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Annual Conference 2019 Sermon

Sermon    June 23, 2019  Scripture: Luke 8: 26-39       When Andra and I talked about our report about Annual Conference, she asked me to give some history.   So, I want to give you a little background.  The General Conference of our denomination meets every four years to adopt and revise the Book of Discipline which is the regulations and official stances of our denomination.   General Conference is made up of delegates elected by the different Annual Conferences based upon their membership. In 2020 our Conference will have two voting delegates.   In the 1970’s for the first time words were added to our Book of Disciple by General Conference that stated that the practice of homosexuality was incompatible to Christian teachings.    Our Bishop Elaine was a youth observer at one of those General Conferences and remembers that there was debate about whether the Bible actually condemns the homosexual relationships we know today.  So it was decided to say incompatible with Christian teachings because, as Albert Outler  the professor of Wesley studies who proposed the language suggested  Christian teachings do change over time.    But since that time the language of our Discipline has become rather set in stone.  Attempts at each General Conference since then to change, modify or overturn this language and the language that prohibits ordination and marriage of GLBTQ persons have not succeeded.           Some Annual Conferences over the years have decided to adopt different understandings of Christian tradition and teachings and include the experiences and ministries of LGBTQ persons. Our Annual Conference has been part of that movement for a long time.  I can remember many heartfelt discussions and sharing around the topic over my 30 + years.    Other Conferences in the Western Jurisdiction have also taken this stance. The movement in our denomination has been called the Reconciling Movement.  Many local churches across the country and in our conference have decided to become Reconciling Congregations who are open to full inclusion of GLBTQ persons in their ministries and practices.           At the 2016 General Conference in Portland the conference decided to ask the Council of Bishops to come up with a plan for how the church could best work through this controversial issue.  The proposal was to hold a special General Conference in 2019 to look just at the issue of human sexuality and the inclusion or not of the LGBTQ community in the life of our denomination.       There was a Commission on the Way Forward made up of a wide range of points of view and perspectives who worked on some plans to present to this Conference.  One of our clergy members Donna Pritchard worked long hours on this...

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Lifting Up Body and Spirit Sermons

Sermon  February 3, 2019   “ Ministry Sunday” by Rev. June Fothergill    Matt. 25: 31-46; Mark 6: 31-44     Since we already talked some about hips, I had forgotten that I am in good company with my hip troubles.        One of the highlights of the past year for me was our banner project.   I love it when we do something at our church which brings together people from different worlds.  In this case we had teens from A3 and Springfield schools, members of Rotary and their families and folks from our church working together with a young artist who lives part of the time in Costa Rica.   The most obvious outcome of our collaboration was the mural which is now gracing the back of our education wing.  Yet, other outcomes and relationships are still unknown.  Will the high school artists remember the experience and have a soft spot in their hearts for the church?  Will our mural inspire our neighbors?  It is good to look at how God transforms lives through our ministries but much of the outcomes we have to place in God’s hands.     Jesus told his disciples not to worry about outcomes but to pay attention to the needs of people and how they can meet them.  He told them when they realized the crowd was hungry-  You feed them.  He told the tale of the last judgment when those who cared for the poor and outcast were actually offering care to him.  He realized that meeting human needs was part of building his kingdom.  He wanted to empower his disciples to do this and continues to empower us even today.  We  experience this every week when by the gift of God we always gather enough food to fed those who come in need.  Sometimes we only find out much later the impact of our ministries.        Recently we made a connection with the Youth Transition Program at the Springfield schools because the woman in charge of the program is an alumni of Ebbert’s youth programs.  She thought of us when looking for a good place for her developmentally different students to get work experience.  She apparently learned about how to care for all people as a youth in our church.   We see the impact of our past youth ministry today in her vocation and renewed connection with us.      I have found that we at Ebbert as fairly typical of our generations and culture in that we don’t easily talk about things like “ transformation,” or  ‘impact.”   Because we don’t tend to talk about dramatic transformations,  we may wonder what the Spirit is doing in our midst.  I think...

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Pentecost Sermon

Pentecost Sermon  June 4, 2017  “ Spirit Sightings” by Rev. June Fothergill Acts 2: 1-20 Several years ago when I was serving Myrtle Creek and Canyonville churches, I decided to take some personal leave time and go to Mexico to study Spanish.  It was on my bucket list to study Spanish in a place where it was spoken.   It was a wonderful trip.   The only problem was that I would miss my church’s Vacation Bible School that year.  Working with children was a highlight of my ministry during those years in Douglas County.    I went to Cueravaca, Mexico for my immersion experience, a city of about 1 million people.  One Sunday I decided to try to find the little Methodist Church in the town.  I walked all over until I finally found it.   As I searched I thought about how right now that week, my church back home would be getting ready to hold the VBS.   As I walked in the door of the church in Mexico the first thing I saw was a display about VBS- it was the same program we were doing in Myrtle Creek, except in Spanish!     In that moment I felt the work of the Holy Spirit connecting these two communities in my life.    I had a great time telling them about the connection and spent some time with that little community in prayer and visiting their mission work.  The language, the nation didn’t matter- we were together in Christ.  For me this is a  Spirit Sighting.   Do you have any Spirit sightings you’d like to briefly share? ( Time for congregation to share. ) You see, over thirty years ago, Jim and I took a class together at Portland State.  It was called Intercultural Communication.   After learning about all the barriers and complexity of communication across different cultures, I remember commenting to Jim,  “  It will take the Holy  Spirit can make it happen”      Only the work of the  Holy Spirit can overcome the barriers and divergent understandings that  people from differing cultures  assume.  Only the Holy Spirit can bring us together in mutual human understanding.    I still think  that this is one of the ways the Holy Spirit works among us.  I have seen it. I trust it.  I hope for it. I remember a women’s group meeting in Wilder.  It was the UMW’s annual tea and we had intentionally invited women from the new Hispanic United Methodist church at Wilder to come.  And some of them did.  The program for that day was to share stories about our mothers.  As I listened to the stories from the UMW women,  I noticed that many of them had...

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Easter Beyond the Bunnies

We had a great Family Event April 8th  2017.   We had about 15 children and 15 adults.  The Puppet Show was OK but the crafts and parachute game were hits.  Thanks to everyone for coming and for helping!  We hope to have more such events in the future....

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Sermons January 2017

Welcome to the sermons from January 1- January 15, 2017  Enjoy! Sermon  January 1, 2017 John 1: 1-18; Galatians 4: 4-7  “ Being An Heir of Christ in this New Year”  by Rev. June Fothergill “We are no longer slaves, but children of God and therefore heirs.” – Paul in Galatians The attorney gathered the entire family for the reading of the will. Relatives came from near and far to see if they were included in the bequests. The lawyer somberly opened the will and began to read: To my cousin Ed, I leave my ranch. To my brother Jim, I leave my money market accounts. To my neighbor and good friend Fred, I leave my stocks. And finally to my cousin George who always sat around and never did anything but wanted to be remembered in my will I say, “ Hi George.”  ( p. 143 The Encyclopedia of Humor) This past week I spent time with my mother in her 80’s  and my mother in law in her 90’s. It’s good to spend time with them, to care for them, and to receive from them the wisdom and stories they had to share.    I think about what it means to be an heir.  In both cases it is less important what physical inheritance I might receive from them than the ethical inheritance. What are the values and ways of living that they hand down to me,  that I want to emulate and pass down to my children and others?  What did they inherit that they want to pass down to me and my family?  How do we help this sharing of stories and values happen?  How do we value each other in such a way that the stories get told and the values get shared?   These are the questions that concern me not just for my own family but for our churches and even our world.   What does it mean to be an heir. I think about all this also because of the reading from the letter of Paul to the Galatians we read this week.  Especially, “ We are no longer slaves but children of God and therefore heirs.” What does Paul mean and what does it mean for us today? Paul writes first of all that “ We are not longer slaves.”  This is crucial for his argument to the Galatians.  He is upset because some people have been teaching that in order to be right with God one needs first to be circumcised and adhere to other practices of the Jewish laws. To Paul this is a big mistake!    He doesn’t want them to get hung up on things...

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Sermon Oct. 2, 2016 The Mustard Seed

Luke 17: 1-10  “ The Mustard Seed” by Rev. June Fothergill I have always loved World Communion Sunday and not just because I get to share my international doll collection!   I love the picture of the diverse and varied people of the world gathering today around the communion table of Christ.   My relationship with Christ Jesus has given me a vision of a world where differences of culture and language are celebrated because our oneness comes from our common worth.  Jesus didn’t teach that we all have to be the same but that we are invited to form a community of grace that is inclusive of the diversity of our human family.  He showed us this by living, eating with and teaching those who others had outcast.   As followers of this Jesus we are always figuring out how to live together lovingly in the midst of our diversity.   I think that in the passage we read today,  Jesus is inviting us to form an alternative community, a way of living together based upon grace- a flow of truth telling, repentance and forgiveness. First of all Jesus said straight up- “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come.”    Now Jesus doesn’t say we will stumble!  But we all know the truth. We do stumble in our lives.   There are times when we say the thing we wish we hadn’t, when we neglect to love, when we respond in greed or selfishness, when we let our fear rule or our prejudices judge.   We all stumble sometimes. Yet interesting to me is that Jesus doesn’t seem too worried about our individual stumbles in this passage.  Rather he quickly goes on to show great concern for the possibility of us causing others to stumble!    This passage is not so much about our individual morality but the kind of community Jesus wants us to build together.  Make sure you don’t cause others, especially the vulnerable to stumble!  Jesus is warning us that our choices impact not just ourselves but our community.  What do the youth and children learn from us by our actions and words?  What does the unbelieving world think of the church?  Have we caused people to stumble, to turn away from faith and Christ? I remember the conversation I had with a young man in Canyonville about why he no longer attended a church.  He had experienced the community of church as a place of power plays and hurt feelings.   He wasn’t too sure he wanted to try it again.  It made me sad.  Did someone need a millstone?    I am sure that Jesus does not mean for us to go out and find some millstones.  No,...

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