I’m looking forward to joining other Cal/Nev clergy and laity at the School of Congregational Development, which begins tomorrow in Denver. Here’s a blurb from the event website that’s pretty descriptive…

The School of Congregational Development has built a reputation in United Methodist circles as the premier event for equipping clergy and laity to lead vital, dynamic, life-changing congregations. This year’s focus on “Encountering God at the Edge” reflects both our growing edges of ministry and our challenging U.S. mission environment. Being in the West will enable participants to encounter “out-on-the-edge” Christians sharing a life-transforming relationship with Christ in inspiring ways that embody the reign of God here on earth.

Hosted by the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church

Here is a first look at our general activities in the field while in Fiji and Tonga from July 9 to July 23. Watch for further details as the team builds out the narrative and we post a final report.

Fri, Jun 5 – Sun, July 7 : Daily devotionals to Fb page and emailed to missioners (Starting in Acts 13:1-3)

Sun, July 7 : Manteling Service in Church : the team commissioned and blessed
Rev. Sione Halafa’u, Mandy, and Miss Noa depart by car for LAX

Mon, July 8 : Final packing and making ready

Tues, July 9 : Departure of rest of UMVIM Team

Thurs, July 11 : 5am Arrival Nadi
Wailoaloa Beach Hotel
Dinner at Lautoka (Family of Ruci Vakaliwaliwa)

Fri, July 12 : 7am Shuttle to Denaru Landing for boat to Botaira Resort Cruise
(Tour of the Yasawa Island chain and snorkling at Botaira)

Sat, July 13 : Travel to Tonga arrival at 7pm
Welcoming Ceremony at Church Hall in Houma
Received into our new family homes throughout the village

Sunday, July 14 : Church the Free Wesleyan Church (Methodist) of Houma
Early Prayer Service: Keith and Heather attend representing the rest of the sleeping UMVIM team
Morning Service: Sadie teaches the children. Michael preaches with testimonies from Sadie, Keith, Luke, and Mae
Evening Service: Sadie leads the congregation in Bible Study. The 4 class groups of youth and young adults present wonderful hymns and traditional (and not so traditional) dances

Monday, July 15 : Visit Vaotuu Elementary School and Houma Middle School
Evening Program at Church Hall. More wonderful song and traditional (and some definitely not traditional) dance.
The “visitors” 
showed up on the program so the UMVIM team presented two hymns, an improvised dance by Sam and Tali, Jr. which got everyone dancing again, and the appalling spectacle of the mission team teaching the “Chicken Dance,” which turned out to be a big hit.

Tues, July 16: Sad goodbyes as we depart Houma and fly to Nadi, Fiji to begin the next phase of the mission.
Travel by coach the 200km from airport 
to Peninsula Hotel in Suva

Wed, July 17: Dinner at Nepani, with Simione Bikai’s family

Thur, July 18: Dinner at Nepani, with Simione Bikai’s family (Yes! They fed us once and invited us back for another meal the next evening.)

Fri, July 19: Welcoming Ceremony at Lotu Bible School. Tea served.

Welcoming at Visa (Lepani’s home village). Music, dancing, kava and Light Lunch served.

Sat, July 20: Tour of Farm at Navuso cancelled due to weather
Evening activities – part of the team attends the Suva/Nadi Rugby Match

Sun, July 21: Church in Fiji
Rev. Sione : Cautata Methodist Church
Rev. Sadie : Vugelei Methodist Church
Michael and family in attendance at Centenary, Suva

Mon, July 22: Coach return to Nadi
Overnight Decompression : First Landing Resort, Vuda

Tues, July 23: Travel Home

Arrive home before we left (?)

The Story So Far...

We are getting closer to our departure date for the UMVIM mission to Fiji and Tonga.
This trip has been a year in the planning and our goal is to represent the love 
of Christ in as members of First Church and the Fijian Fellowship of First Church,
and the First Tongan United Methodist Church of Palo Alto. We have mission partners
as far away as the First UMC of Baton Rouge and as close as the Egan Junior High
School in Los Altos and the Los Altos UMC. But most importantly of all, we have
our three local congregations as supporters through your prayers and donations.

What We Will Be Doing..

We are traveling to Fiji and Tonga to visit two schools. The Middleschool in Houme,
Tonga will be our first stop. There is some light repair and painting that needs
to be done and we will offer some Christian Education/VBS while there. Two of our
youngest missioners are shipping soccer cleats, balls and stuffed animals to distribute
to the children in both schools. We are brining several boxes of lightly loved books
from Egan Jr. High in Los Altos. The Lotu Bible School in Nausori, Fiji, will be
our second stop. There we are already in ministry with the gift last year of 55
theology textbooks and a copier with supplies. We will tour the school and take
note of the infrastructure needs, some which threaten the closure of this school.

In both locations we will be on a mission of cultural immersion, which is a form
of exploration meant to build stronger bridges between people internationally. 
And cultural immersion is a key ingredient to weaving bonds of mutuality here at
home between our three church communities. Multicultural ministry is the direction
the church is going in order to reach the growing diversity of our amazing multicultural
community setting. This mission trip will inform and equip us first and foremost
for ministry into the future here in Palo Alto. As always, mission leads to gifts
in the mission field as well as gifts to the spiritual development of the missioners;
gifts that they are emboldened to bring home and put to work for God's good Shalom.

How You Can Support This Mission

As we near our goal we still have a way to go. We are writing to ask each of you
to consider how you might be able to help us reach our goal. We need approximately
$8,000. Donations of all sizes add up! Please prayerfully consider that this is 
an opportunity for significant giving that will bring a life-changing experience
to the missioners we are taking, most of them for the very first time. We can for
example fulfill this need with 8 gifts or donations of $1000 each.

We invite you to become a sponsoring supporter of this mission. It is the UMVIM 
Mission practice that the local church is a key funder. The missioners themselves
have given generously as each is able to this mission, we hope that you can, too.


For the Mission,

Pastors Michael Love and Sadie Stone
Pastor Sione Halafa'u
Lepani Verebasaga, Vakatawa
Heather Perry, Mission Secretary

(And The Top Ten Questions About Pastor Michael’s New Appointment)

I am very excited about my new appointment. On July 1 I will continue to serve God in the midst of First Church. And, I will begin to do the same in the midst of Trinity Mountain View UMC. I know God’s love is in both of these congregations and that encourages me. I will divide my time as well as I can at a rate of 70 percent at First Church and 30 percent at Trinity. I’ll bet most weeks it won’t be an exact divide, but should average to this over the long haul.

This is different from re-appointment for another year or appointment to a new assignment. Both of those are the changes we are more used to, if it’s possible to say that we ever get used to them. But we are itinerant ministers in the United Methodist tradition—Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary says, “traveling from place to place, esp. on a circuit, as a minister or judge”—and we who enter the vocation understand up front what the calling means. But this new appointment is neither and both of those. I am staying and I give thanks to God that I am sent by the Bishop and cabinet to continue with you. And, I am also going and I similarly give thanks that I am sent to serve God with United Methodists in a place where I may be helpful. And so I am very excited and a little nervous. I know you are, too.

Questions abound. When will I preach where? Will our Sunday night classes continue? What will happen on Sunday mornings? How will Wednesday Wesleyans work? How can I possibly add another church to my schedule? If you are asking yourself these questions then we are in close company, because I am, too.

I’ve been praying about this. And I’ve conversed with Pastor Sadie about this. And I’m in coffee chats with church staff and leadership. And now, I need your guidance as well. I would love to hear from you about a couple of topics that I’ll share below. You will probably be able to spot them in the “Top Ten” list. (Hint: Look particularly at numbers 6 and 5.) But, first let me say that I’d love to hear from you about just about anything that concerns you in our time of transition. I hope you’ll let me know so that we can navigate together.

And now those Top Ten Questions About Pastor Michael’s New Appointment.

10)  Will Pastor Michael preach on Sunday? (Yes, at about the same frequency as I currently am. Thanks to Pastor Sadie’s willingness to preach regularly, we share the schedule about 50/50. That will continue. The only difference you will notice is that when Pastor Sadie is preaching, I will not be there as Liturgist. There’s an opportunity to serve the church in this; see number 5, below)

9)  Will Sunday night classes continue? (Yes, also at about the same frequency as currently. We have had several per year with seasonal breaks. We’ve looked at topical issues as well as studied together in Lent and Advent. I look forward to growth in this area for our church and we would be helped by the emergence of additional teacher/facilitators.)

8)  Will the sermons be on, or off, the Revised Common Lectionary Readings. (Yes. Pastor Sadie and I will continue to plan for sermon series from time to time on topics that we think might be interesting to the congregation. We’ve received good feedback for those series as well as for the times we’ve “preached the lectionary,” so we’ll continue to do both.)

7)  Will Pastor Michael ever be able to preach like Pastor Sadie? (Alas, probably not. And I am delighted by the addition of Pastor Sadie’s vision and engaging presentation that continues to bless our worship time.)

6)   What will happen on Sunday morning? (In other words, will we find an opportunity to revisit our Sunday service schedule? And see if we can make our Sunday morning a bit less hectic? And improve everyone’s experience in every worship service and Sunday School class? And lighten the pastor’s load on the days when he might need to be at both churches at some point on Sunday? I say, why not? Any thoughts you have about improvements to Sunday’s schedule that might help in these way would be appreciated.)

5)  How can we help the pastoral staff during this time of transition? (In many ways. Continue your faithful and friendly prayers for us, we are lifted up by them. Step up in leadership, find a way to serve in the congregation—there’s a lot to do besides all the meetings! For example, a really great and fun way to help now would be to help us expand the number of lay people who serve in the worship services and the number of volunteers who teach or assist in Sunday School. These two areas alone will be invaluable in the immediate future. If you prefer a short-term commit; volunteer for VBS this August.

4)  How about that great small group meeting at Channing House? Will it continue? (We call ourselves the Wednesday Wesleyans and yes, we’re continuing. In fact the idea is so popular that we’re exploring a similar group at Lytton Gardens. Stay tuned!)

3)  Why does Pastor Michael wear that collar/yoke/white thingie on Sunday? (Well, I sometimes do and sometimes don’t. But, often when I do it’s because I am going to be in worship or conversation with the Fijian members of First Church. In the Fijian church life, the more formal garb identifying the Talatala is a mark of the office of the Pastor. I’ve also worn my collar from time to time to visit in the hospital or to attend a public meeting where I can then be quickly identified as a clergy person.)

2)  Is Pastor Michael leaving? (No, I am not. I love you all very much and serving God in this place is a tremendous honor. I am entering my 5th year as a part of your pastoral team and I think I’m finally getting to have some sense about who we are and where I am. So, I’d rather stay, if it’s okay with God and the Bishop and everybody, so that I can put this orienteering to work. I look forward especially to the sacred work that I believe is ahead for both First Church and the people of Trinity Mountain View UMC.

And now, the Number One Question About Pastor Michael’s New Appointment

1) How can Pastor Michael do everything!!!??? (Well, I can’t. Thanks to conversations with SPRC, I am focusing my efforts on Worship, Pastoral Care and the Missional Life of the church. I will rely on the good work of staff and laity for much of the administration of the church. I am “downsizing” most of my Conference duties so I can concentrate on the local churches I am charged to tend. I am adapting and growing as I go. You have all contributed your love and support. I have great love for you all and have learned a lot about you as well as myself. Thank you for our shared ministry. Thank you for your grace and a hand offered to help me up when I have stumbled. Thank for your continued love of the people who seek out First Church as a haven from the storm. And, thank you for your commitment to the ministry of compassion and justice beyond the walls of the church.

Remember, the Gospel in ten words or less is: “You have been set free. Now go tell the others.”

May we continue to learn and discover together the great love that God has for all God’s children.

By the grace and peace of God, I am a servant of Christ,

Pastor Michael Love
Memorial Day, May 27, 2013

Clergy get to go to some really cool events. Just a couple examples of the really cool events we get to attend are called Seminary and Continuing Education (aka Conferences, Workshops, Retreats, and so on). At these events we gather with other clergy-types who, like us, really love Jesus and the people we are shepherding in their journey of faith. We get to network and learn about things that are really working to build God’s reign of Shalom. We are generally encouraged to try those things. We also hear about stuff that’s clearly not working. Maybe something that used to work, but isn’t anymore. But, sometimes we find out about something that never really worked at all but everyone was kind of keeping quiet about. These things we are generally told to stop doing right away.

I suppose at this point it’s only fair to think about what I mean when I say something is working (or not). In the context of the United Methodist Church working means that we are moving toward fulfilling the mission of the church; Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. You may prefer the more compact, although almost certainly unpronounceable, acronym MDOJCFTTOTW. This mission has two significant parts (possibly four, but I am not going to that level detail here). The first is MDOJC. Sorry, Making disciples of Jesus Christ. This means simply that if you are in connection with First Church we will assume, in a very good-natured way, that you are curious about God, the Universe, and all the Big Questions. For United Methodists, Jesus summed things up pretty completely, so he is our lens. It is through this lens that we try to help people get at God, the Universe, and all the Big Questions. Now, I should be clear, you don’t have to be a disciple. All are truly welcome to search and seek. But, we are United Methodists and we are really most qualified to help you get from where you are to where you are trying to go by our witness to the one, Jesus of Nazareth, who taught us. As disciples we are really quite certain that Jesus really embodies best of all the outreaching love of God that changes lives and creates new possibilities through grace. So, MDOJC!

Alright. Then there’s FTTOTW. For the transformation of the world. We also assume, in a good-natured way, that your curiosity about God, the Universe, and the Big Questions is accompanied by a nagging sense that we (humankind) could do a better job of it (being humans, that is). We can confess, safely and without guile, that all signs indicate we need help if we are ever to really do a better job of it. Within our weakness lies a strength of conscience that causes us to yearn as one for peace, justice, safety, health, fairness, and all the things the Bible identifies as signs of the Shalom of God—a holistic, equitable, sustainable community.

Idealistic? Absolutely! But, so is democracy, art, baseball and even science. All the really good stuff is based on raising the bar to the Ideal instead of lowering it to the level of the Barely Endurable. The reason I believe this is that in Genesis—the story of humankind coming of age spiritually—God did not look at the natural world and say, This is Barely Endurable. God looks upon the animals, plants, the mountains, stars and moon, and galaxies, and even people and says with certainty, This is Good.

Taking God’s perspective with some seriousness, we want to do all that we can to move our families, community, nation and world closer to the Ideal of God’s vision; a vision of Shalom. A vision of a world that can be good. Thus, FTTOTW.

This then constitutes the guidelines for knowing when things “work” in the life of the church. Are disciples being made? In other words are people being welcomed, spiritually formed, and equipped for the call God has upon their lives? And, is the world better for it? In other words and simply, are disciples being sent into the world to shape and transform it?

Those are the only two questions we lucky clergy get to focus on when we go to the many cool events we experience. I think it must be that the long tradition of the church has found that these are the only two questions needed to frame all the other questions we encounter in life. We may think that there are a myriad of aspects, angles, and topics. But it really comes down to two. The only questions the church has ever been qualified to address; are we making disciples? And, are we changing the world? I believe with all my heart that when we do these two things we will find that we have done everything we need to do.

Shalom, Pastor Michael

If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together.
– African proverb

As you may know, the mission life of the UMC is close to my heart. You have heard me speak once or twice about my call to ministry and the critical role that an urban mission experience in Los Angeles played in that call. I have been to Fiji representing the ministry of the Fijian Fellowship of First Church on two occasions. And so, I was delighted on Sunday March 3, to introduce a part of the team called by God to the mission field this Summer. I would like to share in more detail the Fiji and Tonga Education and Cultural Immersion UMVIM Project.
This mission represents the continued journey of the people of First Church (FUMC), the Fijian Fellowship (FFFUMC) and the First Tongan UMC (FTUMC). We will travel to Fiji and Tonga to support educational initiatives in those particular places. In this I believe we are supporting the call of Jesus Christ upon our church to be of service in the world. Or as John Wesley would urge us, to attend to the Means of Grace—one of those being acts of mercy. A prime driver of this initiative is to fulfill a section of our Path to Growth; to be relevant and caring beyond our walls.

Our Mission Purpose : Educational Service and Cultural Immersion
The mission plan is that we participate as the three sending congregations in a continued growth in friendship, faith, and witness to God’s justice in the world. As we travel to Tonga, we are connecting with the home of some of the parishioners of FTUMC. When we go to Fiji, we are traveling in the neighborhoods of congregants from FFFUMC. The honor and hospitality shared on this journey will be a terrific bridge opportunity for us as we are united in ministry on Hamilton Avenue.

Our service purpose is to visit two schools, one in Tonga and one in Fiji. From this the mission project received its theme of Educational Service. In Tonga, we are invited by the Houma Kindergarten & Middle School on the main island of Tongatafu where work will commence on an encircling fence for the school-yard, using materials to be shipped by the mission team if funds prove available. Much of this work we will only get to view, but there promises to be some scraping, patching and painting to freshen the school facilities themselves. We hope that we can participate in teaching in some form. We will certainly be listening and taking notes about needs that we may partner in fulfilling. (ie. Can we help build a store of learning books, story books, and song books?)

In Fiji, we will continue to relate to the Lotu Bible School in Nausori. This school, a center for training of at-risk young adults, is the recipient of last year’s CEF support. In that visit we brought 55 books of general theology for those students trained for Church Local Pastor Leadership, a copy machine and supplies for practical use in the school, and took a walking tour of the school that showed Lepani Verebasaga (FFFUMC Vakatawa) and me the need for refurbishment of the infrastructure. This time we will be looking at the work they are already conducting to upgrade the septic system and expect to bring back more stories about how we might apply a partnership of resources and expertise to continue the improvement of the school. Here, too, our best tool may be our ears as we listen for the people’s needs to be spoken.

Our stay in Tonga and Fiji will include ceremonial welcoming, hospitality and friendship, feasting and cultural tourism. In this way we will learn more about the important Tongan, Fijian and Christian cultural values that inform our sisters and brothers in Christ here in Palo Alto. Also, we will spend a Sunday in Methodist worship at churches in both countries for the full witness of God’s Spirit in those settings.

Benefits to the Local Churches
A project like this raises to the next level the idea of a mission trip. In this journey, we are eager to provide ways that our congregations in total may participate and thus receive a building up from the work. One half of the work of the mission takes place in the field, in the hearts and minds of the hosts who receive us and our humble offering of a partnership. The other half of mission work takes place in the sending church, in the hearts and minds of the missioners whose lives are forever transformed and in the lives of the congregations that see themselves as strong and able to reach far in God’s service. In our particular situation, this is multiplied by the benefit already stated; the unification and building up of three congregations seeking God’s vision for their future work. God has joined us together in this place for such a work as this.

Opportunities for Congregational Participation
We believe it is of high importance that our three worshiping communities are able to join the mission effort. By connecting to this work we all may enter into the transformational work of God’s Spirit as a united people. We suggest the following practical options as ways this may be achieved:  A ceremony of sending with traditional rituals of food, prayer and kava at which our congregations might learn more about our different cultures; reading and studying together from the book, “Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot- and Cold-Climate Cultures” by Sarah A. Lanier (McDougal Publishing); letter writing to the schools in Tonga and Fiji by our Sunday Schools and congregations which the mission team can take and deliver by hand. We will return with pictures and letters from Fiji and Tonga; and participation in the funding for the mission project.

Funding an U.M.V.I.M. Mission
Here is a practical consideration. How does an U.M.V.I.M. Project get funded? Typically an U.M.V.I.M. Mission is an initiative of a local sending church or churches. Our proposal is before the Centennial Endowment Committee as a combined funding sources project. This means that we are suggesting a mix of support from the missioners themselves, based on their ability; from a grant request to the CEF; from some dedicated account funds designated for the school in Fiji; and from fund-raising by the congregations who are sending the mission. This “whole-church” initiative gives the widest possible ownership of a mission and connects us as one in the witness to God’s grace in the field. The mission experience is always one that has at least two outcomes. One is the service rendered in the world. The other is the transformation of the lives of those who serve and those who are connected in support of the mission effort. We celebrate in advance the transforming power of faithful service to the world and, as a result, within the Body of Christ assembled at home.

Traveling Together, Traveling Far
I believe we will all, in the three sending congregations, be more able to “travel together” as a result of this work. This can equip us at the continued work of building a solid foundation on which we learn more about ourselves and what God may be calling us to be about. I look forward, upon our return, to making a report to our churches and celebrating the work God has given us to accomplish.

In Christ,
Pastor Michael Love

I have been watching the progress of the Boy Scouts of America as they seem to be moving toward a posture of inclusion and hospitality. If you have been following this story, too, you’ll know that on February 3, BSA officials met to consider lifting the ban on gay Scouts. This would be a turn-about from a July 2012 announcement that the BSA would continue their ban on homosexual Scouts and leaders. I am a Scouting dad, a Den Leader and Cubmaster of a local Pack in our Pacific Skyline Council, Stanford District. As a church we sponsor a Cub Scout Pack and a Boy Scout Troop. This news gave me hope.

Then came a couple of bumps in the road. The Boy Scouts received a lot of mail when word got out about this possibility. So they decided to wait until May and weigh the feedback. Feedback from polls, however, shows the public to be changing in favor of inclusiveness. A national poll released on February 6 found a solid majority of registered voters, 55 percent to 33 percent, favored ending the ban. More conservative Christian denominations, who sponsor a large number of Scout units are on the other side of the issue.

And then the United Methodist Men stepped up to the microphone and my heart sank. What came from our tribe’s Men’s organization was a bureaucratic and timid response urging that we should play it safe as a denomination and not challenge the BSA to be the best that they can be in their long tradition of raising up young boys and men for leadership.

As the pastor of a Reconciling Congregation, I feel it is my call to respond and make a few remarks. I am of one accord with Rev. Andy Oliver, an elder from the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. Once again, he observes, the people of God are in error as we drag our feet and ask for “more time” to consider ministries of justice and equity. His litany of our reluctance to speak prophetically begins with the Pharaoh’s plea for more time to Moses; reminds us of our failure to witness against slavery; confronts us with our inability to yield power and the vote to women “too soon;” convicts us of our foot-dragging when called to integrate our worship life; embarrasses me when remembering the halting response of the church to giving women full and equal leadership roles in the United Methodist church and pulpit; and brings it to our current state of affairs with our 40 years of waiting in the arena of including all people in the life of the church.

Rev. Oliver ends with these words, “The chorus of the privileged majority gets sung again and again, “we need more time,” and the latest group to join the refrain is the United Methodist Men. More time means more boys subject to bullying and exclusion. More time means higher rates of suicides among gay adolescents. But perhaps the most crucial reason we don’t have “more time” is because we need to stand up and be United Methodist Men. We are not a church that has any more time for injustice.”

It would be easy to aim our protests solely at Scouting, but I think God’s finger may be pointed at us. Let’s change ourselves as we seek to change others. Let’s move the UMM to a position of justice and inclusion so that our voice as a church may be added to the other voices already calling for equity and fairness. Then Boy Scouting will be able to lean forward with the growing support the polls show for them to do the right thing.

I look forward to a conversation with you about this important topic.
Rev. Michael Love

With much thanks for the editorial collaboration by
Doris Lippitt
Sandra Florstedt

And grateful for the initiative of
Mary Ann Michal

Like a wheel within a wheel. (Ezekiel 1:16)

This Lenten season we are on a Journey to Hope. Using resources from our United Methodist connection, we have been inviting you to a deeper examination of your faith. I hope that you have been able to join the trek in some way as we travel with Jesus to the cross. Our destination is, of course, the victory of Easter, but we don’t want to get there too fast. The road to Calvary is a place of powerful tradition; a deep and abiding faith witness in its own right. This witness is ours to claim. We are fully aware that God’s promise of the Empty Tomb is nothing less than a promise that the forces of death and oppression will not burden God’s children. Even so, as we look ahead in anticipation of the Easter sunrise, people of faith constantly proclaim that God’s Hope is available in the precious here and now of every circumstance.

Our theological task is to bring the Gospel of Hope to bear on real life circumstances along the way. Our lives are made up of many real and complex elements; our relationships, self-esteem, work, temptations, money problems, suffering and death. Our faith is real and complex as well, rightly adapted to the application of God’s grace in the midst of our practical experiences day to day. We bring our faith into high focus when engaging moments involving the multifaceted experience of our individual and corporate living.

I believe the Journey to Hope can share a significant and valuable assurance with you; that God is near and has a heart to give you strength and vision at every stage of your life. And that God has a strong concern for the inter-relatedness of all the creatures and creation. Quoting now from the Journey to Hope resources, “those on the journey learn how faith in Christ is relevant to everyday life and how having a faith community can make all the difference.” I would add that an attention to faith brings me into a closer understanding of God’s vision of community, as it pertains to my family, my town, and the world we inhabit. God’s vision is what we call God’s Shalom; a vision for equitable, just, reconciled, sustainable and peaceful human-community.

The Journey to Hope must share this wider vision as well. God’s Shalom is bigger than an individual spiritual adventure for any one of us. It’s an all-encompassing claim on our lives. It doesn’t only apply in one setting or time-slot, it spills out into all of our daily experience. How much we miss the mark of Shalom while on this all-inclusive adventure convicts us of our need for intentional and regular work at this. It is in a community that Journeys to Hope that we can expect the safety, spiritual guidance, and accountability needed to equip us for what John Wesley called “personal piety and social holiness.”

My faith confession includes, in part, an understanding that Jesus didn’t come to save just me. His work was bigger; he came to point the way to God’s Shalom for us, all of us, every last one of us. God’s Journey to Hope is for every person and every creature and for the planet and cosmos itself. And while I cherish my personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ, I don’t see that as the end of the business between us. I suspect you don’t either. This Lent, my prayer is that you will join the Journey to Hope; seeing God’s grace with the widest possible view of it. Let’s start with how God calls us to follow a vision of Shalom as a church, but let’s not stop there. May we, by God’s grace and power, see the wheels within the wheels of our inter-relatedness to all human-kind and all the creation. With that vision, may we always act with charity, compassion and love.

Giving thanks for our shared witness to the Goodness of God in Christ Jesus,
Pastor Michael Love

You can sign on online petition that I’ve set up at change.org in response to the interest in my open letter (posted here, on Fb, Twitter, etc).
You can find that petition at http://goo.gl/tvi4J

December 17, 2012
An open letter to my President, Senators, Representatives, and State and Local Elected Officials,

In the wake of the outrage in Newtown, CT, and the subsequent loss of too many innocent and precious lives, I wanted to let you know that I am becoming a one-issue voter. It is not my usual practice to do this, but I feel we live in extraordinary times. With the accelerating number of public gun violence events with over-the-top caliber weaponry in the hands of people who couldn’t possibly pass any reasonable background check, resulting in more and more loss of life, I feel my decision is the best I can do.

So, here’s my one issue, Gun Control. Specifically the Federal, State and Local banning of assault and combat weaponry and ordinance.

Here’s how you become a critical part of this. For those of you whom my vote can help to either re-election or defeat, I will vote according to your visible and effective actions to restrict gun ownership. This doesn’t mean wrestling BB guns, range pistols and hunting rifles from law abiding sportsmen and women. It does mean making the completely reasonable and overdue ban on assault weapons and combat weapons and ordinance. To even duck behind the cover of the Second Amendment is absurd and I believe the majority of the American public sees through that poor excuse. This is in no way a threat to the Constitutional right to bear arms. We can’t keep fortifying our schools as if this is the problem. The problem is elsewhere. We live in a culture of violence. Even our local communities are at the feeding trough of the Homeland Security treasure chest, buying armored vehicles and armaments they haven’t needed or used in the decade since 9/11. Now we are apparently gearing up for domestic surveillance by means of predator-drones, less weaponry. Our ramping up and added capacity to do violence is no defense, nor is it an intelligent solution.

So, as the only thing I, a non-gun owner, can think to do, I will be voting in the next elections precisely based on your actions relative to gun control. I will overlook a host of other amazing and publicly laudable qualities you may have. I don’t care if you are for all the best causes on the planet. All that matters to me is that you do the right thing and stop the madness that’s killing our children. What more prophetic image do we need? Why would we make any more twisted logic into arguments to continue down the road to our own demise. The rest of the world marvels at our capacity to not see what is before us. The international press scratches their heads at our blindness, amazed that we can not see what is so clear, we are being bullied by gun lobbyists and a dying generation of conservative legislators. Your honors, I am calling on you to do everything it takes to draft, present, move through committee and vote for gun control now or I will vote against you in the next election. And, I will advise anyone else I can to do the same.

I will also be looking into how your office may be influenced by the powerful NRA lobbying effort. If you are receiving any incentives, including favorable legislative “ratings” based on your voting history, I will vote against you. I did not vote for you to represent the NRA, I voted for you to represent me.

Now, I am just one and it may seem that my opinion doesn’t matter. But, the reason that I believe this DOES matter is that there are only 4 million members in the NRA in a nation of over 314 million people. That’s just 1% of our national population. There are more of almost any other interest group or constituency that you can think of than there are NRA members. It’s time to dismiss the NRA and it’s undue influence before we are destroyed by their ridiculous argumentation about gun freedom.

It’s time to consider who your constituency really is. I fully support my President’s resolve to precipitate meaningful change in this season of our our mourning. I trust you are sufficiently empowered to act on this. May God be with you as you step out in courage and faith, speaking truth to power and protecting our children who are the only future we have.

Rev. Michael Love
Senior Pastor
First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto
Palo Alto, CA

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