Roots of Methodism

Kindred in Christ,

This week we are starting a new worship series titled, Roots. We will explore what it means to be Methodist, which refers to the denomination we are affiliated with. We are going to look at some of the early “roots” that began the growth that is still blooming though us today in new ways.

I believe that to guarantee forward progress; we often must let go of our grip of the past. If we cling too tightly to the past, then we end up dwelling and becoming stuck and ultimately resist God’s forward movement. However, to guarantee the integrity of that forward progress, we also must look at the roots from which we stem. Examining our roots is different from holding on to our past.

As we will explore together, deep within our Methodist roots is an early revival movement, which inspired people to rethink church in their time by prioritizing people over any church model or structure, and to dynamically hold together things like piety (personal faith) and social action.

Whether you are a life-long Methodist, have connected with this tradition more recently (like me!), or are brand new to U Gathering and do not know what “Methodist” even is, I invite you to join us as we (re)discover this early revival movement and what it might means for us today. Along with the sermon series, we will also gather before worship online at 9AM during Enrichment Hour (Zoom link below). There, we will go deeper as I lead us in discussion and exploration on the rise of the early Methodist movement. This is a passion project for me, which I have been dreaming of for some time. And I am excited and grateful to finally dive in deep with each of you!

Alongside You,

Rev. Paul Ortiz

Zesty Church

Kindred in Christ,

Last week we began our worship series on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount titled Blessed. We considered how after Jesus lists his counter-cultural blessings, he concludes the opening section of his discourse by proclaiming over the gathered congregation, “You are the salt of the earth,” “the light of the world,” and a “city on a hill” (Matt 5:1-15). Too often churches become synonymous with being boring or committed to the status quo. And while we have many lovely traditions, there is often a need to reimagine them and do something new. Jesus invites his followers to not be bland or flavorless. Instead, we are called to be zesty and spicey! He challenges us to stand out and to do something noticeable that draws others in—like a city on a hill.

This past week I also joined seven recent members of our congregation in hosting our latest printmaking pop-up on the lawn of University Heights (see above). And while we began with the concern of getting rained out, the rain cleared, and we ended up hosting our biggest pop-up event yet! We created art with over 50 people and blew bubbles and played with even more families and kids. Some people recognized us and mentioned being happy to see us back. Others asked who we were and wanted to learn more about our church. And, as always, we had a couple sign up for a pastoral meet up over coffee sometime in the next few weeks. We did something interesting that drew people in and created community!

I am excited to continue to find ways of doing church that are zesty and interesting. And I look forward to continuing to explore Jesus’ vision of transformation and discipleship in the Sermon on the Mount over the next few weeks.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz


Kindred In Christ,

Join us as we begin our new series, Blessed. We will spend five weeks studying Jesus’ central teachings, which are often referred to as The Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew chapters 5-7. In these chapters we hear Jesus’ manifesto of the kin-dom of God, which he begins by insisting that it is the outcast and the rejected who are blessed. During this series we will ask, what if Jesus really meant all the radical things he said? And we will consider how Jesus’ counter-cultural vision and call to discipleship goes beyond expecting us to merely “believe correct things” or simply “be good people.” But rather invites us all to undergo divine transformation in all aspects of our lives—interior, personal, and societal. We hope to see you in-person or online as we seek to go deeper in discipleship and experience the liberating transformation of God in our lives.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz

Baking Bread and Growing Community

Kindred in Christ,

I remember being 10 years old and being babysat for a day by a woman from my church that was known for being a phenomenal baker. After a couple of hours of playing with her dog, she could tell I was beginning to get bored and asked if I wanted to bake something with her.

“Bread!” I said excitedly. I love bread. I aways have, and always will. “We can do that,” she replied. Apparently, bread only takes four ingredients: flour, yeast, water, and maybe salt. Who knew it was so simple? I didn’t until then!

So, we began to clear the counter tops, we got the bowls and ingredients, and I start to feel one part homie-old-fashioned, and one part food network. And I liked that feeling!

She instructed me to get out her cookbook. And I when turned to the bread section, I realized that the bread recipe was a lot longer than I thought. It’s just four ingredients, but it’s paragraphs of instructions! First you levin the yeast, then mix it all together, knead the dough, set it aside in a special towel covered bowl, and then you must wait for it to rise. Afterwards, you divide the dough and put more flour, and then wait some more for it to rise before you can do some actual baking.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed I asked, “How long will this all take?! My sitter responded, “About four hours.”  Feeling dismayed I said, “I was hoping we could eat something in about 20 minutes or less.”

“Honey, that’s not how bread works,” She replied. So, in the end, we made chocolate chip cookies instead. It wasn’t for another several years after that I would come to learn the deep and warm joy of committing to the process of baking fresh bread for myself and loved ones.

Worthwhile things often take time, and they take the right ingredients. Baking bread, growing a community, and revitalizing a church, all take time, and the right mixture of our patience and participation. Our personal Christian spiritual lives are also this way.

Join us this Sunday, as we conclude our series Depth of Grace. In past weeks we have considered three aspects to the Christian Spiritual life (see below), and this week we will conclude with “floating” in God’s grace—the need to sometimes rest or wait in God and trust the unfolding process of God in our lives. We also hope you will remain after worship for an update from our building committee on the unfolding process of our future building plan, which has been a holy work of patience, participation, and trusting in God.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz

Depths of Grace

Kindred in Christ,

Letting go can be hard. And yet, for an authentic Christian spirituality, it is essential.

I was once at a church retreat. As I was relaxing and reading a book on a beach chair on the dock of a lake, I was overhearing a conversation between my friend Brian and his then 11-year-old son, Henry. “I want to learn to dive!”, Henry stated with excitement. Apparently, he was a good swimmer and diving was the next step.

My non-anxious parent-friend said, “Sure, son. It’s not too difficult. Just stand at the edge of the dock. Put your hands together while pointing them to the water. Then lean over and just let yourself fall headfirst into the lake. That’s how you dive.”

Henry looked a little puzzled, “Really, that’s how you dive?” So, he puts his little body into position. He waited for the courage to come. And right as he began to let himself go and dive into the lake, he simultaneously tried to pull himself back up at the last second, which resulted in him belly flopping instead of diving. He came up spluttering and gasping, “Dad, it didn’t work!”.

Brian responded, “That’s right son; it’s because you didn’t let yourself fall in. Good try though! Try again. I know it is scary, but this time just let yourself fall in.” Henry tried again and again for half an hour! It just did not happen. Each time he would end up on his face or belly, because he would hold back and not just let himself fall in. Eventually, he gave up and walked back to the cabin.

I was watching all of this with great interest from the corner of my eye while pretending to still read my book, because I personally know how hard it can be to just let go in life and trust God. I think Henry’s story speaks for a lot of us who want to go deeper, beneath the surface of our spirituality or relationships, but find it hard to let go of the superficial things that provide us temporary comfort.

Over the next three weeks we will explore together three aspects essential to the Christian spiritual life, both for us as individuals and as a church:

I look forward to exploring these themes and learning to go deeper together!

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz