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1751 N. Park Ave
Pomona, CA 91768

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Tuesday: 9am – 1pm
Wednesday: 9am – 1pm
Thursday: 9am – 1pm
Friday: CLOSED

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Pastor’s Blog

Julie’s Jar, “Church Geek”

~Church Geek~

Balloon Silly Smiley Geek Geeky Nerdy Nerd

It was the first full day of my time in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I couldn’t wait to get to Morning Prayers at Memorial Church at Harvard. I was also invited by my dear friend Emily, to attend a preaching competition at Harvard Divinity School that began at noon. Admittedly, a preaching competition sounded strange even to me; how can that be fairly judged? And should it be?

Well, I ended up wandering over to the Divinity School and heard 3 out of 4 sermons and each one was amazing, inspiriting and inspiring. I was told I missed the one that would probably win. I didn’t envy the people making the judgments. Each sermon I heard was wonderful and provoking; I even took notes!

I geeked out on Sunday too. Emily and I attended BOTH the 9 o’clock and 11 o’clock service which were the same: great music, warm community, inspiring leadership from the pulpit in welcome, prayer and sermon.

I suppose I show up so much because I keep getting a taste of God. Psalm 34 contains these words: “O taste and see that God is good; happy are those who take refuge in God.” Taking refuge in God in worship roots me in the divine love I forget too easily is my birth right. Taking refuge in God among the community of worshiping Christians connects me to the vine of Christ reminding me I am not alone. Taking refuge in God in prayer, scripture, music and yes, sermon, comforts me and coaxes me to more faithful living.

Many Christian communities hold sacred space for people to “taste and see that God is good”. I am grateful for the communities that held sacred space, so I could step into divine reality. I am grateful for the community of First Christian Church of Pomona that holds sacred space for anyone to receive the hospitality of God’s grace.

Julie’s Jar, “Remembering What I Did Know”

~Remembering What I Did Know~

I was on the cusp of being 8 years old the day Dr. King was assassinated. It wasn’t talked about in our home that I recall. It wasn’t a topic of conversation. I did not know until much later in life that “Just weeks before . . . a presidential commission issued a searing account of the nation’s racial divide.” (I encourage you to read the article sited.)

Why was this not part of the conversation in my household, in the schools I attended, college and even seminary?  “The Kerner Commission, appointed by President Johnson (and named after its chair, Illinois governor Otto Kerner), had been charged with explaining the racial unrest of the previous summer (1967) It returned a blunt diagnosis: the nation was in effect “two societies, one black, one white-separate and unequal. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”hand holding

Recently, I read one person’s reflection on professional football players taking a knee during the national anthem. The players chose to “take a knee” as a way to protest the ongoing racial divide and systemic racial injustice in our country. They chose this form of protest after conferring with veterans. What struck me most about the writer’s observations were two things: 1. There is never in our country a way for black men to protest that will not be seen as threatening and 2. Taking a knee is a form of lament.

Lamentation is rooted in our own faith tradition. Job laments, cries out to God about the unjustness of his circumstances. Lament is a necessary part of finding our way back to genuine wholeness. We cannot heal the sin of slavery and ravages of racism without uncovering the deep wounds that continue to fester.

The Risen Christ appears with his wounds visible. The Crucified Christ and the Risen Christ are the same. Christ comes to his followers after the ugliness of the crucifixion and doesn’t bother to pretty things up. We can’t live with the Resurrected One without recognizing the suffering that came before. We can’t live as the Resurrected Body of Christ without acknowledging the suffering of our fellow human beings: past and present suffering.

Fred Harris, the lone surviving member of the Kerner Commission, recalls that he and his colleagues operated with a simple assumption: “Everyone does better when everyone does better.” That reminds me of a teaching Christians say we hold dear: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of all. And so today I still have a dream. -Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) (“A Christmas Sermon on Peace,” given at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, December 24, 1967.)

Julie’s Jar, Purpose of the Church – Part 2

~Purpose of the Church – Part 2~

Four weeks ago during worship, I asked those present to finish this prompt: The purpose of the church is… and my part in its…. In this Caller, I present the rest of those responses. There are some overarching themes: radical welcome, sharing God’s love in deed and word beyond our walls. There was also great variety among the responses. As you read through them, you may recognize yours. I hope all of you will continue to reflect on this and talk to other people inside and outside church about “the purpose of the church is….”

To love God, our neighbors, and ourselves, and to provide space, time, and grace to learn and grow in this; individually and together.

Be closer drawn to Jesus. Sanctuary – a safe place to worship. Be in community with others. Find friends in fellowship, support those suffering and in need. I find myself serving where needed.

The church gives me hope and a loving supportive community. Julie and Mike facilitate the programs of the church and share your spiritual knowledge with us.

To be open and hospitable to all. To reveal Christ to the community. To educate people about Christ. Be a force of social uplift and oppose evil.

Love. Love God. Love others. These things are incredibly difficult to do with authenticity, consistency, and broadly. If the church can do these things, the church carries onward the mission of Jesus. As part of the church, my commitment is to understand how to love God daily, authentically and in all areas of my life. THEN, I need to apply that to the people around me, specifically those I find most difficult to share it with. Love God. Love others.

To give voice to all who ask and seek out those that don’t. Re-center all with Christ.

To come together as community. To study and hear God’s word through sermons and classes. It is also, for many, a spiritual hospital where a person comes to be healed!

To offer a home and community to those who need a little faith. My place is to welcome those people with open arms and an open heart.

To be a place that all can call home and a place that all can learn together how they can reach out.

To provide a place where we can experience and grow God’s love as a part of a vibrant living and world loving community.

Proclaim the gospel of Jesus the Christ by being a community of care, support, action, study, worship, and prayer. I have been called to pray for others with head, heart, mind, spirit, feet, hands…..

To teach people about God and Jesus and show how to love each other. Be friend and hospitable to each other. To spread love to all the world.

Julie’s Jar

Last Sunday I asked the gathered community to finish this prompt: “The purpose of the church is….and my part in it is….” Thank you to everyone who thought about this and who wrote something. Over the next few Caller issues, I’ll be sharing all of them without reference to who wrote them.PXB - farbenspiel-174873_1920

There are some overarching themes: radical welcome, sharing God’s love in deed and word beyond our walls. There was also great variety among the responses. At first, that variety gave me pause because I felt it first as expectation. How can we possibly be all this to so many? Then I rejoiced because it is what you experience the church to be. I rejoiced because it demonstrates we can be differ in our perspective yet still be held together. I rejoiced because I was reminded each of us has a piece of the canvas and the beauty of the church is not captured by anyone of us alone.

Here are some of the responses. More will be on the way in the future. As you read through them, you may recognize yours. I hope all of you will continue to reflect on this and talk to other people inside and outside church about “the purpose of the church is….” Believe me, plenty of people who never attend church have definite opinions on it.

To make Christ known, [to be] a place of worship & fellowship with one another.

To provide fellowship and spirituality to others, learning from others, helps meet our needs for daily living.

A community to embrace all who are needing family and belonging. I see my role or purpose as a welcoming servant.

To provide a place to worship God together. [For] fellowship with other Christians. To renew and inspire our focus. To share our caring for one another. To remember Jesus and his great sacrifice through the act of communion.

To prove God’s people a place to worship him. To give us a place for fellowship.

Community. Family. To uphold the 2nd most important commandment: love thy neighbor as you love yourself. Checks and balances; accountability. Teamwork, because no one can do everything all alone (that’s how we were designed to operate by God). My place is to Smile, hug, lead somehow (even if it’s a small task or project) be present to anyone that is here in our church, too.

To be a place where all people find welcome, acceptance and can grow closer to God. My place is to welcome and accept all people and share our journeys together.

To share God’s love with the world. To live at peace with expectation.

Julie’s Jar, “Learning from Suffering”

Learning from suffering…

Everyone suffers. This is part of the human condition. Why is it then we seek to distract ourselves from it, run from it, eliminate it? It is impossible to eliminate of thorns

I recently heard a young woman reflect on the need for Christians “to learn to suffer well.” She was not promoting suffering but recognizing there are ways to walk through the inevitable sufferings we will face: those we don’t expect and those we know are coming. What does it mean to suffer well?

Rabbi Steve Leder suggests this: “Everyone of us sooner or later walks through hell. The hell of being hurt. The hell of hurting another. The hell of cancer, the hell of divorce, the hell of chronic pain. The hell of anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s, a kid in trouble. The hell of a reluctant, shovelful of earth upon the casket of someone we deeply loved. The point is not to come out of hell empty-handed. There is real and profound power in the pain we endure if we transform our suffering into a more authentic, meaningful life.” (More Beautiful Than Before, Steve Leder)

As we live through Lent and anticipate Holy Week, remember this notion in the Christian tradition. Jesus died and went to hell, destroying it for the sake of transforming the world. Imagine that; Christ went to hell and did not come back empty handed but unlocked the gates to set all creation free.

Suffering does transform us. Our power in it is choosing how we let it shape us. Many people remember their suffering by reliving the feelings associated with the memory. But it is possible to remember something and not be possessed of the emotions associated with the event(s). It’s work to do this, make no mistake, but it is work that will transform us to be more whole, healed people.

Suffering is inevitable. It’s part of the human journey. Don’t go through that part of your trip without gaining something that empowers you to live more fully and beautifully.