Outside the sanctuary a bitter wind was howling. On this first Sunday of the new year the intrepid gathered to celebrate the power of light to guide us to new life. It was Epiphany Sunday.

We heard the story of how it was three wise men followed the star.

Most enchantingly, we heard the scripture read by young people. Both the prophet Isaiah and the writer of Matthew’s gospel were given voice by children and youth who call our church home. Their moms and dads had cell phones at the handy to record their young wonders and every person in the place leaned in and leant their breath and energy in order that the story might be told. Through the hearts and sounds of our very own beloveds the story was told.

The woman who directs the Little Angels children’s choirs – preschoolers who sing open-hearted beauty – shared a solo. Witnessing her singers watch their teacher bear witness with shine and beauty broke my heart open with wonder.

What is this glory that we share? What is this light we seek to follow?

On a wretchedly cold Minnesota morning the light of Christ drew us near and we bowed and offered our gifts. We offered the gifts of our presence and our intentions and our longings and our shine and we were warmed in the doing of it.

And the winter did not overcome it.

this year

I am United Methodist by choice. I wasn’t born into the tribe called Methodist. I found my way into the denomination through a church that lived piety and practice. It got my attention.

First United Methodist Church in Pittsburgh took my family in when we were far from home with two young children. They helped me learn a living faith.

It wasn’t because their choir was the best or their preacher the most eloquent. They taught me incarnational church because in a time when AIDS was becoming scourge they were willing to stand in solidarity with those physically and spiritually devastated by loss upon loss. The church was unwilling to practice willful disregard.

I want to unpack that. By “willful disregard” I mean churches who see pain or disruption of creation around them and do nothing to reach into that pain with compassion and care; even the elemental care of naming and noticing.

I became a United Methodist because I saw what church can be and always I long for institutional United Methodism to recall its roots and grounding. The Wesleys taught, among other things, that faith is a practice meant to be lived and willful disregard is not the way of the gospel and not the way of the people called Methodist.

This year I want the church be a place where we will name the ache of racism and generational poverty grounded in racism. I’m praying for a movement that names the despoiling of creation and the devastation that results from the pillage of the sacred in the bodies of women and children and men and the earth. I’m desirous of leaders who choose to use their gifts to work with their faith kin to build low income housing and feed hungry children and provide access to education.

I can’t give much more energy to the soul-sucking debate over full inclusion of GLBT folk. Really, Jesus and the grace offered through him are sullied by the pitched slug-fest over a paltry number of lines in scripture. To squander the gift of the gospel through the barricading of grace is willful disregard.

I want to lead a discipling center where people know that we are not there to play church.

Rather, we are mindfully grounded in the teachings and practices and wonderings of faith and because we trust the invitation of our God and our own foibled and hopeful selves, indeed all things are possible.

All things.

All things.

new year

On this last day of 2011, it’s good to think back and imagine forward.

This past year rings with a lovely soul hum.

My core relationships with partner and children have deepened and been freed.  My guy turned 60 this past week with a house full of friends from decades back and being a part of celebrating the relationships that make for life was gift.  My children are all residents of Minneapolis.  Last night two of three did swing-throughs, celebrating full refrigerators and lives.  To be able to share life casually is stunning gift.

The church I am part of tending has stretched and grown.  We trust each other more and most powerfully, we are opening to the wash of grace.  During the past year we rededicated our pipe organ, refurbished our sanctuary, prayed plenty and worshipped more.  We are a people celebrating transformation.

Personally, the decision to eat a vegan diet has changed my relationship with my own body.  The energy I feel is amazing, and the sense of reverence for the fuel that motors my flesh through the day is deep.  It isn’t all that hard.  The gifting is immense.  And, the implications for the health of the planet are real.

Socially, it feels like the world is waking up.  We are realizing the shattering that happens when the disparity between the rich and the poor widens.  People are speaking up and naming injustice and this is good.  Hopefully the movement of Jesus,  grounded on the core teachings of care for all of God’s people, will step up and speak out.

Our state is facing a wrenching watershed.  On the ballot this coming fall is an amendment seeking to ban marriage between people of the same sex.  The money and effort that will be thrown into this melee breaks my heart.  With a world literally starving due to a lack of generosity of heart and resources, monies spent to barricade love seems obscene.  But we will witness and fight and dear God, defeat this travesty of legislative bullying.

The United Methodist church will meet for General Conference this spring and once again seek to open the doors to grace for all of God’s children.  Currently we do not ordain “self avowed practicing homosexuals” and we do not allow our clergy to officiate at same sex blessings or marriages.  It is heart ache.  It is embarrassing. It needs to change, this policy that condemns love lived between holy creations.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will unfetter the clenched hearts that keep our movement bound.

Looking into 2012 I pray for a growing sense of communal grace.  It won’t come without the courage to look at what is and decide what we can do to live the world into healing.

There is so much good.  We are good.  Sharing that goodness in order that all might be blessed seems a good way to live into transformation.

Happy new year indeed.