Across The Room: A Conversation on LGBTQIA Beyond Inclusion

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Justin Massey is a program associate for Equality California responsible for organizing Southern California Pride events and supporting the organization's healthcare, immigration and safe schools initiatives. Prior to joining Equality California, Justin worked as an independent political campaign consultant for local progressive candidates in Orange County. He is active in local politics and non-profit organizations including as a board member of the Orange County Young Democrats and an active partner of the LGBT Center OC. Justin graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science from Wheaton College in Illinois, where he came out, began his LGBTQ activism and started the first-ever LGBTQ student group at the school which was ranked in 2011 by the Princeton Review as the "#1 Least LGBTQ-Friendly Campus" in the nation.

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Across The Room: A Conversation on Immigration

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For years, we've been hearing about all the challenges with immigration in the United States. Most of us have little first-hand experience with what's happening at our borders, and that's why we are excited to hear from Rev. Dr. Bill Jenkins, founder of Christ Ministry Center, which has provided a "safe harbor" for over 6,000 refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers, migrants in detention, and families broken by deportation. Based in San Diego, his ministry has a working relationship with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as they bring families in need to the ministry. He grew up in Mississippi during the 1960s Civil Rights Era, and he earned a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from Delta State University, where he did his student teaching at an all African-American high school in the Mississippi Delta in 1969-70. This began a lifelong passion for social justice.

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Across The Room: A Conversation on Race

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Last Sunday, we learned that everyone has a story when it comes to the challenging topics of our day. Rather than metaphorically standing across the room and assuming what people think, our desire is to walk across the room to seek to understand the experiences of others. This Sunday, we have the opportunity to hear about the experiences of Pastor Cue Jn-Marie, pastor of The Row Church, a church without walls that gathers on Friday evenings on Skid Row in Los Angeles. For the past eighteen years, Cue has advocated for many of the most vulnerable in our society. Through an engaging conversation, our hope is that our minds and hearts will expand, and we'll be motivated by the love of Jesus to take action. 

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Across The Room: Everyone Has a Story

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Whether you're scrolling through social media or watching the evening news, it's easy to see that our nation is facing quite a few challenging issues such as race, immigration, LGBTQIA, human trafficking, and addiction. Unfortunately, many interactions with friends, family, and co-workers can be polarizing when these issues arise and ultimately leave us standing on two different sides of the room. What would it look like to walk across the room and learn their story as a way to begin a healthy conversation? Listen in as Pastor Sarah Heath and David Trotter we kick off a series of conversations! 

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After God's Own Heart: Nathan Restores David

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This Sunday, we end our summer series on the life of David - someone described in the Bible as being a man after God's own heart. After last week’s message on David’s actions toward Bathsheba, it's hard to see him in a positive or faithful light - much less someone running after God’s heart. This week, we see how God uses the prophet Nathan to call out David's behavior and how David still has something to teach us even as a flawed hero. His reaction to being called out and Nathan’s ability to hold fast to the unpopular truth can instruct us as we seek to be people “after God’s own heart”. Listen in as Pastor Sarah unpacks this difficult section of Scripture.

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After God's Own Heart: David and Jonathan

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People are designed to be in relationship with other people, and we need each other to help us navigate this sometimes difficult life. As we continue our summer series, Pastor Sarah shares on David's friendship with Jonathan. Scripture tells us that their souls were bound to each other. As we think about our own relationships, are there any we would describe as deep enough to be considered soul level? Listen in as we look at how friendship can be one of our greatest callings and how God uses friendship to continue the work of the Kingdom.

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After God's Own Heart: Being Prepared

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The story of David facing the mighty Goliath is known throughout our culture by those who grew up in the church and even by those who didn't. While we tend to think of it as an unlikely hero overcoming a large foe, we can also learn a great deal from David’s stance toward his own identity, not just the battle itself. In this message, Pastor Sarah shares how we can face our own giants and the giants that exist in our current culture.

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After God's Own Heart: David's Calling

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Awake, awake, Church, and clothe yourself with strength! God is calling each of us to rise up in courage while keeping the word ever before us, and remembering that our calling is to GO and DO GOOD. May we learn from David, a man after God's own heart, how to find strength in the wilderness and contentment in the waiting. May we rise and go knowing the One who goes with us. (Message by Abby Martin)

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Panic Attack: Fear of Being Alone

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In this message, we end our series on the fears that can overwhelm us and cause us to feel a sense of anxiety. Many of our fears, if we boil them down to their essence, are wrapped up in our fear of being alone or excluded. Scripture reminds us again and again that there is nowhere we can go from the presence of God. Pastor Sarah talks about how God’s presence can help tackle the feeling of being alone even when it feels like the divine is far away.

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Panic Attack: Fear of Failure

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As we continued in our series on fears, Rev. Nicole Reilley shared about the fear of failure by diving into the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. Although this was a high point in David's life, we were reminded of all his challenges including the loss of a best friend, the loss of a child, and his own inner demons and sin. Failure is a fact of life, but not a way of life. It is a reminder of our own humanity, and we have the opportunity to gain wisdom and compassion in the process. 

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Panic Attack: Fear of Death

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Last week, we began a series on the fears that can control our lives and lead to panic and anxiety. Fear is a good instinct when it keeps us safe, but when we live in constant fear, our mind exists in "fight or flight" mode making us incapable of living in the present. If unaddressed and unchecked, fear can become a general, unnamed, always-present anxiety. As we look at scripture, it is clear that this fear-based life can keep us from the shalom (a sense of wholeness) that God would desire for us.

As we discussed last week, there are times when anxiety is a medical issue, and this isn't the kind of fear we are talking about. Instead, we are talking about the daily fears that add up - often part of a bigger fear, perhaps our biggest fear, the fear of death. Not only do we fear physical death, but we also fear the death of relationships, death of jobs, death of independence, and many other smaller more subtle deaths. In this message, we look at the fear of death and the 1 Corinthians declaration that death has been swallowed up in victory.

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Panic Attack: Anxiety - What Are We Afraid Of?

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We all have things that cause us concern and rob us of the ability to be present to what's in front of us. Throughout scripture, we are reminded we can find peace and comfort in our faith even during times of great stress, but that isn't always easy to focus on in the midst of the storm. For this series, we aren’t talking about the medical reality of an anxiety disorder. Medical anxiety cannot be relieved without utilizing professional help and sometimes a medication to help us regulate our brains. There is no shame in that, and in no way does the presence of anxiety show a lack of faith. Listen in as we find hope in the midst of stress and worry. 

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Makes Cents: Give All You Can

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In this message, Pastor Sarah Heath wraps up our "Makes Cents" message series, which has focused on the challenge from John Wesley to "gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can". This message is particularly important for our church as I shared "why" we invest in what God is doing in and through First United. I talked about the vision of the church and why we exist in Orange County.

In addition, we were all provided a card that gives us the opportunity to share our Giving Goal. This is a great opportunity for us to prayerfully and intentionally make a decision to invest in First United. As you know, the only way that our church exists and will continue to be a place of peace for others in need is through our financial investment.

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Makes Cents: Save All You Can

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We live in a time of economic transition, and for many, a time of economic anxiety. At First United, we are in the midst of a series on how our hearts and minds are affected by the way we feel about and deal with money.

One of the church fathers, John Wesley, made a statement that helps sum up what a faithful treatment of money could look like, "Gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can." These three principles can never be separated, or it leads to the creation of idols, a sense of anxiety, or a deep fear that we aren't enough. In this message, Pastor Sarah Heath talks about what saving looks like in the Kingdom of God. 

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Makes Cents: Gain All You Can

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When it comes to money, it seems like there are strong voices in our culture that are telling us to do one of three things…

  • Make as much as possible in order to acquire more and better things (greed).
  • Save as much as possible so that you won’t ever be without (fear).
  • Give away as much as possible, because the accumulation of money is bad or evil (martyr). 

Rather than focusing on one aspect of financial resources, John Wesley (the founder of the United Methodist movement) challenges us to do all three - “gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.” As we begin a new series called “Makes Cents", our focus will be on an interconnected approach to faith and finances that’s based on a deep trust in God and results in beautiful generosity.

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EKKLESIA: Prayer

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There are many experiences and practices of prayer within the church, and we all come to prayer in different ways. In this message, Jenna Tourje talks about prayer as a way in which people can come together, to experience communion, to experience community, and to embody “with-ness”. We end the service practicing centering prayer together.

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EKKLESIA: Breaking Bread Together

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Throughout our lives, we share meals with many people, and a shared meal is often the place we really get to know people. Think about all the holidays we celebrate where we share a meal around a table. As we read the Bible, we discover that Jesus commanded that a shared meal (Communion) be a regular part of our faith, but oftentimes this sacred act looks nothing like a family around a table. In this message, Rev. Sarah Heath looks at what it means to be the Ekklessia as laid out in Acts 2 and at the power of sharing meals together. 

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EKKLESIA: Teaching

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In Acts 2:42, the early church is described in this way. "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." In recent years, there's been a tremendous amount of research around the best ways that we learn as human beings. It turns out most people learn best when they participate with a mentor in the learning process. As we continue to look at what it means to be the Ekklesia (gathered community), Rev. Sarah Heath examines how we are to be devoting ourselves to the teachings of those who have gone before us and how mentorship plays a role.

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