November 19th, 2017: Letting Go of Fear

November 19, 2017

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION

 Letting Go of Fear

 

7e39a281-7a68-48f7-9434-bed74ec979dc.pngAs we head into the holiday season, our Bible texts for the season invite us to step back and consider the longer arc of history and eternity. In another parable from Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus we consider what we do when life puts us into situations where we have more “talents,’ more power, more responsibility than we want or know how to manage. Pretending that you don’t have the power --burying it underground--doesn’t help anyone. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a leader in the Resistance Church in Nazi Germany said that “the sin of respectable people is running from responsibility.”  All too often, we know the right choice to make, but it takes courage and effort and to do it, and it can feel safer just not to even try.  The truth that we often overlook is that we’re not actually safer when we let our fears rule us. Fear can cut us off from others and our own true self.  It can feel like being banished to the outer darkness, alone and weeping and grinding our teeth at night.
One prayer-poem inspired by this parable observes:

“Fear makes us cling rather than letting go.
But clinging only binds us to our fear.    It does not set us free.
Practice letting go.
All that you are and all that you have is God’s.
You have nothing to lose.
Practice giving yourself away.”  

(Steve Garnass-Holmes, Unfolding Light) https://www.unfoldinglight.net/reflections?month=November-2011

 

What is the power and responsibility you are called to claim and put to use?
 

How might you practice giving yourself away rather than holding back in fear?

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November 12th, 2017: Celebration Potluck - Officially A Congregation!

November 19, 2017

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION

 Celebration Potluck!
 
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We are a full congregation of the  Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)! We voted unanimously on Sunday to form a congregation and call Darla as our first pastor. Thanks to everyone who has been part of this community over the past 7 years as we built this church, and thanks to everyone who will be around for the next 70 as we continue to practice spirituality that matters, support each other, and extend radical hospitality.  If you’d like to sign the charter, it will be around through the month of November and everyone who desires to commit to this venture is welcome to sign! We’ll celebrate this week with our monthly potluck--please bring any food you’d like to share.
 

This Sunday, Nov 12: As we head toward the holiday season, our Bible texts pick up the themes of expectancy, finding hope, and light in the darkness. This Sunday, as we round the corner from a mass shooting in a church last week, the anniversary of last year’s Election Day, and plunging into the dark evenings of daylight savings time, the reading from Matthew 25:1-13 brings us a parable on waiting. And perhaps more to the point, a reflection on how to be prepared to wait. While the politicians’ “thoughts and prayers” ring ever more hollow, we ask what it means to match prayer with readiness to act.  

What are you waiting for, longing for?

What’s giving you a sense of hope this week?

What is the link between prayer and action?

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November 5th, 2017: For All the Saints - Voting to Form a Community

November 19, 2017

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION

 For all the Saints: Voting to Form a Community
 

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Every year on the first Sunday in November, churches all around the world celebrate that we are part of a community much bigger than our local gathering. We still commune with those who’ve gone before us: the beloved ones we’ve just lost and well as those who’ve lived thousands of years ago all over the world. We are surrounded by their spirits, and we are all held in God’s embrace.

But the Church is not just an abstract concept that spans space and time--it must also take on flesh, here and now, for us. It must also encompass those we see at school, in shops, on the streets, at protests, serving those in need, working for justice, celebrating milestones of life. And so for the past 7 years we have been creating a new community of grace here in Columbia City.  This Sunday we will vote to officially form a congregation of the  Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

I (Darla) am so delighted to be part of such a vibrant community that we are creating, and I think we are creating a compelling example what it looks like to be a faithful Christian community, taking seriously Jesus' (and the prophets’) repeated insistence on bringing outsiders in, re-centering the community on those who would be pushed to the margins. And we are living out the spirit of the Reformation, asking hard questions and pushing through whatever cultural baggage might threaten to block our connection to God. This is exactly what Martin Luther wanted to do, and we are most faithful to our tradition when we are always reforming.

    In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12) he reversed many expectations of what it means to be blessed, and we continue living into the challenges and questions that he put forth. Inspired by his teachings, we will continue to be a place where all are welcome to be just who you are, to ask questions, to work for justice in the world, and to live in wonder.  

Who are the saints who’ve inspired you?
 (We will have time during the service to say their names and light candles for them.)

 

Why the ELCA in particular? Great question: here’s a document I created explaining the network of our corner of the Church and exploring this question in depth.

 

(P.S. Speaking of voting, remember to get your ballots in by Tues, Nov 7 for Seattle Mayor and other important races!)

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October 29th, 2017: Reformation Day - 500 Years of Grace in Action

November 19, 2017

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION

 Reformation Day: 500 Years of Grace in Action

 

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In honor of the 500th anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed some tough questions to the door of his church in Germany and sparked off a reform movement in the church that we are still living out, we will have our own conversation about what it means to be the church today. The reading for this week is from Matthew 22:34-40, where a lawyer asks Jesus, “Which commandment is the greatest?” Jesus answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” In our reflection we will ask what it means to love God, neighbor, and self-- with a particular focus on creating a Charter for our community (see draft below).

What are we committing ourselves to in being part of this community? 

What does it mean to love God, neighbor, and self?

What does grace look like in action?

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October 22nd, 2017: Lutheran Theology of Grace and Baptism

November 19, 2017

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION 

Lutheran Theology of Grace & Baptism
 

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We’re continuing our month long conversation on what it means to be part of an ongoing reform movement within the church, particularly what it means to be part of the Lutheran Church (ELCA)--celebrating 500 years of re-formation with a vote to form an official congregation! This week, we delve into Lutheran theology of grace, particularly as it’s expressed in the sacrament of baptism. In our reading from the Bible, Matthew 22:15-22, Jesus is asked a tricky question about taxes which he famously answers (in the good old King James version that makes for great cliches) “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” He’s reaffirming their responsibility as citizens, yet also unleashing even bigger questions: Aren’t all the things God’s? The sacrament of baptism is a promise that we always belong to God and are always received in love by God. What does it mean that even we ourselves, made in God’s image, belong to God? What does God’s love free us to become?

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October 15th, 2017: Decolonizing Lutheranism

October 15, 2017

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION 
Decolonizing Lutheranism

 

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This week we are highlighting the necessity for confession and repentance for the ways our church has caused harm, while also offering a hope-filled call to continue reforming so that we might excel in our embodiment of God’s grace as we move into the next 500 years. Church of Hope’s work for justice is supported and amplified by reform movements such as Decolonize Lutheranism, a reform movement within the ELCA to lift up the stories of people who are not part of the dominant culture, but who identify as Lutheran and who want full inclusion without forced assimilation.

Our reading this Sunday is yet another challenging parable of Jesus from Matthew 22:1-14. There are many interpretations of this violent and puzzling text about a wedding banquet. If we approach it mindful of the racial and class disparities that persist among us today, it might prod us toward some unsettling questions:

 

Who among us is confident that they are the welcome guests at the metaphorical wedding banquet--and why do some feel that confidence while others do not?

How can the church learn not to entrench societal divisions between insiders and outsiders, the chosen people and those cast into the outer darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth?

How does the gospel repeatedly place at the center those people who society wants to keep at the margins? How do we, as people of the gospel, respond to a society that is set up to keep racial hierarchies in place?

What kind of gatekeeping do we (unintentionally?) support? What are our blind spots, where we perpetuate exclusionary practices that undermine our efforts to be a community where all are truly welcome and valued?

 

Why Lutheran?

This month marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which traces its birth to the day (October 31, 1517) when a Catholic monk named Martin Luther posted a list of 95 Theses (points for discussion) to the door of his church in Germany. 500 years later, here at Church of Hope we continue in the Lutheran tradition of discussing hard questions, sharing meals together, gathering weekly to pray and sing and celebrate communion, working for justice for all God’s people, and living as “saints and sinners”--accepted by God’s grace and transformed by God’s love to live in freedom and hope. 
 

    Celebrating this 500th anniversary presents a great opportunity for us to explore more deeply what it means to be Lutheran (though there will always be a place for everyone here at Church of Hope--whether or not you consider yourself Lutheran!). As we learn about taking the step of officially organizing as a congregation, we will have time for study, conversation, and questions.

Check out this pamphlet for discussion, with examples of what Lutherans are up to and places of resonance between the ELCA (our Lutheran denomination) and Church of Hope. Download here or pick up a copy at church!

 

Always Reforming: 500 Years of Re-Creating the Church

Sundays in October

During the month of October, the community of Church of Hope is entering into conversation discerning whether the time is right for us to officially organize as a congregation. We are already in relationship with theEvangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), our financial sponsor and spiritual home for these first 6 years of our existence.  

Since many of us do not come from a place of identifying as Lutheran, this is a good time to explore: Why the ELCA in particular? Great question:here’s a document exploring this question in depth, welcoming your participation! I invite you to reflect on these points, explore the various links, and participate in the ongoing conversation! Your comments are welcome: directly on the google doc (hit the “comment” button in the upper left of your screen), email us and/or join us Sundays in October to discern together how we will be church.

Oct 8: Lutherans Working for Peace and Justice

Oct 15: Decolonizing Lutheranism

Oct 22: Lutheran Theology of Grace: Baptism

Oct 29: Lutheran Theology of God among Us: Communion

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October 1st, 2017: Blessing of the Animals

October 15, 2017

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION 
 

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Bring your pets to church this Sunday! (And/or remember to take your allergy medicine!) Your cats, dogs, rats, hamsters, all of God's creatures are welcome in this special Sunday morning service celebrating St. Francis of Assisi and the wonder of pets and the blessings they continually bestow on us. (Beloved stuffed animals and pictures of shy animals are welcome too!)

As we celebrate St. Francis, the patron saint of animals and creation, we will also reflect on Psalm 148, a hymn of exuberant praise to the Creator. Thanks to the creative energy and tireless effort of Naomi Cooper, we are now greeted by the image of a sacred tree rather than a stern white Jesus when we walk into the church. The tree is a rich theological symbol in the Bible, from the tree in the Garden of Eden to the cross on which Jesus was crucified to the Tree of Life in Revelation. (pic included below)
 

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What do you encounter as sacred in nature--pets or trees, mountains or water? 

How does the natural world amaze  or awaken you? 

What aspect of God does it reflect to you? 

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September 17th, 2017: How Often Should We Forgive?

October 15, 2017

 

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION 
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We continue our series on Hard Questions this week as we turn to one of Jesus’ parables in Matthew 18:21-35. One of the disciples asks the hard question: “How many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?” Jesus’ unfathomable response is that the exceedingly generous seven times isn’t nearly enough! Not only that, but Jesus uses an economic example in the parable, as if the concept of forgiveness weren’t difficult enough with introducing the touchy subject of money.

    This parable echoes Jesus’ teaching in the prayer he taught his followers: “Forgive us our debts (sins/trepasses) as we forgive our debtors.” The most literal translation from the Greek is debt/debtors, those we often use the more metaphorical concepts of sin and trespass. The question about forgiveness leads us into the paradoxical nature of God, upholding both mercy and justice. How much injustice in the world is economic in nature? Who is actually called to forgive what? When we consider this parable through an economic lens (and it was told through an economic lens, so it isn’t much of a stretch), we might ask: Who is being called to forgive what? It’s not the powerless called to forgive oppressor who’ve heaped harm upon them, but the powerful debtors who are holding the bank notes. Hmmm….

As we try to make sense of the implications of this parable for our own lives, here are a couple of the questions we’ll tackle this week (to see the whole list of questions that were submitted, and/or to add your own questions, click here).

  1. How/why/Can there be “punishment” from God when we are taught 1. We are ALL God, made in God’s image 2. God is ALL loving and forgiving?

  2. Why does Jesus talk about hell and punishment? Evil is real, but who, what and how many are evil?

  3. Daily prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: 1. Who are you, my God? Who am I?

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September 10th, 2017: Faith Action Network Celebration

September 12, 2017

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION 
 

We are officially an Advocating Congregation with Faith Action Network! This means we committed to advocating for the common good, partnering with other communities of faith to build a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world. We will celebrate this partnership on Sept 10, welcoming FAN Organizer Chasity Jones to lead the reflection on hard questions for God and will  join us for a special celebratory potluck after the service. Please bring a dish to share, questions about FAN, and your calendar to sign up for upcoming actions!

 

02d1869e-bade-4f05-a655-8a0d6f54a82a.jpgChasity Jones is a Global Mission Fellow with the United Methodist Church. She is from Mandeville, Louisiana and is entering my second year as a community organizer with Faith Action Network.
 

She writes: I have bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in history and worked in the mental health/social work field as a wraparound facilitator following my college graduation in 2014.  My time in Seattle has been priceless in that I have discovered so much about myself as well as life outside of my home.  I have been blessed to participate in an anti-oppression/ anti- racism workshop with Crossroads Ministries, Advocacy Camp with the Children’s Alliance, co-facilitated a workshop titled ‘Issues Preventing Unity Within the Black Community’ at the MLK Day Celebration 2017, and organized and co-convenes Faith Action Network’s Healthcare working group.  I am a certified yoga instructor, a Krista Colleague- class of 2017, leading FAN’s racial equity initiative, and co-founded Momentum – progressive young adults of diverse faiths seeking change.
 

I am passionate about standing with the black community as well as educating others about the black experience as well as collaborate on how to continue discussion, initiatives, and strategies to achieve social transformation and undo institutionalized and systematic racism.

 

For this Sunday, she will be reflecting on Genesis 1:27-28 and invites us to consider:

 

So God created humankind in God’s own image,

  in the divine image God created them;

  male and female, God made them.

God blessed them, and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’

—Genesis 1:27-28

 

“Can the Church of Jesus Christ be politically, socially, and economically identified with structure of oppression and also be a servant of Christ?”

 

When does the Church cease to be the Church of Christ?”

 

"What does the gospel have to do with the oppressed of the land and their struggle/journey for liberation?"

 

"Does life experience, cultural, and historical context influence how we see God?"

 

"Can theology be informed or influenced by whiteness?"

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September 3rd, 2017: Complaints Department Open

September 12, 2017

Recording this week is a partial.  We appologize for the quality and shortness...

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION 
 

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We kicked off the “Hard Questions for God” series this week with dozens of questions (you can email yours to columbiacityhope@gmail.com  or bring your questions to church anytime!) A lot of our questions are around justice and suffering: Does God see? Does God care? When and how and where will God do something about it?!

These exact questions were often on the hearts and lips and pens of the psalmists and prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures. Our reading this week from Jeremiah 15:15-21  gives us a glimpse of an argument between God and a particularly fierce prophet who asks God some hard questions of his own:

Why am I always in pain?

   Why is my wound incurable,

       so far beyond healing?

You have become for me as unreliable

   as a spring gone dry!

God responds with patience and grace: I am with you. Yet I can almost hear Jeremiah sneering across the centuries, “Really? Where??” Where is God in the hardest questions of our day, where we face unceasing pain and incurable wounds? Where is God in the flooding of Houston, in the entrenched white supremacy throughout our country, in the tent cities that keep getting pushed from place to place? I wish I had better answers to these questions, but I welcome you into conversations this month where we will ask them together, shouting and complaining and whining to a God who promises to be with us, no matter what.

What are your complaints for God?

What do you think are God’s complaints about the world? 

What comes after the complaining?

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