Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?
I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness. – Isaiah 43: 19
Watching scenes of Aleppo, a beautiful, ancient city, lying in rubble, with a river of refugees – young, old, burdened, lost – pouring out into the wilderness, the horror passes understanding. It is beyond belief, beyond comprehension. I search for peace to match the horror.
We will never experience peace equal to the horror if we keep tuned to the news. It is people sitting in darkness who can see a great light (Isaiah 9:2). So, turn off the news, not to avoid the harsh realities of war. Turn off the news so you can hear a different word, see a vision of abundant life, and be led along a good way. Participating in worship is a choice to be part of an alternative, intentional community of resistance to sin and death. When God’s people gather where a candle burns and music swells, the rhythm of God’s peace resonates in our hearts and finds expression through our lives and the world is changed. Not in earth-shattering ways, but in life-affirming ways.
Pray for the people of Aleppo, and every place of horror on the earth. Come, Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace. Quell warring madness so that people will no longer be forced from their homes to become strangers wandering the earth. In the meantime, show us how to become community for your lost sheep. We know this is your will. Show us the way. Make us witnesses to the peace that passes understanding.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
O Magnum Mysterium, Matins liturgy
Last week I wrote about the star in the Christmas story. Today I’m thinking about the animals around the baby Jesus. Donkey, camel, cow, sheep, dove.
“O Magnum Mysterium,” says that the animals seeing Jesus in their manger was a sacrament! A sacrament is a sign of the presence of God, which is often hidden and spiritual. We say that sacraments are a means of grace. How do the animals fit into our theology, or our spiritual lives? Maybe they call us out of our heads, and into our hearts. Maybe they call us out of human society and into the community of creation? Or, do they draw our attention away from a distant light, shining from heaven, to the warmth and intimacy of earthy, furry, pawing, neighing relationships?
Animals keep it pretty real. The sights and sounds – and smells – of animals are very different from the sterility of the star. Earthy hay, manure, dust, grunts contrasted with heavenly light.
From the moment of his birth, we find Jesus living in two worlds: marked by a star in the night sky, and nestled in a barnyard manger. Fully God, fully human. This is the great mystery (magnum mysterium). Just like Jesus we live in two worlds. Learning to be fully spiritual people and fully flesh and blood at the same time is the challenge and promise Jesus sets before us. Hark, the Angels and the Friendly Beasts.
I’m going to try to honor both this season: to make time for prayer and music that makes my spirits soar. And to decorate our home and cook great food to delight the senses! And I’m going to receive Mollie-the-dog’s grace-filled nuzzle with a reciprocal belly rub. God breaks in from beyond, and sidles up alongside and as common kindness.
It is ours to sing glory to God in heaven, and to make peace on earth.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
By Rev. Steve Ross
Vision is the word I use to describe why a congregation exists. The big huge purpose of the church is making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. But that mission statement is a purpose bigger than any congregation can fulfill on its own. Vision is the particularization of the mission in a specific community of Christians at a specific time. It deals with two questions that have real, but constantly evolving answers.
- Who are the specific people we called to engage in the life of discipleship?
- What is the specific transformation we are called to bring now?
The Christmas cards I ordered arrived last week. I searched to find cards that showed the nativity with Jesus front and center bearing the message, “Blessed Christmas” embossed in gold.
But something was missing. Roll call: Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, cow, donkey, sheep. No star.
The star of the nativity marks the birth of Jesus as a world-changing God-event. The star is the glory of God shining through from heaven into the dark and harsh reality of the world. Without the star it could be any baby in the manger– oh, miraculous, to be sure, but without the power to heal, release, renew and transform.
So, I bought a shiny pen. And I am painting the star into the midnight sky on every card. The power of God is at work in our world through Jesus, who comes to us as. . .
Light (shining in darkness) | Fire (of the Holy Spirit)
Hope (of the world) | (abundant) Life
Grace (upon grace) | (steadfast) Love
Promise (fulfilled) | Peace (on the earth)
God bless you this Christmas, with light in darkness. And may you be a light to the world and all who live in it.
A l l e l u i a !
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
By Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson
Most of us desire a sense of belonging and purpose in the world. And during difficult seasons, such as our current political climate, we long for safe spaces to find hope. This season presents a unique opportunity for the church.
Many, if not all, church leaders and laity I encounter across our church hold a common thread: A large majority would love to have more young people in their churches. But does our corporate desire translate to creating space within our church families for these long-lost siblings?
By Dr. Neil Tibbott, Executive Director of LeadershipOnRamp
One of the most famous coaching references you may have heard is the story about legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, who spoke to his team at the beginning of a season about the basics. At the first practice, he lifted a football for the entire team to see and said, “Gentleman, this is a football.”
In training for ministry, we sometimes skip important steps that help facilitate growth. If we miss those basic steps, then churches struggle to gain a foothold in the very communities they hope to serve.
By Brian Zehr, Co-Founder of Intentional Impact
What if there were a relational way to develop leaders?
What if we could invest in people in such a way that ministries are multiplied?
Started in October 2016, the Multiplying Ministries Group continues to wrestle with these questions (and others). As we kicked off this eight-month cohort, three values emerged:
During the two-year presidential campaign, tension built across our nation like it does as you wind up a jack-in-the-box. Then, SURPRISE, the polls closed and what seemed impossible had happened. Donald Trump was elected the next President of the United States. Half the country is elated beyond their wildest dreams. The other half is reeling in disbelief. Most of us on one side of the divide don’t know many people on the other side.
I’m less interested in what kind of president Donald Trump will be than in his election as a symptom of a grave illness in our nation.
Can it be in 21st century America, that many of us no longer have substantive conversations with anyone who isn’t very much like us in education, income and world view? Have we become separated, red from blue, without even realizing it until this most unexpected election?
On August 13, without fanfare, Clint and I crossed from Montana into Idaho on I-90. It was a pilgrimage from Denver to Seattle; from one rich chapter of life and ministry in the Mountain Sky Area into another, unknown chapter in the Greater Northwest Area.
How do you enter a new place? Or even, how do you re-enter a familiar place after many years? How does a leader join multiple teams each with its own habits and traditions, its quirks, taboos and preferences?
In Luke 10, Jesus sends his followers to places they had never been before with instructions to “carry no purse, no bag, no sandals” (Luke 10:4). He tells them to offer only a blessing of peace and to receive the hospitality offered them by strangers who receive their blessing. They are to heal the sick and tell them that the Kingdom of God “is right on your doorstep” (Luke 10:9, The Message). As you read the passage you wonder, what about teaching about Jesus, condemning wickedness, and baptizing converts?
Sounds like a gentle kind of evangelism, grounded in vulnerability, mutual respect, shared resources and healing relationships. Can it be that the Kingdom of God is there on the doorstep – the threshold – where guest and host exchange blessings and meet one another?
I’m thinking of this year as a threshold. Throughout the year I will travel to a variety of places for “threshold events” where we will meet and bless one another. In June, we’ll cross the threshold into new relationship with a service of installation during the joint Annual Conference session of the Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences, with representatives from Alaska joining us as well.
God’s at work in the world, sending us to new places to meet new people. We are blessed to be a blessing!
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Threshold Events for Bishop Stanovsky
Friday, October 14 – Alaska UMC Office (1660 Patterson St) Anchorage at 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 13 – Montavilla UMC in SE Portland, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, January 8 – Olympia First UMC, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 21 – Eugene First UMC, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 26 – Spokane Valley UMC, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 5 – Edmonds UMC, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 11 – Meridian UMC, Meridian, ID, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 8 – Moses Lake UMC, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
I’m Elaine Stanovsky and I’m the brand new bishop in the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church, having just moved here from Denver, Colorado where I served for eight years. I can’t tell you how excited my husband Clint and I are to be in the Northwest, we came from the Northwest, we served all of our professional lives in the Northwest and its great to be back in the Pacific Northwest Conference, the Oregon-Idaho Conference, and the Alaska Conference.
I believe to the core of my being that God is still at work in the world through the Church. And that the job of those of us who believe in Jesus Christ and who know the power of Christ’s life-giving work; our job is to figure out where God is at work, and how God is at work in the world, and to go join God in that work! I hope that all of you and all of your places are looking for that kind of new reengagement with your neighborhoods.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to get to meet you as I begin to travel the Area, learn about the ministries you are involved in, and encourage you along the way. But for now I’m going to say:
God bless you, God keep you, and may God bring us together on the road.
Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky
- Episcopal Area
- Our Bishop