.

Mike Abraham has offered MCCV congregants an opportunity to see God’s Gypsy for $10 at the Lillian Theater. Here is a description of the play, running on weekends to January 12th.

God’s Gypsy is a bold, sexy and humanizing portrait of the 16th century mystic St. Teresa of Avila, who became one of the most controversial reformers of the Catholic Church. Spoiled with beauty and riches, Teresa was sent to a convent as a young girl to learn discipline, but instead discovered an unparalleled spiritual fervor. Adapted for the stage from Mujica’s painstakingly researched novel, “Sister Teresa”, Teresa’s days of youthful romance, secret Jewish ancestry, cloak-and-dagger political dealings during the Spanish Inquisition, and fits of spiritual rapture unfold in a riveting account of sisterhood, faith, and the miracle of salvation through one woman’s personal relationship with God.

And here is the trailer from youtube: http://www.youtube.com/v/u78NUcn_Lhk&fs=1&autoplay=1

On Sunday, January 5th, after service, the playwright, director and several actors will come to MCC in the Valley to perform a scene and talk about sexuality and spirituality of St. Teresa of Avila.

On New Year’s eve, Blu and Celia will host a New Year’s Eve party at the church. Bring yourselves and friends to the party from 7 PM to midnight.

Come and bring a friend to church this Sunday to celebrate Christ’s peace.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Rev. Bob

Dec 132013
 

Photo of Rev. Dr. Robert Shore-Goss

The Third Sunday of Advent celebrates joy. It originates from the entry prayer used by Christian Churches. It is from Paul’s Letter to Philippians 4:4-5. “Rejoice in the Lord always.” We remember the life of Nelson Mandela who will be buried on this Sunday in Soweto. His commitment to break down racial barriers between the races and his focus in human rights mirror the ministry of breaking down barriers and radical inclusion of Jesus the Christ. Because of Mandela’s moral example, South Africa has same-sex marriage. We commend such a remarkable Christ-bearer in Saint Nelson Mandela.

The world seems more oppressive and challenging with violence and war, greed, callous disregard for Earth and other life, and divided. Last Sunday I was so proud of many of you as you rallied around a 71 year old woman forced from her residence. During worship and afterwards you reached out to her in care without any prompting, and it brings deep joy to me that your hearts are so filled with love and compassion. I am so proud of this church and its love. But my heart is simultaneously so sad at the pain and fear that the woman experienced of being homeless. We have found temporary accommodations for her and a strategy to stabilize her situation.

I want to share a prayer written by a great UCC biblical scholar, Walter Brueggemann, for this Sunday in Advent:

At the dawn

By Walter Brueggemann

Our first glimpse of reality this day — everyday — is your fidelity.
We are dazzled by the ways you remain constant among us,
in season, out of season,
for better, for worse,
in sickness and in health.
You are there in watchfulness as we fall asleep;
You are there in alertness when we awaken … and we are glad.
Before the day ends, we will have occasion
to flag your absence in indifference…
but not now, not at the dawn.
Before the day ends, we will think more than once
that we need a better deal from you…
but not now, not at the dawn.
Before the day ends, we will look away from you and
relish our own fidelity and our virtue in mercy…
but not now, not at the dawn.
Now, at the dawn, our eyes are fixed on you in gladness.
We ask only that your faithfulness
permeate every troubled place we are able to name,
that your mercy
move against the hurts to make new,
that your steadfastness
hold firmly what is too fragile on its own.
And we begin the day in joy, in hope, and in deep gladness. Amen.

We can claim joy in Christ who is with us, providing the light of joy despite the challenges of our world.

This Sunday morning Pompeyo Cepeda, who had a booth at Summerfest, is displaying his hand-made ceramics for sale for Christmas before and after service. Next Sunday, Dec. 22, MCC in the Valley is running a toy drive for HIV children at the Bullet Bar from 4 -8 PM. It is being organized by Rev. Joe. You many drop toys off at church from now until then. Also, we are collecting socks, hats, and toiletries for the homeless. Father Art Chiapa-Cook will distribute them to the homeless in North Hollywood on Christmas morning.

Come and bring a friend to church this Sunday to celebrate Christ’s peace.

Rejoice in the Lord,

Rev. Bob

Dec 062013
 

Photo of Rev. Dr. Robert Shore-Goss

The Second Sunday of Advent celebrates peace. I want to share two reflections from one of my Jesuit heroes: the poet and peace activist Daniel Berrigan. Berrigan’s poem is entitled “Advent.” May this Second Sunday of Advent inspire to resist violence and work for Christ’s peace.

Advent by Daniel Berrigan

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss– This is true: For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction– This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever– This is true: For unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of Peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world– This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church, before we can be peacemakers. This is true: I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young shall see visions, and your old shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for the liberation of humanity, for justice, human dignity, and peace are not meant for this earth and for this history– This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice.
Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ–the Life of the world.
http://www.fatherjohndear.org/NCR_Articles/Nov28_06.html

As we reflect on Berrigan’s poem, I want to share a Christmas Greeting from the United Church of Christ entitled a Room for Everyone. It truly reflects the heart of Rev. Troy Perry’s vision of an inclusive church. Click on the link and enjoy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQILvCQsJIQ

Come and bring a friend to church this Sunday to celebrate Christ’s peace,

Peace,

Rev. Bob

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