A Different Vehicle: Reflections on the WCA Gathering

It was late in the evening when I arrived in Memphis for the Wesleyan Covenant Association meeting last Thursday. I headed straight to the rental car counter to claim the “economy” car I had reserved, but when I got to the window the agent said, “Sorry, all we have left in economy are those Smart Cars.” She pointed to a vehicle that was clearly smaller than any roller skate I had ever owned—a car so small that I wondered if I would have to strap my small carry-on to the roof to get it and myself to the hotel.

I didn’t respond right away to the agent’s news, choosing instead to alternate between looking incredulously at her and at this “car.” I had that line from Seinfeld pounding in my memory: You know how to TAKE a reservation but you don’t know how to HOLD the reservation; and that’s really the most important part! I was beginning to resign myself to the possibility of rolling up to a meeting with my peers in a car so uncool that a Schwinn bike with a basket and streamers on the handlebars would have been a hipper option.

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A Pastoral Letter Regarding the UMC Judicial Council Decision

Dear Members and Friends of TLUMC,

I am writing to update you on the status of the decision of the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church regarding the Bishop of the Rocky Mountain Conference, Karen Oliveto. The Judicial Council is our denomination’s version of the Supreme Court and rules on matters of church law.

On April 28, the Judicial Council ruled that the Western Jurisdictional Conference’s consecration of Bishop Oliveto, a married lesbian, was contrary to church law. At the same time, however, Bishop Oliveto remains in good standing and retains her office while complaints against her are processed and reviewed according to our Book of Discipline. That process will take some additional time. You can read a news story outlining the decision here.

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The New Covenant: A Meditation for Holy Thursday

Luke 22:1-27

We are now reaching the climax of Jesus’ journey toward Jerusalem and on this night, in an upper room somewhere in Jerusalem, Jesus will reveal to his disciples the real reason for the journey. It’s interesting that he does so not through another long exposition or systematic teaching, but he does so at a meal—indeed, a meal that has multiple layers of meaning in itself.

Luke tells us that the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Passover, was near. This was what brought Jesus and the disciples to the city along with thousands of others. It was the great festival celebrating the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt under Moses in the past; but its celebration was also a sign pointing to an even greater Exodus they hoped would come. They were still enslaved politically, chafing under the rule of Rome—the latest in a series of foreign rulers. Passover was thus a time for both the revolutionaries and the religious to hope that God’s ultimate liberation of his people was at hand.

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Living Stones

Luke 19:29-44

The road from Jericho to Jerusalem winds for about 15 miles up through the hot and dusty Judean desert. Today we travel it by bus or car, but in the first century the road was treacherous and an arduous journey by foot, given that it’s about a 4,000 foot elevation change over those 15 miles. But this was also the route that most Galilean Jews would have taken to come to the Holy City during the great festival of Passover and they had been doing it for generations—for so long that the Psalms reveal to us several “Songs of Ascent” that the pilgrims would sing on their way up the road.

Arriving in Bethany, the pilgrims would then crest the Mount of Olives and get their first view of the city laid out before them. After a long journey, the destination was finally in sight and it was impressive. The Temple, built by Herod the Great with white limestone quarried nearby, literally gleamed in the sun. Josephus, the Jewish historian, described the Temple “like a snowy mountain glistening in the sun.” It was one of the wonders of the first century world.

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Up a Tree

Luke 19:1-10

When you’re a kid, the presence of a great tree with lots of low branches was a certain invitation to climb up and see the world from a greater height. Of course, falling from that great height often leads to one of the first childhood trips to the emergency room and a cast on a busted arm or leg for the elementary school class to sign. Such a diversion, however, rarely becomes a deterrent for the determined child adventurer as there will always be another tree beckoning to be scaled.

Adults, on the other hand, usually have a more strained approach to being “up a tree.” Usually, being “up a tree” means that one is stressed and at wit’s end (As in, “Timmy fell out of the tree and needed a $250 trip to the ER. Now I’m up a tree!”).

Trees are often unpredictable. As living things they are constantly changing. That branch that looks strong may have rotted underneath the bark. The trunk may be waiting for that next strong gust of wind to finally give up holding on. Climbing a tree can be dangerous as well as fun, which makes it all the more enticing!

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