Richmond First United Methodist News and Events
The Mystery of the Cross, John 12:20-33
Pastor Dan Damon, Richmond 1st UMC, 3-22-15
In his 1994 book, The Mystical Way in the Gospel of John (Crossing over into God) Professor William Countryman writes:
[p. 94] Jesus is essential for John. To be initiated into him, to be enlightened and brought to new life in him, turns one away from the standards of this world, even those of religion, and replaces them with truth, with an acknowledgement that only God is ultimately true or real, and that everything else is derivative.
Jesus is transparent to God: Belief in Jesus is belief in God; to look at Jesus is to see God.
Retell the Scripture Story
As Christians living in the post-modern world, we acknowledge the light in all faith traditions, including our own. This means that in the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection there is a deep and abiding mystery, which leads us always deeper into God. As we read and study, as we sing, pray, and serve, we become more loving, more Christ-like, more humble as we acknowledge we don’t know everything, yet more certain that God is love, and that love is eternal.
In the gospel lesson today Jesus, according to John’s gospel, announces, “the hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified.” He explains, “Except a grain of wheat falls into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit. If you love your life, you will lose it, but if you give up your life in this world, you will keep it in eternal life.”
Jesus followers didn’t understand. The great theologians of the church have struggled for centuries to understand the stories of Jesus death and resurrection.
In the second century, Irenaus regarded the atonement as the deliverance from captivity by paying a ransom. Jesus gave himself as our ransom to free us. This has been called the Ransom theory.
Early church thinkers like Justin Martyr said that Christ defeated death by suffering, dying, and rising again. This became known as the Christus Victor theory of the atonement. Martin Luther’s great Reformation hymn, “A Might Fortress Is Our God,” uses this model.
Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) gave us the Satisfaction Theory of the Atonement in which God’s justice was satisfied by Jesus’ death.
These and other theories have been used over the centuries to help people understand what remains a great mystery of faith. Why did Jesus die? This is the mystery of the cross. We come from God. We return to God. But why is there so much suffering in this world? Where is God in all this pain?
As I wrestle with these questions, I find the story of the passion presents some possible answers to these questions. I am not drawn to previous understandings of the cross. I prefer to seek my own understanding, to use my own reason and experience in the company of the saints who have gone before me. I use the Bible and the tradition of the church, but with John Wesley I use my own reason and experience to interpret the story for a new generation.
If we accept the paradoxical doctrine the Jesus was fully human, and fully divine, we can say that Jesus, as God, suffers death with us. Where is God in our suffering? God is hanging on the cross. Jesus is with us in our suffering. The story touches our hearts as we realize God is with us in our deepest sorrow.
If we refer to the other great paradox of our faith, the doctrine of the Trinity, we may ask what the Father/Mother in heaven was doing or feeling when the son was being crucified by the Romans, who ruled by violence and fear.
I cannot imagine a God in heaven who was happily satisfied that justice was being done; that the final sacrifice was made. I can only imagine that God, like any good parent, wept with the poor and the oppressed of Jesus’ time when Jesus was unjustly killed. I do not think Jesus was born to die. Jesus was born to live and to show us how to live. We are born to live, to love, to help one another along the way. The faith traditions of the world agree that loving your neighbor is the way to God. Killing is an abuse of power, to say the least. Societies cannot exist if murder is allowed. That is why it is in the early list of laws that we call the Ten Commandments, and that Jews understand to be the teaching for life; for life, not for death.
Jesus was born. He came from God, as we all do. He lived in a way that attracted people to him, men and women followed Jesus, and supported him in his ministry to all people. Jesus broke the barriers of religion, racism, sexism, and oppression in his time. He was killed because the rulers of the day felt threatened by him. If there is any glory in the cross, it is that Jesus was willing to face death in service to the cause of justice and love. He did not seek death, but knew it was a possibility. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. he gave himself to the cause of freedom. Jesus knew the hour had come. It could not wait for the next generation. The life Jesus was given was the life he lived, and the life he gave on the cross.
Ruth Duck is currently writing a hymn text. The refrain is this:
Jesus Christ, hope of glory,
gift of God, love’s embrace,
death does not close the story
of your love and boundless grace.
© 2015 Hope Publishing Co.
I agree with Ruth. Death does not close the story of God’s love and boundless grace. Thanks be to God.
Affirming his Mennonite peace tradition, J. Denny Weaver has written a book entitled The Non-Violent Atonement, Eerdmans, 2011. Weaver understands Jesus’ mission as carrying out God’s will “by making the reign of God visible in the world.” However, his “mission is so threatening to the world that sinful human beings and the accumulation of evil they represent conspire to kill Jesus.” Jesus came to fulfill his mission to witness to Bod’s rule, not to seek his own death. His death was not the will of God, but was instigated by the powers that opposed the reign of God. Korean theologian, Andrew Sung Park, in his 2009 book Triune Atonement, writes:
“The way of God’s reign in Jesus shows how nonviolently God confronts evil. Jesus’ confrontation is nonviolent. God’s way of confronting evil shows the nature of God’s reign in history.”
We play a role in Jesus’ death when we side with the powers that killed Jesus. We play a role in the resurrection of Christ when we live out the gospel of love in our own time. Sisters and brothers in Christ, let us live out the gospel in our time, as Jesus did, with courage, faith, and hope.
Let us be in prayer
Joys and Concerns
Terry Cullinane, a dear friend of Fran Smith, has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is undergoing treatment. Terry has helped us numerous times working at the Sweetheart Dinner and with UMW on many of our teas. She is a treasure. Prayers for healing are welcome. If you would like to send a card: 995 Glendora, Oakland 94602.
Sandra Kokoruda (Fran Smith’s daughter) up date: Sandra thanks everyone for their prayers and concerns. Fran reports that Sandra is more animated and cheerful than she has been in months. Sandra has undergone 4 chemo treatments and feels good. Both Fran and Sandra ask that prayers continue.
Deby McFadyen is asking for prayers for her father, Jack McFadyen, who has lung cancer. Currently he is doing well.
Pat Dornan and Linda Pereira continue to need your prayers of support and healing. Update: Linda is now at Greenridge Nursing Home, room 2.
Robbie Robinson would appreciate your prayers.
Helen Wysham welcomes your prayers for healing as she undergoes chemotherapy.
Bobby and Pamella Hall would like to be remembered in prayer as they go through some difficult personal times.
Arpha MacIntyre is requesting prayers as she comes to the end of her life with a terminal illness. Arpha played the piano at our church for many years. If you wish to send a card: Sierra View Homes Retirement Community, 1155 E. Springfield Ave., Reedly, CA 93654. Jane Carnall has spoken with Arpha several times and Arpha is thrilled to be getting cards and messages of love from our church community.
Please keep the people of Camp Liberty in your prayers as chaos reigns in Iraq and near the camp.
As you know Lauren McLeod died Saturday morning. For those of you who would like to send cards to family and/or Brian, here are contacts.
Significant Other: Brian Kelly, 2515 San Joaquin St., Richmond, CA 94804.
Lauren’s funeral is next today and if you would like to help with Lauren’s final expenses, donations can be sent to her sister, Jean Norman, 4969 Old Adel Road, Moultrie, GA 31788 or donations to Pruitt Health Hospice, 407 Cowart Ave., Valdesta, GA 31603
Molly Smith’s brother, Ulli, died peacefully at home Sunday morning, March 22, surrounded by his loved ones. Please remember Molly and the family in prayer at this sad time. Molly’s address for cards: 5203 Burlingame Ave., Richmond, CA 94804. I don’t have any other details regarding a service or donations as yet.
Kristi Johnson’s father died March 25 after a long illness. Prayers for Kristi and the family as they gather to honor Earl Greenwalt, Jr. Cards can be sent to Kristi at: 1317 Ptarmigan Dr. #6, Walnut Creek, CA 94595.
Easter flowers: Pat Dornan is coordinating the donation of flowers for Easter in memory or in honor of a loved one. There are three choices this year: 1. Traditional lily, $10 2. Indoor plant such as an orchid, $20 3 Outdoor plant such as a azalea, $20. Requests must be in by April 1. Mail check and order slip to Pat Dornan, 9 Cherrywood Ct., San Pablo CA 94806; phone: 510 237-2062; email: email@example.com. Please take your plants home after the Easter Service.
CA/Nev Annual Conference registration is open at www.cnumc.org/acs15.
Imagine No Malaria has received the Care2 Innovator Award, an honor given to nonprofit causes that make a difference, by the Nonprofit Technology Conference on March 4 in Austin Texas for their 2014 World Malaria Day Campaign.
Imagine No Malaria receives a “Superhero Award” from the Rotarians Action Group on Malaria at the annual meeting of the Alliance for Malarial Prevention in Geneva, Switzerland. Imagine No Malaria, the only faith based organization to receive the Superhero Red Cape, was recognized for its efforts in reaching rural and hard-to-reach areas with its prevention methods. The award honors the size, breadth and ongoing dedication of the UMC’s work in which thousands have donated, resulting in thousands of children’s lives saved.
United Methodist Women are starting a collection for 10 School Kits. There will be a box in Friendship Hall for your donations. Lists of needed supplies will also be in Friendship Hall for pick up. Remember that you can only donate things that are on the list or UMCOR will remove them. Linda Woody-Wood is generously going to sew the school bags for us again. We would like to have our kits packed up and ready to go to the Annual Conference in June. Update: Rulers have been purchased so cross them off your list.
Don’t forget that donations for Imagine No Malaria are always welcome.
.Good Friday Service, April 3, 7:30 pm
This year the churches of our Circuit will be observing Good Friday at El Sobrante UMC. The service will feature a mass choir and “Golgatha,” a dramatic interpretation of the passion of our Lord. El Sobrante UMC, 670 Appian Way, El Sobrante.
Easter Sunday, April 5: 8 am garden service, 9 am free community breakfast, 10 am Sunday School and 11 am service with choir. Easter egg hunt after church.
Friday, April 10, 7:30 pm, Point Richmond Acoustic presents Laurie Lewis and The Right Hands. Grammy winner Laurie Lewis, pre-eminent folk and bluegrass singer, songwriter and multi- talented musician brings her band for a splendid concert. Right Hands: Tom Rozum, mandolin, Chad Manning, fiddle, Patrick Sauber, banjo and Max Schwartz, bass. Singer/songwriter Richard Brandenberg will open the show. Advance tickets through Point Richmond Acoustic $20, at the door $25. First United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St., Point Richmond.
Saturday, April 11, 9 am- 1 pm, CA/NV United Methodist Women Legislative Event presents “Seeds of Peace: Alternatives to Violence”. The focus issue is Peaceful Alternatives to Violence with Police Chief Ed Medina from our Richmond Police Dept. speaking. Affecting Change with Domestic Violence Offenders with Donna Pedroza who is working with domestic violence felons through restorative justice methods to help the healing. Registration deadline April 5. First United Methodist Church, 2100 “J” Street, Sacramento. Car pool if enough people are interested in attending. Cost $15. Registration forms in Friendship Hall.
ANNUAL JUNKTIQUE SALE is SAT. MAY 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Point Richmond’s Historic First United Methodist Church.
We are now accepting donations of still usable furniture, toys, books, electronics, appliances and other household items as we look forward to our biggest fundraiser of the year. (Please no clothing, shoes, hide-a-beds, exercise equipment, metal frame recliners, particle board furniture.)
The church basement door facing West Richmond Ave. will be open for drop-off donations:
Wed. mornings through April from 10 am to noon.
Thurs. evenings through April from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Sat. mornings through April from 10 a.m. to Noon
Please also email the above people to arrange to help in other ways: to price, organize or clean items before the sale or to help move merchandise before, during or after the sale.
Don’t forget our Famous Lunch of Chili, Minestrone, Hot Dogs, & Pie from 11:30 a.m. til gone.
The day of the sale, come early and avail yourself of the bargains and unbelievable one-of-a-kind items. And bring a friend!
Save the Date: Saturday, May 16, 10 am to 3 pm, District Conference. Location to be announced. Rev. Schuyler Rhodes has sent this reminder. The Conference includes a Mission Fair with displays by local churches, a fair trade marketplace, training opportunities for Staff-Parish Relations Committee Members, Trustees, church council and more. Plus a briefing on legislation coming up at the Annual Conference.
Ca/Nev Annual Conference, June 17-20 (Wed. thru Sat.). This year’s theme is ” Engaging Faith in the Public Square”. Registration is now open at www.cnum.org/acs15. San Francisco Airport Hyatt Regency, 1333 Old Bayshore Hwy, Burlingame, CA.
Save the Dates: June 14-20 for Mt. Lassen Journey Farthest Out Camp. The camp provides a time apart for spiritual growth and opening our lives to God physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. The vision is to provide a place where all people are accepted with the unconditional love that Jesus shares. All ages are welcome. Registration is open through “Mt. Lassen JFO”.
The Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) is meeting in San Antonio, Texas in conjunction with the Reconciling Ministries Network. Gather at the River, Thursday, August 6 to Sunday, August 9. The conference will be working on issues of justice throughout the church and resolutions they would like to see presented at the General Conference in 2016. Register at http://www.gather2015.org/.
Please send submissions for FUMC News and Events to Barbara Haley, editor: firstname.lastname@example.org