From the Pastor

Now that was holy! What a meaningful, delight-filled Holy Week. It was a pleasure to travel with you all through the wilderness of Lent into the sacred Triduum – the three day Passion of Christ.

*Maundy Thursday Sacred Meal

 

On Maundy Thursday, we gathered around beautiful tables of grace. We shared bread and scripture, wine and laughter. It was truly a delight to remember our sacred story, the story of our salvation, told by all the people gathered around the table. Thank you to all who were present, all who prepared food, and helped to bring this Sacred Meal to life

 

 

 

*Good Friday

Good Friday took a solemn turn. We gathered around the barren altar to pray, sing, read and linger in the hollowness of grief. We joined the ancient church in Solemn Reproach – hearing Jesus cry out, “O my people, O my church, what have I done to you? How have I offended you?” The same story of Salvation that we celebrated on MaundyThursday, became a reminder of our separation from God.

 

 

 

*Easter Sunday

 

Death does not have the final word! Sunday morning brought Good News of Resurrection and new life. We celebrate that we are an Easter people! In her book, The Three Day Feast, Gail Ramshaw expresses it like this, “Christians keep Easter in a big way because the death and resurrection of Christ keeps us.” Yes indeed! We celebrated this Good News with doughnuts and candy-filled eggs and each-other.

 

 

Thank you for this holy week. Experiences like this make me even more grateful for the time we have shared. Our family is grateful for all the ways you have shared the love of Christ with us. As my call with Celebration comes to a close, I look forward to sharing even more meaningful moments with you all. And I am sure, in the month to come, we will continue to join Mary Magdalene’s proclamation, “I have seen the Lord!”

Easter Blessings!

Pastor Jen

 

 

From the Pastor

Wafer and Wine

The story of our salvation is shared one sacred meal at a time. Gathered around tables of grace, we are fed and nourished by Jesus. Gathered around tables, the faith is passed from one generation to the next. Gathered around tables, strangers become neighbors. We eat simple food that becomes sacred. We hear simple stories that contain the divine.

Sacred meals are sprinkled throughout the Bible. Far from a feast, Adam and Eve’s relationship with God is transformed as they eat the fruit of the tree of good and evil. The Israelites eat manna in the wilderness as they dream of milk and honey in the Promise Land. Exodus 12 outlines the feast of unleavened bread – the meal honoring the time the angel of death passed-over the homes of the Israelites. This Passover feast is the same meal Jesus asked his disciples to prepare in an upper room. There the Passover feast is transformed into a new covenant – a sacred meal of wine and bread, blood and flesh.

We remember Jesus’ Last Supper and the institution of Holy Communion each Maundy Thursday. This year, instead of Beer & Hymns, we’ll gather around common tables to feast on the story of our salvation. We’ll learn how our Jewish brothers and sisters mark the Passover with a Seder Meal.* Inspired by their faithful tradition, we’ll read scripture, share a common meal and expect Christ to be revealed in our midst.

So I invite you to enter the story of our salvation. I invite you to gather around tables of grace, to eat simple food that becomes sacred and to hear simple stories that contain the divine. In this, Christ will certainly be revealed.

Peace.

Pastor Jen

*Christian Theologians caution the faithful about reenacting Seder Meals. They worry at will not honor our Jewish brothers and sisters. Check out this article from Christianity Today or this article from the ELCA for more information.

From the Pastor

Wait for it. Wait for it. This Sunday, December 3rd marks the beginning of Advent, a season of holy longing. With Christians around the world, we eagerly anticipate the birth of Christ.  We prepare room for Jesus – in our daily lives, in our homes, in our relationships. This is an active waiting filled with hope and great joy. And when Christmas finally comes, it’s worth the wait.

As you and yours wait faithfully, there’s no need to sit idly and twiddle your thumbs. Think of these as holy possibilities, not holy obligations. I commend to you this Active Advent Calendar. It contains a list of reflections and activities that embrace the waiting and help you prepare for the birth of Jesus.  If you’re a rule follower, you can begin today, December 1 and continue through to Christmas. If you’re a rebel, I dare you to meander throughout, pick your favorites, change up the order, do what you will. Either way, I hope that this time of active waiting will create space in your life so that Christ might manger with you.

Advent Blessings!

Pastor Jen

 

ACTION! ADVENT CALENDAR

  1. Create space for your nativity, as you set it out take a moment to retell the story. Don’t have a nativity? Ask Pastor Jen to help you make one or find one.
  1. Make a list of 10 things that bring you HOPE.
  2. Keep awake! What makes you tired or bored. How might you be more awake to God at work in these things?
  3. Wake up 10 minutes early, use the time to execute a Random Act of Kindness.
  4. Contribute toward the Christmas Food Bag collection for our friends at Holmsley Elementary.
  5. Read about Christ the Light (John 1:1-5) then go for a walk in or around your neighborhood and look at Christmas lights.
  6. Make a homemade card for someone and hand deliver it.
  7. Introduce yourself to a neighbor that you have never met before.
  8. Make a list of 10 places that bring you PEACE.
  9. Prepare the way of the Lord! What might it look like for you to prepare Christ room in your home and your heart?
  10. Buy some water, coffee, cocoa, snacks, etc. to give to people you meet on the street.
  11. Read Luke’s Nativity Story (Luke 2:1-20) then retell the story in your own words.
  12. Find 5 things that you could do without and donate them.
  13. Read a newspaper or watch the news, then pray for all the places that need peace in our world.
  14. Sit still for 5 minutes and imagine what peace looks like.
  15. Make a list of 10 things that bring you JOY.
  16. Do not be afraid! Think about what makes you afraid. Is it realistic? How does it hold you back from living fully?
  17. Bake some treats for Bethesda’s Cocoa & Cookies gathering, then come mingle.
  18. Read Matthew’s Nativity Story (Matthew 1:18-2:12) then retell the story in your own words.
  19. Buy something you’d really like to have for yourself and give it away.
  20. Give $5 to someone who looks like they could use a little joy and love.
  21. Create some paper snow-flakes and hang them up for others to enjoy.
  22. Make a list of 10 people who taught you how to LOVE.
  23. Let your soul Magnify the Lord. Find a Christmas Eve Worship to attend with your people.
  24. Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus!

 

From the Pastor

hunger-in-america-hands-go-orange

You give them something to eat. – Jesus

Well there you have it. When the crowds closed in, the disciples were motivated to send them on their way. They looked hungry and pretty needy. But Jesus had something else in mind. “You give them something to eat.” So they gathered their sparse resources and Jesus turned the little something into an abundant feast for all. (John 6:1-14).

I imagine Jesus would respond in the same way today. When a hungry kid shows up to school day after day without a thing to eat. When the man on the corner pleads for compassion and nourishment. When a family of four falls subject to unfortunate, unforeseen circumstances. You give them something to eat.

Throughout 2017, we give head to Jesus’ command as we focus on hunger – both locally and globally. We started back in January as we began to gather food and funds for Souper Bowl of Caring. A mound of cereal, peanut butter, jelly, chili, spaghetti and more accumulated at the foot of the cross. This food will fill the bellies of our hungry neighbors served through Cypress Assistance Ministries. You give them something to eat.

This summer, we will gather around tables for sacred worship. Remembering all the times that Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it and gave it to others. Breaking Bread is a central part of the Christian faith, and so we follow Christ’s example of gathering around tables – with people we know well and people we seek to understand. And together we learn that those who hunger, hunger not only for daily bread, but also for meaningful connection. You give them something to eat.

This fall, we’ll turn our focus to world hunger. We celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with Beer & Hymns. For this 4th annual event, we join our Bishop, Mike Rinehart, in an effort to raise $500,000 for ELCA World Hunger. Let’s raise a pint in hopes of raising $5,000 to help alleviate hunger around the world.

You give them something to eat – today, and tomorrow, too.

Pastor Jen

From the Pastor

 

epiphany-home-blessing-2017-blue-door

Happy Epiphany! Today is the day – the 12th day after Christmas to be exact – the day we celebrate Epiphany. In our holy story, it’s the day we remember the Magi’s journey from the east. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that the Magi followed a star to find the newborn King. Christ’s incarnation marks a new beginning, a holy reign for all people.

This time also marks a new beginning for us. Not only a new year, but also a new season in the life of our church. In this season of Epiphany we celebrate the revelation of God incarnate – 2,000 years ago and still today.

As a community we will mark this season of revelation with Epiphany Home Blessings. This ritual is a meaningful way to honor the Christ who dwells with us. A traditional way of doing this is to use chalk to write above the home’s entrance, 20 + C + M + B + 17. The letters C, M, B have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the three magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They also abbreviate the Latin words Christus mansionem benedicat, “May Christ bless this house.” The “+” signs represent the cross and 2017 is the year.

So, I invite you to take part in this meaningful ritual in one of two ways. You may pick up a Home Blessing Kit this Sunday to chalk your own home. Or, I would love to come over for a blessing ritual and time of fellowship (Warning: Emma or Lily will likely be in tow). Contact me or RSVP on your connect card so we can set up a time. Either way, I hope you and your household will take a moment to celebrate Christ’s presence – wherever you dwell.

Peace.

From the Pastor

credo water

The gauntlet has been cast. Last month, I challenged all of you to write a personal creed, a statement of faith that proclaims your understanding of God and your modus operandi. Are you up for the challenge?

You – yes you, in the back row – you are invited to write and read a personal statement beginning with the words, “This I Believe.” September 18 we will start our new series, Credo. The series explores one of our communal statements of faith, The Apostles Creed. As Christians, we hold certain beliefs in common, and diverge on others based on our unique life experiences.

Your creed might take on a variety of forms. You might elect to write a topical creed focusing on a key characteristic of God. Maybe highlighting the welcoming nature of God, the radical welcome of Jesus – inviting all to the table – and your own personal calling to stand for welcome. Or, perhaps the format will give shape to your creed. Perhaps you are a list-maker or a poet or a storyteller. Let the medium be your guide in shaping the message.

I invite / welcome / challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone, to intentionally reflect on your beliefs, and to find the courage to share. Don’t know where to begin? Here are two examples of personal creeds. I hope they stir your imagination as you prepare to write your own. Still perplexed? Lets grab a coffee, or a glass of wine and figure it out together!

Peace.

Pastor Jen

 

This I Believe
By Jen Kindsvatter

I believe that God, my God, called life into being.
That God stooped down, felt the dirt under her fingernails, and stirred-up: new life.
Maybe it wasn’t in 6 days, or a year or a decade. But it was in time, in divine time.

And in this creation, God, my God, saw that it was very good.
The creepy crawly things, the slightly smelly things, the seemingly useless things.
The creator of all – saw it all – as good, as worthy, as purposeful.

This God, my God, did not see all that was made and say, “That will do.”
Instead, he said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Fill the world with good things.
With green growing things, spiny spikey things, untamed wild things. Multiply!

In the midst of this creation saga, my God breathed deep
And exhaled her very own breath of life, into thin air, and fulfilled: new life.
Human life, in the image of God, the heartbeat of the Creator.

And this life-giving, fruit-bearing heart was set to work.
To till and to keep, for the sake of others.
To reign, not with dominion, but with creative passion and wonder.

Eden did not last long.
The shiny packaging of sin, of power, lured the life-giving keeper away from wonder, Temptation took root, life began to dwindle.

Creation groans. God, my God, looks on in despair. But not defeat.
The Creator of all, creates again.
This time, breathing her very own breath of life into divine lungs.

Hope is restored. New life breaks forth from the desolation.
From the wounded side of the divine, pores living water for all.
The life-giving, fruit-bearing keeper is restored and lives to restore.

This, I believe.

 

This, I believe.
By Jen Kindsvatter

I believe all people have intrinsic value. Not based on how they behave or what they have accomplished. Based on their humanity.

I believe that I have intrinsic value. That I am not defined by how busy I am or how much wealth I amass. That the labels that adorn my clothing, my car, my home – do not define me. That the only brand I adorn with integrity is ‘Child of God’. And this label is not of my earning. It is a gift. Abundant grace.

I believe that you have intrinsic value. Whether you agree with me, whether you are kind to me. Whether we know each other well or live worlds apart. Whether we share a similar system of belief or have nothing left in which to believe. You, neighbor, have value. Not because I have blessed you with my approval, or afforded such worth to you, but because you, too, were created Imago Dei, in the image of God.

I believe that I am not meant to be the dispenser of value; I am meant to be a conduit of honor. I honor others by knowing their name and relating from a place of shared humanity. I honor others by being genuine and kind, by acknowledging my faults and seeking reconciliation. I honor others by curbing my appetite for power, by living simply so others might simply live.

I believe that Jesus was and is the perfecter of honor. The quintessential example of valuing others based on shared humanity. In incarnate love, Jesus came to dwell among us, to be one of us. And in perfect love, the intrinsic value of all people – Jew and Gentile, slave and free, rich and poor, male and female, and anywhere in between – is affirmed. Jesus invites all of humanity to love one another.

I believe that my paramount responsibility in this life is to love people well. Starting with myself, extending to my family and friends, my community of faith, neighbors close to home and neighbors separated by space. When I live well, love radiates through me and my soul magnifies the Lord.

This I believe, with my whole heart.

Just a Thought…

“I can’t profess to understand God’s plan, Christ promised the resurrection of the dead. I just thought he had something a little different in mind.” -Hershel Greene, The Walking Dead

“For God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  -2 Corinthians 5:21

 

One of my favorite shows is The Walking Dead. I know, I know.  It’s not the most “family friendly” of shows. Some might even question why a pastor would watch such a graphic, and sometimes gory, show.

But what I love about The Walking Dead is how it captures the spirit of the human condition- how broken people seek to survive in a broken world.  How some are able to overcome their own foibles  and rise to become heroes, while others with upstanding character fall from grace.  Oh, and I enjoy the zombies, too!

That’s the way of life, actually, isn’t it? One reason I am Lutheran is because  of our understanding of sin, and how it permeates everything. We too, like the folks of The Walking Dead, are a broken people living in a broken world.  Although sometimes we may rise heroically, there will always be times when we fail miserably.

It’s like the Zombie virus. As Rick Grimes would say, “We are the Walking Dead!” There’s no escaping it, it will always catch up with the survivors in the show.  And that’s the same for us when it comes to sin.

It’s as Saint Paul says, “So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me… I’m a miserable human being. Who will deliver me from this dead corpse? Thank God for Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:21-25).

Yes, thanks be to God for Jesus, who overcame death and the grave to bring life to the world. And in Christ, there is a kind of forgiveness that allows us to start over and begin again… and again… and again.

No, forgiveness doesn’t wipe away the evil we do, the brokenness of our lives. There will always be consequences that come with sin and evil.

However, Christ is able to take our brokenness and transform it, redeem it. Christ keeps sin and death from having the last word. And that is hope that can even overcome zombies!

Just a thought on this All Hallow’s Eve.

+pax et bonum

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