Pine UMC's mission is to be a place of worship, to fulfill spiritual needs and provide avenues of service,
so that Christ becomes a reality in the world.
We are A Church For All People and A Reconciling Congregation.
Come and celebrate Sunday worship service with us:
Nichigo (Japanese) Worship Service at 9:45 a.m. and English Worship Service at 11:00 a.m.
Cherry Blossom Festival
Pine UMC will be serving up Wafudog at the festival on April 9 & 10. Come support us!
Pastor's Playlist ~ February/March 2016
In case you missed it, here is my sermon from Pine's Combined Christmas Service on December 20th, based on the Scripture Reading from Luke 1:39-55. As we enter into this season of love, let us be mindful of the ways God's love shines among us and in our lives and let us remember the many that have lovingly nurtured us along the way.
Today's text focuses in on Mary, through her song, known as the Magnificat. Mary, mother of Jesus, remains to be a character just as mysterious as her son. So much controversy around her virginal status and her young age. She doesn't even speak very much. There's not much written about her in the Bible, yet this woman was the one that God chose to bear the Emmanuel - God with us, God in flesh. Since we don't get very much about her in the text, there's so much speculation about who she was - why this woman, of all women, was chosen to birth the hope of a people, the Messiah, the one called to save us all from our guilt, our brokenness, and all the other stuff that keeps us from coming together as participants of bringing God's realm here on earth. Today's text is probably the most she says in one sitting. And what she has to say is so prophetic - meaning, Divinely disruptive of our world as we know it. It gives us some insight on who Mary was, is, and can be. And how knowing her in this way can help us in our anticipation, in our preparation, in this Advent season, for God with us, God incarnate.
So many images and imaginings of Mary depict her as a docile or passive woman. Before seminary, I haven't gone out of my way to really undo that image I had of her. I figured that I'm not Catholic, so why does a different, empowering image of Mary really matter to me? I've also had much difficulty with the character of the Mary I had been given - wait, this woman had no choice in the matter? God just "chooses" her and then - boom - she's pregnant? Why would she even put up with that, without protest? Did God get her consent? That seems unfair and seems to be another passage that just perpetuates this male God again that can do whatever "he" wants... Until I read liberation theologian's, Robert McAfee Brown, take on it in his book "Unexpected New: Reading The Bible With Third World Eyes", in which he dedicates an entire chapter on Mary's Magnificat.
Mary's Magnificat is not only poetic, but prophetic. She sings of the undoing and overturning of empires - scattering the proud, bringing down the powerful from their thrones. She sings of the oppressed and hungry being fulfilled and the rich going away empty, showing favor and mercy to the lowly. She sings of a radical reshaping of our present world - not an afterlife. This is a very different image of Mary - she isn't merely a good girl, a representation of purity that woman must aspire towards. She is a teenage girl with radical ideas of how the world could be and should be and how God is acting in this world today and even in her own humble life. Her thoughts are revolutionary, to say the least. A few may even describe her as being militant - bringing down empires, lifting up the poor, bringing down thrones, and filling the hungry.
These are also ideas that are part of the legacy of her ancestors, of her community. Much of the overturning of powers mentioned in her song brings to mind the words of the prophet, Isaiah. The Magnificat also reflects the song sung by Hannah, mother of Samuel in 1 Samuel 2. She sings a similar song after not bearing a child, then unexpectedly bearing Samuel, right before giving Samuel to serve with Eli at the Temple. Mary doesn't sing these revolutionary ideas out of thin air - they are the backbone of her community's survival and journey with God. And of course, such a woman, raised and grounded in such roots, would be the mother of Jesus Christ.
Also, notice that Mary's Magnificat is written in the past tense ["God has..."]. This signifies that such turning of tables, toppling of empires has already happened and is happening. God, acting through a poor Jewish girl from an insignificant rural town, in the hill country of Judea, is already acting in ways that uplift the lowly and, therefore, bring down the powerful. In the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Old Testament, we read of God working through kings and authorities. But here, God works in an unexpected way - on behalf of the lowly and through the lowly. The lowly are agents of change, not victims dependent on the superficial and temporary kindness of the rich. Not through emperors, but through an individual that has so many parts of her identity that marginalize her in Roman-occupied society - poor, woman, Jewish, teenager, unmarried.
Yet this Mary starts her song by saying "My soul magnifies The Lord." What does it mean to magnify God? How can it be that this woman of no status actually magnifies God, actually somehow makes God bigger? It may sound arrogant at first hearing, but in actuality Mary sings this out of gratitude, and maybe even anger over the uncertainty of her future, that even she, some poor teenage girl from hill country, is part of the history of God's redemption of the people. Mary must be feeling empowered, filled with Divine support, feeling a connection to something much bigger than herself.
Those who are willing to participants of making God's realm a reality here and now can, indeed, magnify God, make God bigger - through us, through our humble hearts, through our empowered spirits - God calls us all to participate that God may be made bigger and that God's will for us includes us - from our personal, individual life events, to the local and the global. We are all called to magnify God, to recognize that we are connected through this big God, and that we are called to allow for God's purpose to move through us in ways that transcend pettiness, that move us beyond the limited values of our world.
Our world that tries to teach us that war is peace. Our world that tries to teach us that extraction of our resources and exploitation of our people is necessary, so that we lucky "chosen" can survive. Our world that tries to teach us that sacrificing our comfort isn't a beautiful or significant gift we can and must give for equality and justice. Our world that tries to teach us that only money is security. Our world that tries to teach us that simply being human and created by God isn't enough for someone to deserve to live in dignity.
In Mary's soul magnifying The Lord, she recognizes that this birth that is going to happen from within her and is not just something happening to her, but to the whole community. In this way, Mary's Magnificat and Hannah's song, are ways that these two women recognize God doing great things, not just for them, but for the whole people and for the wholeness of the people. So much power is held in the songs of such women. And Mary visiting her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth, reminds us of the ways that community come together to support, understand, and love one another. In many ways, this coming together can be just a small way we can participate in turning over the tables, with the vision of justice, wholeness, and liberation for all people and all of Creation.
Today and this week, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, let us also remember the power and humility of his revolutionary mother, Mary, who God found worthy of birthing hope and transformation in human flesh and in human hearts. As we savor these last few days of Advent, let us take up practices and ways of living that allow us to embody God magnified. Let's move those things out of our lives that keep us worshipping a tiny and limited god. And as we continue to wait for God with us and as we continue to seek God's presence, may we be as open as this faithful woman to being a participant of making God's realm of peace and hope a reality for all people. Amen.
- Rev. Jeanelle Nicolas Ablola, Lead Pastor
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Sundays at 9:45 a.m.
Sundays at 11:00 a.m.
Combined English and Japanese:
1st Sundays or Christian Holidays at 10:30 a.m.
Sunday's Bible Study
9:30 a.m. in Shiota Hall
Every Sunday except Combined Worship Sundays
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LGBTQ Bible Study
Every other Wednesday
7:00 p.m. in the Lounge
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Prayer Music Meditation
Every other Wednesday
7:00 p.m. in the Lounge
All are welcome!