Notes from Pastor Lou

October 2019

Word from the Pastor…

Lou Grettenberger, Senior Pastor

A few weeks ago as part of my message I shared the poem, “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost.  It begins “Two road diverged in a yellow wood and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler….  And it ends, “… I took the road less travelled by and that has made all the difference.”  As American Christian disciples it seems like following Christ is the normal road, but sadly the way of the modern church has been so domesticated that it is looking a lot less like the way Jesus really taught.

We even call the place we worship a sanctuary—not a holy launch pad or a spiritual activation center.  Erwin McManus reminds us that too often we have “heard it said that the safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.”  He goes on to say that it is flatly untrue.  If we are connected to God, we are going to find ourselves stepping out of comfort and into mission and action.  McManus goes on to say, “to live outside of God’s will puts us in danger; to live in his will makes us dangerous. (An Unstoppable Force: Daring to Become the Church God has in Mind, Erwin McManus)

Jesus wants us to be a church that isn’t satisfied with the status quo and in fact not in search of status at all.  Jesus invites us to be a church not just on a mission, but that is a mission of God.  This will require us to look at our options and dare to take the dangerous, life-giving, grace-filled road that Jesus travelled.  May we be dangerous to evil, injustice, oppression, forces of bondage, violence, addiction, loneliness, isolation, and desperation.

So let us live the words of our hymn –

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring.

Ring with the harmonies of liberty Let our rejoicing rise high as the listening skies.

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has brought us. Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us. Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,

let us march on till victory is won.

So, two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and us….?

Let’s take the road less travelled, because we want to make a difference!

In Christ,

Pastor Lou

 

September 2019

Word from the Pastor…

Lou Grettenberger, Senior Pastor

engage  [inˈɡāj, enˈɡāj] VERB

occupy, attract, or involve (someone’s interest or attention).

participate or become involved in.

arrange to employ or hire (someone).

to a part of a machine or engine– move into position so as to come into operation.

Dear Members and Friends of UMC Dunes,

I want to invite you to “engage” the ministries of United Methodist Church of the Dunes. As we dreamed about an event for this fall to launch our fall ministry season, we were searching for a word to describe our opening event on September 8. The truth is that this event isn’t just about getting people to join a group or finding able servant volunteers to lead and work in our ministry. It represents a response to a biblical mandate to all the leaders of the church to “equip the saints” for the work of Christ’s ministry. We are called to encourage people to engage.

Ephesians 4:11-13

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

I love the four definitions articulated above, because they describe a movement from outside to deeply inside and connected. Our first role as a church is to attract people to our ministry. We must create interest by the way we conduct ourselves and live out the love of Christ in our community.  Secondly, we must allow folks to participate alongside us in active works of service inside and outside the walls of our building. Third, we must employ people.  Active service in the church is hard work, but worth it, because of the value of our product—God’s love and grace. Finally, we invite people to become part of  a well-oiled machine. The church should be an organized, humming machine that includes all who wish to work and produces good work that impacts our community and world.

 

July 2019

Word from the Pastor…

Lou Grettenberger, Senior Pastor

In his book, “The Celtic Way of Evangelism (Copyright 2000, Abingdon Press), George Hunter compares and contrasts the Roman Church traditions of the first four centuries with St. Patrick’s effort to bring the gospel to the Celts. One way Hunter begins to unpack the differences is to describe the respective monastic communities. The Roman monastic communities were generally removed from the center of the town or village for the purpose of renunciation of the world and to allow time to meditate on the divine. The Celtic monasteries on the other hand were planted in the center of the village or town as an outpost of the church in the community in which it was located. They were like lifesaving stations for passersby.

Hospitality was a hallmark of these Celtic faith communities. What might you find if you stopped at one of these monasteries? When you arrived, a porter would meet you, welcome you and introduce you to other members of the community. The abbot would inquire about your life situation and what brought you to their community, and then offer you a prayer, a scripture, and a kiss of peace. The abbot’s time with you would conclude as he washed your feet and instructed his staff to make you a comfortable place to sleep. If the abbot was in a period of fasting, he would break fast in order to serve your needs.

These monks took seriously Benedictine Rule #53 that “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ.” Over time, visitors would be invited to join in the work and spiritual life of the community—sharing concern and joy, work and recreation. As time passed,  some of the visitors would become residents, and  many “barbarians” became Christian disciples. It’s amazing how a little hospitality can move an outsider first to belonging and in time to believing and serving.

I invite you as members and participants at Church of the Dunes to take seriously Benedictine Rule #53, and respond to the echo of Christ’s voice, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” What might we learn from St. Patrick and his Celtic followers as we seek to welcome the stranger among us?

Pastor Lou

June 2019

Word from the Pastor…

Lou Grettenberger, Senior Pastor

What a day?  

Student and Graduate Recognition Sunday on May 19 was an unmitigated success—some 40 students leading and helping with nearly every aspect of both worship experiences.  What a privilege it was to be engaged with their passion for God and life.  We also recognized and celebrated the high school graduation of seven young men and women in our church. At the end of a day like that one, I have often heard people quip, “they are the future of the church.” Today, that may be more of a prayer than a certain reality. For all our hope for their future, have we created a church of which they will choose to be a part? Are we remaining relevant in an ever-changing world? I have also thought; they are not just “the future” of the church. They are part of the “present” church. Which means their worldview, faith and voice matter now!

I am so grateful that we are a congregation that believes in unity without uniformity. Our church is a garden filled with flowers of varied kinds and colors. The garden is more beautiful in its diversity. Thank you for the privilege of gardening here.

That same Sunday, we also had a congregational information session regarding the recent United Methodist General conference. Thank you to the 80 members and friends of the church who attended. This was step 1 of 3 in a process that is beginning to take shape at Church of the Dunes. Our first step is to gather and share information. This will be an ongoing proposition, but we shared a lot of information and places to look for information. The second step will be to have respectful, grace-filled conversation about our feelings, personal-life experiences, and theological reflections regarding human sexuality.  And finally, we will need to oversee the formation of a plan to move forward in faith together. When upcoming information and conversation gatherings are scheduled, details will be provided in the Sunday worship bulletin.

Please keep gathering information, join the conversation, and help us in the formation of our congregation’s future ministry .

In  Christ’s Love,

Lou

 

May 2019

Word from the Pastor…

Lou Grettenberger, Senior Pastor

Since the 2019 Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church, there has been much talk about how we discern God’s will for our life as a church. Some say, “The Bible says it, I believe it, any questions?” The truth be told, yes, I have lots of questions, doubts, certainties, faith assertions, divine theories all mixed together as I grapple with life and Jesus’ way. Sorting out direction and truth is critical in this moment—gratefully, our founder, John Wesley left us with some theological tools.

The United Methodist Church, asserts that “Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason. Scripture [however] is primary, revealing the Word of God ‘so far as it is necessary for our salvation.” I affirm this approach to life. We call these tools “the Wesley Quadrilateral;” a phrase coined by Wesley scholar, Albert Outler.

A couple of days ago I was shocked to hear a “Bible” teacher on Christian radio deriding anyone who claims that God still inspires us today.  He basically said if an assertion isn’t in the Bible and confirmed by other sources within the Bible, it is to be discarded.  Though an amazing document, the Bible doesn’t give us all the answers with simple clarity. We depend on our tradition to help us interpret the scriptures. We trust that the Holy Spirit is still moving in and among us.  In fact, Jesus promised to send us a comforter and counselor to be with us forever. God gave us good minds, so that we can discuss, debate, confirm, and deny things based on our reason. The Quadrilateral helps us discern direction for our lives individually and corporately.

There is nothing worse, however, than taking on a job and leaving the toolbox at home. I invite all of us to bring to the church conversation regarding human sexuality all of our tools—our knowledge and interpretation of scriptures, our rich traditions and understanding, our personal experience of people and God’s spirit, and well-considered, reasonable positions based on our knowledge of God and scientific evidence.

Our conversation by necessity will be personal and heartfelt. Sharing our stories will require us to trust each other and share our vulnerabilities. I know that our community of faith will be better for our honest, loving conversations.

Let us pray God’s voice will be heard at every level of our church as we continue to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Pastor Lou

April 2019

Word from the Pastor…

Lou Grettenberger, Senior Pastor

Tipping Point

A few years ago Malcom Gladwell wrote a book called “Tipping Point” that examined the factors that caused an organization or a trend to move suddenly forward. Gladwell defines a tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.”

I found this book a very interesting read. It helped me to better understand how a church moves from simply an institution memorializing Jesus, to a movement that embodies Jesus.

I believe Church of the Dunes is near a “tipping point.” Many factors have contributed to this. People of skill and quality have stepped up into leadership, bringing their abilities and experience to an already strong leadership group. We have worked through differences with hard work, love, common purpose and grace. Our people have chosen to connect with the community around us in ways that has made our church more attractive and intentional.

We have children, youth and adults mingling, playing and worshipping together. We have a product (ministry) that is of sufficient quality that people who engage with us return because it makes a difference in their lives. There is a mysterious quality (Holy Spirit) that is palpable in our worship, small groups and mission endeavors.  We are more and more devoted to a common vision and purpose of loving God and neighbor as Jesus taught us–evidenced with new programming for little children, regular inter-generational activities, choirs and groups for children, as well as generationally-focused outreach and care for our more senior members.

We are excited to see old friends becoming more engaged in our ministry, and new friends taking steps toward becoming more involved, even taking the step of baptism and membership in our congregation.

Though we have struggled to support our general fund at times, our finance team noted that we have given almost a million dollars to mission causes over the last 5 years. We also raised around double what we needed last year to support our ongoing parking lot mortgage which will be paid off at or before the end of the term (three more years).

Let’s keep piling on until we reach our tipping point. Friend’s inviting neighbors and friends, inviting neighbors and friends…  God is truly at work.

 

God bless you all!

 

Pastor Lou

March 2019

Word from the Pastor…

Lou Grettenberger, Senior Pastor

A Lenten Mash-Up [ˈmaSHˌəp]

NOUN, informal, Definition a mixture or fusion of disparate elements.

“the movie becomes a weird mash-up of 1950s western and 1970s TV cop show”

a recording created by digitally combining and synchronizing instrumental tracks with vocal tracks from two or more different songs.

computing–a web page or application created by combining data or functionality from different sources.

“a mash-up that mixes CNN news with links to Wikipedia articles”

Dear Friends,

I am excited to announce a creative, spiritual project that we are hoping will provoke and encourage you on your spiritual journey. During the season of Lent we are engaging in our own mash-up. I will be taking the traditional themes of Lent—temptation, self-examination, penitence, renewal and mashing them with the characters and themes of the classic story—The Wizard of Oz. Our theme is “Finding Our Way Home.”

Along the way our creative arts and worship team will be inviting our personal engagement with art installations for our facility and grounds as evidence of progress on our spiritual journey. Of course all of this will culminate with the stories of Holy Week and the challenge and wonder of arriving in Jerusalem—The Emerald City.

Mashing together stories sometimes brings unexpected serendipities. We hope this will happen for all and each of us as we together create a moving and memorable Lenten experience. I hope you’ll join us.

The world (life) is filled with “lions and tigers and bears. Oh my,” but of course, also with the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Lou

 

February 2019

Word from the Pastor…

Lou Grettenberger, Senior Pastor

As we enter February of 2019, we enter an historic month for the Global United Methodist Church. In 2016, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church met. This is the only UMC body that can speak on behalf of the entire United Methodist Church. During that conference, the group came to an impasse on issues related to human sexuality and inclusion of LGBTQI persons in the life and leadership of our church. A motion was passed to ask the bishops to please lead us in the next steps—to find a way forward. The resulting plan called for 2 years of study and conversation by a select group of United Methodists. This group was asked to forward recommendations and plans to a Special Session of General Conference to be held on February 23-26 of this year in St. Louis, Missouri. The Bishops are not voting members of the General Conference—the Conference is comprised of lay and clergy from all over the world representing every conference in the United Methodist Church.

Several plans have been submitted for consideration. The goal remains to help folks remain in faithful and grace-filled unity, common mission, and mutual respect as we find a way forward. I covet your prayers for our general church, our local congregation and for all God’s children as we tentatively move forward in faith.

I am always available for conversation if you have questions. Our Michigan Conference is helping us prepare and follow what is happening through a special website created for this purpose. (You do not need to type “www.” in front of this website to get to it.)

GC.MICHIGANUMC.org

You can watch the conference by live feed at that website as well.

Here are some links for more information. These links are also available on the Church of the Dunes website at www.umcdunes.org; click the tab marked Sermons/News&Events.

http://www.umc.org/topics/topic-human-sexuality-homosexuality

http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/commission-on-a-way-forward

http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/council-of-bishops-letter-to-the-global-lgbtq-community

https://www.umnews.org/en/news/bishops-propose-plan-for-way-forward

Following the conference, depending on the outcome, we will certainly be engaged in continuing conversations and/or decision-making regarding the agreed upon direction of our denomination.

God is good all the time. All the time, God is good!

Pastor Lou

 

January 2019

Word from the Pastor…

Lou Grettenberger, Senior Pastor

January 1, 2019

Happy New Year, Dunes Family and Friends! Just like that, another year begins that will end in much the way 2018 just did.

Last year, I penned the following words to begin 2018–

“You have to wonder what will happen between now and next Christmas? Who will have a new baby, break an arm, start their first job, receive a diagnosis, learn an instrument, join a sports team, graduate, marry or even die? Who knows? Whatever comes we will deal with it–with the help of family, old and new friends, church community, and a loving, graceful God.

We must remember, however, that some things happen to us, while other things happen because of us. I invite you not just to react to what life throws at you this year, but also to dream big dreams for 2018. Then, design and execute a plan that allows you to embrace uncertainly and serendipity as you live your year–blessing others and deepening yourself spiritually.

I don’t know for sure what life will bring, but I know who holds tomorrow. Live humbly. Love big. Forgive always. Trust God. Never give up.”

So, 2018 was rocked by many deaths, changes planned and unplanned, baptisms, births, new members, loss of staff members, addition of new staff members, budget troubles, hard discussions, creative solutions, emerging visions, exciting missions, interesting challenges. LIFE!

We do life together, not out on the end of a branch alone, but as a part of a vine deeply rooted in the love of Jesus Christ. We are one. I still don’t know what tomorrow will bring, probably something different than last year or the year before, but I know who holds all our tomorrows. Let’s live humbly. Love big. Forgive always. Trust God. Never give up.

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Lou