Happy Pride!

Happy Pride, Friends!

After being disillusioned with church for years, I returned to a new and creative expression of United Methodism in Chicago. One of the things that I loved about this faith community was that they, along with the rest of the Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches, marched in the Chicago Pride parade every summer! And marching with us was a 30ft tall, fabulous rainbow Jesus (see picture above). This was always a time of pure spiritual joy. We walked 4 miles giving high-fives to the crowds, handing out flyers, and holding signs that let people know that, “God is proud of you, just the way God made you!”

My three-year-old at the time began to refer to this yearly event as “the rainbow Jesus parade.” In her child mind she knew that this colorful celebration had something to do with the inclusive love of Jesus. I think she caught something that many churchgoers sadly miss, namely that the love of Jesus celebrates and affirms human diversity (including the spectrum of sexual and gender diversity). This is why pride is holy, because God wants us to be proud of whom we are created to be. God offers affirmation and liberation in the face of systemic forces that make it unsafe for all to be “out” or completely free.

Join us as we kick off our new series, God is Proud of You! We will explore the insights the LGBTQIA+ community offer faith and spirituality. And we will also lean deeper into the reality that our uniqueness reflects the Divine. See you on Facebook Live!

Alongside you,

-Rev. Paul Ortiz

Graduation 2021

Do you remember your graduation? It was likely an exciting yet scary time of moving into the unknown. A wilderness space of promise and perplexation. My 5th grade child will soon graduate, and they wonder what middle school will be like. Maybe you remember graduating university or grad school and wondering if you’d be able to land a job in the career you studied for. Or perhaps you already had a job lined up when you graduated, but you wondered what it would be like to actually live into that vocation—after all, internships and practicums under mentors only go so far. Perhaps at your graduation, as you faced the edge of the cliff of the wilderness, you wondered, will I fly, or will I fall?

I imagine the disciples felt similar when they gathered one last time on a mountain to be sent out into the world by Jesus (Matthew 28:16-20). At this point, their three-year training with Jesus was complete. The time had come for them to be sent out to make a difference. Yet they are not sent alone. At the end of his commencement speech, Jesus assures them, “And know that I am with you always, even until the end of the world!”

What does it mean for the Spirit of Christ to be with us as we move into the unfamiliar spaces of our own lives? How does the awareness of Christ’s with-ness embolden us for risk taking action as a church? Join us this Sunday as we conclude our series, Lessons from the Wilderness and continue to move forward with one another. See you on FB Live!

-Rev. Paul Ortiz

Name Changes

Kindred in Christ,

Have you ever had your name changed?

Many of us, when we marry change our name. We sometimes take the last name of our partner, or we hyphen together both names. But names change for other reasons, too. Have you ever had your name changed?

Some people change their nickname as they grow older. When I was young, my Spanish-speaking grandmother called me Pablito (which means “little Paul”). Later when my daughter was two years old, she began referring to me as daddy Paul. And while I would have found that name silly before becoming a parent, it provided profound meaning to my unfolding identity as a parent. Have you ever had your name changed?

Growing up, I had a good friend who went by a female name, that was until they came out as gender non-binary, and then they changed their name to match their true gender. Have you ever had your name changed?

Name changes are important. They signify life changes. A dramatic event that will never leave us the same.

In the scriptures, Sarah and Abraham have their names changed by God (Gen 17:1-8, 15-19). Their names are changed as they step out in faith into the unknown. As we will explore on this Sunday, it is crucial for God to rename them in order for them to live deeper into the unfolding vision God has called them into. Join us as we continue in our series, Lessons from the Wilderness, and reflect on what it means to be renamed by God.

Alongside you,

-Rev. Paul Ortiz

Christ in the Wilderness

“Christ in the Wilderness” by Kelly Latimore.

Kindred in Christ,

The American novelist, theological poet, and environmental activist, Wendell Berry writes:

“As I have read the Gospels over the years, the belief has grown in me that Christ did not come to found an organized religion but came instead to found an unorganized one. He seems to have come to carry religion out of the temples into the fields and sheep pastures, onto the roadsides and the banks of the rivers, into the houses of sinners and publicans, into the town and the wilderness, toward the membership of all that is here.”

Berry highlights for us that Jesus’ life and ministry can be understood as a movement “out of the temples” and into the wilderness where the outcasts and common people reside. Likewise, in the gospel accounts we often witness Jesus retreating into nature in order to hear the voice of God more clearly. The above icon (inspired by Wendell Berry’s words) is a depiction of Jesus’ trust in God and venture into the unknown.

This week, we will reflect upon the significance that Jesus was baptized not in a temple but in the wilderness (Matthew 3:1-3, 13-17). We will also be celebrating the baptism of Abigail Jo Smith! Join us as we continue in our series, Lessons from the Wilderness! See you on Facebook Live!

Alongside you,

-Rev. Paul Ortiz

Pentecost 2021

Kindred in Christ,

Pentecost Sunday is certainly the noisiest of all Christian holy days—a party, the “birthday of the Church.” We celebrate with banners, red balloons, and cake. We hear rushing wind, tongues of fire, and cacophonous crowds. The polyglot celebration of Acts 2 reminds us that God sent all humanity a gift—the Spirit with its promise of passion, diversity, and creativity.

Yet, it is not an exclusive party. With all that wind and noise, and hazardous pyrotechnics of the Spirit, the text tells us that the Apostles were moved outdoors to begin their multi-lingual proclamation. While they began indoors, the Spirit pushes them outdoors to connect with new people in new ways. Rather than starting outdoors and being moved inside a temple, the Church is born when a group is empowered to put themselves out there in a new way.

As the world begins to slowly and responsibly open up and we find ourselves meeting more people in person, I wonder what it would look like to trust the Spirit’s power of creating new and life-giving connections with others. As we wander deeper into the wilderness as a faith community and begin to do outreach events, how might the Spirit be inspiring you with Pentecostal imagination for new connections to happen?

Join us this Sunday, as we celebrate Pentecost and continue in our worship series, Lessons from the Wilderness. I hope to see you on Facebook Live!

Alongside you,

-Rev. Paul Ortiz