Friday, September 30, 2016

Dream On

Dreams are key contributors to the narrative of both important biblical Josephs.  Let’s focus on the Genesis 37 to 50 Joseph rather than the husband of Mary Joseph.  The Genesis Joseph has two dreams in Canaan and tells his family of them.  The telling of these dreams help get him sold into slavery and sent to Egypt.  In Egypt, he makes use of dream interpretations to change his life circumstances:  when he assists fellow prisoners and when he assists the Egyptian Pharaoh.  ‘What do these dreams mean’ is a key integrative tool used by the narrator.  The dreams in Canaan help get Joseph into trouble with his family.  The dream interpretations in Egypt help get Joseph to a place of redemption. 
Our theme for October is “Dream on.”  Often this phrase is used in a sarcastic or cynical way having a meaning similar that this will be true “when pigs fly.”  But we don’t mean this in a winged razorback kind of way, rather we mean for this phrase to be understood in terms of aspiration and vision.  Steven Tyler of the rock group Aerosmith writes in Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?, that their defining song ‘Dream On’ is “about the hunger to be somebody: Dream until your dreams come true.”
‘Dream on’ then is about our communal hunger, and our migration of that hunger to be a community that is a collection of some bodies who care about those in various needy places.  Said another way, to dream on, is about us being having dreams that are consistent with God’s dreams and vision for us. Frederick Buechner describes what that looks like:  “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
How and towards where do you “dream on” for Hilltop? 
Do you perceive that telling others of your dreams will lead to a Joseph like banishment from the Promised Land?  
Or do you see the possibility that in hearing the dreams of others, you can help with interpretation that leads to a different future? 
I would hope and pray that our dreams as a community indeed take us to a ‘place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’  But at the end of the day – continue to dream on.  And should people resort to listening to you and replying to your visions in terms of winged razorbacks (i.e. flying pigs) you can continue, Joseph like, to be optimistic and hopeful for a Spirit Filled Future for the Children of God here at Hilltop. 
Selah, Pastor Dennis

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Global, United, Inclusive: Pick Two – An Update

For the June/July Hilltop Newsletter, I spoke to the idea of how the United Methodist Church sees itself in terms of three key words and values: global, unified, and inclusive. I lamented that we were approaching a time when we might need to pick two. Rethinking that a little, I wonder if we are not actually at a place where we must pick one.

I wrote in June that “The 1996 General Conference in Denver had the motto, often attributed to John Wesley:  ‘In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity’ … [and] If … we are not to be in unity, I pray we will be charitable.” The World of Wesley often said charity where we now use love. I pray that we show love if we are not unified. My lens on the Jesus message is one of love:  God, my fellow human creature, and, at some appropriate and healthy time, myself. All three in a healthy Trinitarian dance.
We are becoming disunited over the issue of human sexuality.
Several hundred spiritually centered United Methodists, laity and clergy, from across the West, gathered in Arizona in July and examined the credentials of candidates for Bishop. They elected the most qualified person. Everyone I have spoken to who was there said that Reverend Doctor Karen Oliveto of the California-Nevada Conference was in a category all her own. They spoke to her vision, her presence, her charisma, her spirituality, and her leadership.
There was a time when the most qualified leader in the church also had the additional responsibility to have been created by God male. That is no longer true.
There was a time when the most qualified leader in the church also had the additional responsibility to have been created by God white. That is no longer true.
There was a time when the most qualified leader in the church also had the additional responsibility to have been created by God heterosexual. At least for now, in the West, that is no longer true.
Bishop Karen Oliveto is married to another woman. Effective September 1, Bishop Karen is our Bishop.
I shared pastoral thoughts at both services on Sunday, July 17th.  My comments that morning were supportive. I deeply appreciate the reciprocal support shown back to me by many of you, and potentially, Bishop Karen. The comments have been overwhelmingly, but not exclusively, positive. I do not say that to guilt or shame those who are not positive on this. I note that those troubled by this action seem ready to stay at Hilltop, for which I am grateful and hopeful. This community called Hilltop, a place to belong, believe, and become, with its special unique gifts and graces is important to them.
Let me invite a dialogue here, not a monologue. Should any wish to speak to me on this, I am open to a conversation. I will respectfully listen and I will share your pain.
As I indicated on July 17th, I plan to support Bishop Karen fully to the best of my ability. This is how I supported Bishop Elaine.
I am faithful that those who gathered in Arizona in July were prayerful and Spirit-led people. It is my fervent hope that Hilltop will be prayerful and Spirit-led as well.
I pray that in order to be inclusive, we lose neither our unity nor our global nature, but if I have to pick one, I am faithful to the idea that picking inclusive is the most Jesus-like response.
Let’s be in healthy Christian conversation.
Selah, Pastor Dennis