Sermon Audio April 26

Pastoral Reflection by Rev. Jeffrey D. Hall entitled: Our Road to Emmaus

Pastor’s Note April 22

I decide it’s time for a break from the blurred screen and computer camera that is hell-bent on capturing me in the worst possible light on yet another video conference call, so I head for the backyard with a book of poetry. It is Earth Day. The air smells clean. The sky is azure blue. Benefits, I am told, from a significant reduction in emissions due to the “shelter-in-place” mandate, the negative economic ramifications of which have been well documented, to include no less than 4 million Americans who are unemployed. I offer a heartfelt prayer for them, absent of inner chatter, and welcome a steady breeze, green leaves waving, that would make most anyone smile.

I watch a grey squirrel search for the perfect spot to bury his spoils next to a small patch of earth where my wife has planted some seeds. Some are starting to sprout, and I am reminded of Martin Luther who is quoted as saying: Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. During these anxious and fearful times, let each and every one of us plant our apple tree. Let us not resign ourselves to some bleak future that is not yet, or continue in outrage over a past we cannot change. Let us welcome both rain and sun and continue to plant seeds of kindness, care, compassion, love, and hope.

A poem for us on this Earth Day titled, The Sun, by Mary Oliver.

Have you ever seen
anything
in your life
more wonderful

than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon

and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone–
and how it slides again

out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower

streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance–
and have you ever felt for anything

such wild love–
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you

as you stand there,
empty-handed–
or have you too
turned from this world–

or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
Jeffrey

Sermon Audio April 19

Pastoral Reflection by Rev. Jeffrey D. Hall entitled: Easter In Our Imperfections

Pastor’s Reflection April 10

A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:29-30

Michael Renninger recalls a hospital visit he once made. The smell was of human frailty and bodily function. Of sweat and urine. Many of us, he said, don’t like hospitals for that reason. And on this particular day, the smell of the hospital hallway was exceptionally unpleasant. He owned the fact that he did not want to be there at all. “I had been a priest well over a decade, but I had never been called upon to do this. I was going to baptize a baby at the hospital. But it’s not what you think: The baby was not sick. It was the baby’s grandmother who was sick. In fact, she was dying, and we were no longer sure she would be alive on the date the baptism was scheduled at the church. So, we walked down that smelly hospital hallway, and we all gathered in the hospital room. And, there, on the grandmother’s bed, we would baptize her grandchild.”

The grandmother was propped up in her bed. Renninger placed a large plastic bowl on her lap, on top of her legs that could no longer move. Water was drawn from the sink. The door was closed to keep out the noise in the hallway. “I had trouble reading the Baptism prayers,” he said, “I had trouble because I kept looking at what was in front of me. Here was this child, now beginning its life. Here was her grandmother with her life soon ending. One life beginning. Another life ending. Death at hand for one, Death conquered for the other being baptized on that same bed. Life and death. Welcoming and letting go. Beginning and ending. As I prepared to leave, I stood near the husband of the dying woman. He was hugging the father of the baby we had just baptized. And through their own tears, I heard one of them say, “It’s finished.” To which the other replied, “But it’s not over.”

It’s finished…but it’s not over.

In the Gospel of John, the very last words of Jesus are “It is finished.” And, on so many levels, that is exactly right. By any ordinary measure Good Friday appeared as total failure. It is death on a cross. It is the crucifixion of hope. Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God. Signs and wonders followed. Less than a week ago the crowds were shouting Hosanna. Today they cry for blood. The time had come to face the facts: it is finished. Jesus seemed to have failed. God’s plan, God’s love had been nailed to a cross and left hanging lifeless.

Barbara Brown Taylor notes at that same hour a parade of Passover animals into the temple began. Their owners slaughtered them while priests caught the blood and poured it on the altar. So there were two bloody places in Jerusalem that day: Golgotha and the temple. Both presided over by religious professionals who believed they were doing God’s will. That was one thing the clergy and politicians agreed on. By putting Jesus to death, they were doing God’s will. Life, Hope, and Love crucified. And it still happens today. It happens in ICU’s where a patient breathes their last breath on a ventilator alone. It happens on blood-soaked battlefields. It happens when police shoot unarmed black men. It happens in every mosque, or church, or synagogue blown up by terror.

Yes, when sickness moves over the face of the earth; when the plight of unemployment and poverty cover the land; when our marriages fail, when our hearts get broken, when our dreams die, when we cry out to God and the heavens are silent – all of this and more can feel like Good Friday has had the last word.

We can feel like it is finished. But, thank God, it is not over.

It’s not over because crooked and weak politicians will not have the last word. Self-righteous religious leaders and religious systems bankrupt of justice and peace will not have the last word. Hate, fear, and violence will not have the last word. Death will not have the last word. For in the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and he will not be silenced.

It is true: It is finished. But, it is not over because God will not allow it to be over. God did then, God does now, and God shall always have the last word. Just wait three days, and you will hear it.

May the Lord bless you and keep you. Jeffrey

Pastor’s Note April 1

As many of you have no doubt heard, Santa Clara County Health Department has extended the Shelter-in-Place through Sunday, May 3. This action was taken to minimize the spread of COVID-19, serious illness, and the very real potential for significant loss of life.

This week my prayers have not only been for each of you, but also for first responders, and grocery store clerks, nurses and doctors, unemployed families, children next-door drawing with chalk on the sidewalk, and the PG&E guy (Mike) who came out to our home late one evening to make an emergency call.

All of us experience Shelter-in-Place differently. For most of us, it means a place we call home. For the unhoused, it may mean a place they hope to eat a meal and rest their head for a night in a large room full of strangers. I pray for them, too.

This morning, I sat in my backyard and watched a family of grey squirrels (or maybe they were friends, or maybe they were strangers who became friends) play in the large tree in the northwest corner by our wooden fence. I could have just as easily watched them through the window, but I wanted to be outside. These days, I look for any excuse to be outside. And those squirrels were as good of an excuse as any. So, I poured myself a cup of coffee, sat under the broad roof sky, and read the following poem by David Whyte:

AT HOME

At home amidst
the bees
wandering
the garden
in the summer
light
the sky
a broad roof
for the house
of contentment
where I wish
to
live forever
in the eternity
of my own fleeting
and momentary
happiness.

I walk toward
the kitchen
door as if walking
toward the
door of a recognized
heaven

and see the
simplicity
of shelves and
the blue dishes
and the
vaporing
steam rising
from the kettle
that called me in.

Not just this
aromatic cup
from which to drink
but the flavour
of a life made whole
and lovely
through the
imagination
seeking its way.

Not just this
house around me
but the arms
of a fierce
but healing world.

Not just this line
I write
but the innocence
of an earned
forgiveness
flowing again
through hands
made new with
writing.

And a man
with no company
but his house,
his garden,
and his own
well peopled solitude,

entering
the silences
and chambers
of the heart
to start again.

On Ash Wednesday, February 26, few of us knew what pandemic
wilderness we would be entering during Lent. I certainly did not. On the
first Sunday of the liturgical season, we heard the language of
temptation, wilderness, solitude, and angels; but few (if any of us)
associated those words with COVID-19, cancelled, lockdown, and
Shelter-in-Place. For much of Lent, we have had to learn to be at home
with bees wandering our gardens; notice the simplicity of steam rising
from our kettles; contemplate a world that offers as much healing as it
does heartbreak; welcome no company, only the gift of well peopled
solitude; and enter, for the first time in perhaps a very long time, the
silences and chambers of our hearts to start again.

I pray these and other small graces are sustaining you while dark
clouds gather on the horizon of Holy Week and the Passion of Christ. I
pray you remember beyond this pandemic wilderness, beyond Good
Friday clouds looming in the distance, there is a frontier with clearer
skies, brighter fields, and sweeter waters where our hearts might be
baptized anew in the name of faith, hope, and love. The greatest of
these. Love.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
Jeffrey

Lenten Book Study

Lenten study bookYou’re invited to join a Lenten study led by Ellen Shaner, Curtis Jones, and Susan Cassens. We’ll meet on Tuesday evenings March 3, 10, 17, 24, 31, and April 7 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm with a break in the middle for a snack. You don’t have to attend every week to be part of the study — attend as many sessions as you’d like.

Please RSVP to Susan at susanc@sanjosefirst.org. Respond by February 23 if you’d like her to order you a book. If you’re able to make a donation, books will be $10.

The study book is Entering the Passion of Jesus A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week by Amy-Jill Levin. Dive deep into the history of the last days before the crucifixion.

Jesus’ final days were full of risk. Every move he made was filled with anticipation, danger, and the potential for great loss or great reward. Jesus risked his reputation when he entered Jerusalem in a victory parade. He risked his life when he dared to teach in the Temple. His followers risked everything when they left behind their homes, or anointed him with costly perfume. We take risks as we read and re-read these stories, finding new meanings and new challenges.

In Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week, author, professor, and biblical scholar Amy-Jill Levine explores the biblical texts surrounding the Passion story. She shows us how the text raises ethical and spiritual questions for the reader, and how we all face risk in our Christian experience. The book provides a rich and challenging learning experience. There’s also a DVD to go with the book.

Advent and Christmas 2019

Sunday, December 1: Advent begins with Hope
On the first Sunday of Advent, we’ll celebrate with a bilingual service

Sunday, December 8: The Sunday of Peace
The second Sunday of Advent and our Annual All-Church Conference
Refreshments will be served after the 10:00am worship services and the Church Conference will begin at 11:30am. Join us as we celebrate our ministry together and look forward to 2020 and beyond. District Superintendent, Rev. Shinya Goto, will preside at this important meeting. Everyone is encouraged to attend.

Sunday, December 15: The Sunday of Joy
We’ll celebrate the third Sunday of Advent with a Christmas lunch provided by the church. You’re invited to bring cookies for dessert.

Thursday, December 19: Las Posada
The celebration begins with a procession holding candles and singing Christmas carols. Meet at Wesley UMC at 6:00pm if you would like to walk. The service will follow at San Jose First UMC from 7:00-9:00pm. Experience the Mexican representation of Christmas with its traditional costumes, Biblical readings, and songs.

Sunday, December 22: The Sunday of Love
The fourth Sunday of Advent

Tuesday, December 24: Christmas Eve at 8:00pm
Special music, carols, juBELLation choir, and candles

La Posada San Jose

New Study: Intro to Wesleyan Theology & The UMC

Join Rev. Jeffrey for this 4-week class: Introduction to Wesleyan Theology & the United Methodist Church

This class is intended to locate the Methodist Movement in general, and the United Methodist Church in particular, within a larger view of Christian history and introduce participants to theological reflection in the Wesleyan Tradition.

Mondays 6:30–7:30pm in the Wesley Room:

Monday, November 18
Monday, November 25
Monday, December 9
Monday, December 16

Mission Trip to El Maguey

Mexico Mission TripIn December, Pastor Gerardo, Jeff Huget, Kristeen Pemberton and Ray Castellon will be making a return trip to El Maguey.

The goals of the trip are to purchase more books for the library, with additional shelves, and to make major upgrades to the equipment used in the ESL program. Right now, Kristeen uses a tiny screen which makes it difficult to see the students.

We’re asking you to support the trip with prayer and financial donations. The estimated cost of the trip is $4,000. We’ve collected $740 so far!

If you would like to make a financial donation, you can put it in the offering on Sunday. Be sure to mark it “Mission Trip.” After donations are collected on October 13, the group will consider possible fundraising.

Questions? Talk to Kristeen, Gerardo, Ray or Jeff Huget.

LGBTQ Youth Space

A New Partnership with the LGBTQ Youth Space – you can help!

Youth Space is an organization in our neighborhood that provides services to LGBTQIA youth, and we are working to establish a relationship with them. They need toiletries, and our Inclusion Team would like to invite everyone to bring items to the bin near our Welcome table outside the Sanctuary:

  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Floss
  • Soap
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Dry shampoo
  • Skin lotion