Lent: Gifts of the Dark Wood

Our Lent worship series, “Gifts of the Dark Wood,” is about “seeing life through new eyes.” When we allow ourselves to accept the journey within the Dark Woods, the Holy Spirit Guide tends to nudge us, awaken us, to a fuller life. But life is messy. Life is uncertain. Rather than a problem to be solved, what if we saw uncertainty, failure, emptiness, and loss as gifts? What if we saw how these uncomfortable times can actually help us let go of all we cannot know so that we can live more wholeheartedly? Let us begin the journey…

February 18 – The Gift of Uncertainty
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:11-12, Stilling of the Storm
Service will include ashes, perhaps also dissolving paper in water

February 25 – The Gift of Emptiness
Scripture: Mark 15:22-38

March 4 – The Gift of Being Thunderstruck
Scripture: Job 37:1-5, Luke 13:1-9

March 11 – The Gift of Getting Lost – Bilingual Service
Scripture: Psalm 42, Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

March 18 – The Gift of Temptation
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:16-19, Luke 4: 1-13

March 25 – The Gift of Misfits – Palm Sunday
Scripture: Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29, Luke 19:29-42a

April 1 – The Gift of Unlimited Love – Easter Sunday

Seeking After God

This Sunday we begin a new sermon series: Seeking After God.  What does it mean to search and follow God? We may think such journeys should be carefree, but often this searching is filled with initial success, then failure, uncertainty, and pondering. Let’s look at the models of seeking we find in our scriptures!

January 21 — Faithful Following – Mark 1:14-20
The disciples by the sea immediately follow Jesus – and find community in a different life. Where are we willing to risk for our faith?

January 28 — Re-turning to God – Book of Jonah
The story of Jonah and the whale is far deeper than a “big fish” story. It’s the story of 2nd and 3rd chances given to us by God. It’s the story of how we make mistakes and still get called into relationship with a loving God.

February 4 — Seeking Healing and Recovery – Mark 1:28-39
Those who serve well, also need to remember to rest and wait. In fact, waiting is not such a passive thing — it is essential to seeking God!

February 11 — The Way of Seeing – John 9:1-41
Bilingual Service / Transfiguration Sunday
The transfiguration moment on the mountain leads the disciples to see more, and learn to serve differently. Where am I blind to those who are in need? How can I learn to “see” more?

La Posada

Posadas are an important part of Mexican Christmas traditions. These community celebrations take place on each of the nine nights leading up to Christmas, from December 16 to 24th. The word posada means “inn” or “shelter” in Spanish, and in this tradition, Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and their search for a place to stay is re-enacted. 

Posadas are held in neighborhoods across Mexico and are also becoming popular in the United States.

The celebration begins with a procession in which the participants hold candles and sing Christmas carols. Sometimes there will be individuals who play the parts of Mary and Joseph who lead the way, or occasionally images representing them are carried. The procession will make its way to a particular home (a different one each night), where a special song (La Cancion Para Pedir Posada) is sung.

Asking for Shelter

There are two parts to the traditional posada song. Those outside the house sing the part of Joseph asking for shelter and the family inside responds singing the part of the innkeeper saying that there is no room. The song switches back and forth a few times until finally the innkeeper decides to let them in. The hosts open the door and everyone goes inside.


Once inside the house there is a celebration which can vary from a very big fancy party to a small get-together among friends. Often the festivities begin with a short Bible reading and prayer. Then the hosts give the guests food, usually tamales and a hot drink such as ponche or atole. Then the guests break piñatas and the children are given candy.

The nine nights of posadas leading up to Christmas are said to represent the nine months that Jesus spent in Mary’s womb, or alternatively, to represent the nine days’ journey to Bethlehem.

Our Posada celebration will not be for nine days, but for just one evening on Thursday, December 21. We are inviting the Wesley UMC Church to participate in this beautiful celebration in order to contribute to a more unified community in the heart of downtown San José.

We will start the festivities at 6:00 P.M. at the Wesley UMC Church, located at 566 North 5th Street, in a procession with candles. We will sing Christmas carols during our walk to San José First UMC, where we will perform our beautiful tradition for the third year in a row. Everyone in our Methodist congregations are invited, as well as all the people in the downtown neighborhood.

Participants will experience the Mexican representation of Christmas with its traditional costumes, Biblical readings, and songs. And finally, everyone is invited to enjoy a dinner cooked by Gerardo—authentic Mexican Pozole—accompanied by coffee, tea, and water. If anyone one wants to bring something for dessert or a dish to share, they are welcome to do so. We thank you and hope to see you on December 21st.

Attend and have fun!

— Gerardo Vazquez-Padilla

Worship During Advent and Christmas

“Do not be afraid.” – The Angels

The angels that appear in the story of Jesus’ birth would have been very comfortable in our world of tweets and hashtags. Their messages were often short and to the point–their favorite line being #DoNotBeAfraid. As we look at the stories of these winged messengers to Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds, and their reactions to them, we will contemplate what messages we can offer that will counteract a culture of fear and bring #morehope, #morepeace, #morejoy, and #morelove to the world.

December 3: Advent 1 – Make Ready a People #morehope – Luke 1:1-25, 57-80

Have you ever had a moment in your life after which you knew nothing would ever be the same? In the midst of great change, hope is always a welcome thing. Advent can remind us that God makes us ready for whatever unknown may come our way and calls us to be messengers of #morehope in an ever-changing world.

December 10: Advent 2 – Nothing is Impossible #morepeace – Luke 1:26-56

Have you ever struggled with finding your purpose and being at peace with it? Or are you yearning for more peace in your life and relationships? #morepeace in the world happens when all of us feel #morepeace within ourselves and live out that message each day.

December 17: Advent 3 – Do Not Be Afraid #morejoy – Matthew 1:18-25

Keeping up “appearances” can rob us of our #morejoy. Let us be messengers of encouragement and steadfast support, as Joseph was for Mary and Jesus, for that which the Spirit is birthing in the world.

December 24: Advent 4 – This Will Be a Sign #morelove – Luke 2:1-20

This will be our bi-lingual service for December at our usual 10:00 am time. The service will feature a telling of the Christmas story – in both Spanish and English, and remind us of God’s love for the whole world. Enjoy Christmas carols as we offer up to God our voices in praise.

December 24: Christmas Eve Candlelight Service 10:00pm – I Bring You Great Tidings #DoNotBeAfraid

This service will look at our angel messengers and focus on the great news of the angels to the shepherds, the least of their society. With both our house band and the JuBELLation bell choir participating, we will enjoy music of the season and light candles as our sign of being God’s messengers bringing hope, peace, joy, and love into a hurting world.

December 31: First Sunday of Christmas – Get Up and Go – Matthew 2:1-23 #morelife

Joseph and his new family were in danger from the Roman Empire; now he needed the angels timely warnings more than ever. Jesus, the Savior of Humankind becomes a refugee–forced from home by oppression and violence. We ask ourselves how we might usher in #morelife in the face of that which feels destructive. One last time in this series we hear the message #DoNotBeAfraid to get up and go–leaving those things that weigh us down and moving into the new year with new life.

Do Not Be Afraid: Living a WholeHearted Life

We’re planning reflection groups based on what we heard at the listening sessions, and you’re invited!

Do Not Be Afraid: Living a WholeHearted Life

5 Week Small Groups in December and January

Gathering for discussions, reflection and prayer considering how to live fully into hope, peace, joy and love.

Each session: 1 hour and 15 minutes
To be held at the church or perhaps, someone’s home or community room

Two groups:
one led by Pastor Renée
and one, by Pastor Kristie

Sign-up here

Día de los Muertos, The Day of the Dead

Día de los Muertos is a tradition and cultural celebration.

In Mexico and other Latin countries these events happen on November 2. It’s the time the families honor their relatives who have passed away. They make an altar for themselves and they put flowers, pictures, religious objects and favorite foods the relatives liked. It is a sad day for them. This is very special ritual since it is the day in which the living remember their departed relatives. Sometimes, when people of other cultures hear for the first time about the celebration of the Day of the Dead, they mistakenly think it must be: gruesome, terrifying, scary, ugly, and sad. Nothing is further from the truth. Day of the Dead is a beautiful ritual in which Mexicans happily and lovingly remember their loved relatives that have died. Much like when we go to a graveyard to leave some lovely flowers on a tomb of a relative.

I give thanks to the church for opening the doors for other cultures, to find a place to grieve and honor their families. Please welcome them and enjoy the time together with them. This is the time to introduce our church and the American culture to them. If you want to participate please feel free to do so. If you have questions, please feel free to ask me.

There will be light refreshments after the service.

—Gerardo Vazquez

October Upcoming Events

Listening Gatherings with Renée and Kristie

As part of our process of getting to know the community of San Jose First, we are scheduling some small group listening sessions. These session are designed for us to hear you – the stories of what makes this place a faithful community, your stories of involvement, and what values are important to you. We’ll have snacks and refreshments, and we will be doing these with an attitude of joy and play. Come join us – we’d love for you to sign-up ahead, but if you can’t, just come.

Times and Dates
Sunday, October 15, 11:30am–1:00pm
Thursday, October 19, 9:30–11:00am
Sunday, October 22, 11:30am–1:00pm


RunRockNRoll means road closures Sunday, October 8th – Plan ahead!

Be aware that due to this run, several streets will be closed downtown this Sunday. For the map and roads closed, go to: http://www.runrocknroll.com/san-jose/the-races/road-closures/


New Member’s Class – Sunday, October 29

Renée is looking to hold a new member’s class, and is thinking of Sunday, October 29th beginning at 11:30am at the church. Lunch would be included. This class is for anyone wanting to explore membership at join San Jose First. Email Renée to let her know if this date works.


Day of the Dead Service – Thursday, November 2 at 7:00pm

San Jose First will be hosting a Day of the Dead service. This service is for prayer and remembrance of friends and family members who have died. Doors open at 6:00pm. You are invited to bring photos of friends or family members who have passed, candles and flowers to create a mini-altar. There will be a party/reception following the service.

Meet our new transitional pastor, the Rev. Renée Rico

Dear Members and Friends of San Jose First,

This is my first week with all of you as your new transitional pastor. The boxes arrived last week, and so far I’m about half-way through unpacking in the office. I’ve met some but not all of the staff here, last night I met with the VLT, and I’ll be leading worship and preaching this Sunday. Please come this Sunday if you are in town as we start this new chapter together!

I know that your tradition does not typically use interim or transitional pastors, so I would guess there are at least a few questions about my role with all of you through next June. Let me give you some idea of what I am about as a transitional leader.

1. Pastor.  I am around to do the usual things that pastors do – preach, teach, visit the sick, coordinate staff and committees. I am your pastor during this time, and do all of the regular pastor-like things – from baptisms to weddings to visiting folks in the hospital.

2. Consultant.  Particularly when I first arrive, I am new enough to ask the question, “Why do you do it that way?”  I see things from an outsider’s point of view, and can give some ways of looking at the congregation that might not have been considered.  We will look at a variety of things in the church in the coming months, and together ponder questions like: Who are we as a people of God? Who are our neighbors? What is God calling us to be and do?

3. Coach.  As we identify the work that is being considered for our time together, I play the role of a coach in helping staff, committees and other groups.

4. Transformational Leader. As I play the above roles, I will asking the question of us all, “How might we more fully become the people of God here and now?”

Of course, this time, I am not alone in this work – as we also have the Rev. Kristie Olah also working at 1/8th time during this period. Kristie and I are working out exactly how we will do this work together, but I am confident that she and I will be good partners during this transitional time.

One thing I want to be really clear about – we work in partnership on all of these areas. This will not be Kristie and I telling all of you what you should be doing. First, that would be highly presumptuous of us to do, and second, I am confident that by doing spiritual work to align our hearts with God, we can be led by the Spirit into fruitful ways of living as disciples of Christ.

Finally, I come to you as someone from the Presbyterian tradition who has great respect for the Methodist ways. I served two years ago as the interim pastor at First UMC Vallejo, and in that process learned that we are cousins in the greater tradition of Christ. I celebrate with you and will encourage you to live more deeply into the ways that your tradition offers.

My planned schedule for now is to work Sunday through Thursday, with my day off on Friday. I haven’t figured out yet exactly what my office vs. outside time will be. But to reach me, you can call 408-294-7254 ext. 201 or contact me via email at rrico@aol.com.

Friends, I look forward to our work together!

Blessings and light,

Renée Rico

Service of Installation for Rev. Shinya Goto

This last July, our former senior pastor, Rev. Shinya Goto, was appointed as the new District Superintendent of the El Camino District (our district). Since then, Pastor Shinya has been working diligently getting acclimated to this new job, planning charge conferences, and getting to know the church communities in the district. Now, we also have a job! As his new district, we are called to have a Service of Installation, beginning his tenure among us with worship and good wishes.

You are invited to Shinya’s Service of Installation on Sunday, September 17th at 2pm, held at Los Altos United Methodist Church. A reception will follow. All are welcome! We hope you will be able to share this time of welcome and worship.

Los Altos UMC is located at 655 Magdalena Ave, Los Altos 94024, at the corner of Foothill Expressway and Magdalena Avenue.

Silicon Valley Pride Parade & Festival

Sunday, August 27, in downtown San Jose

The South Bay Reconciling United Methodist Churches invite everyone to the Silicon Valley Pride Parade and Festival in downtown San Jose on Sunday, August 27th. The parade begins at 10am. Meet up at St. John and Market Streets at 9:30am to march together.

Right after the parade, there will be a short worship service planned by Rev. Samantha Lewis from Los Altos UMC and Alyss Swanson from Campbell UMC.

The festival begins at 12 noon at the end of the parade route at Caesar Chavez Park (on Market in front of the Fairmont Hotel).