December 31st, 2017: Year’s End Reflection

December 31, 2017

Reflecting on the year that was...

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December 17th, 2017: Fierce Motherhood

December 31, 2017

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When an angel comes to tell Mary that she is going to have a baby, the child of God, her response (Luke 1:46-55) is rather strange and unusual: she breaks into song. And not a sweet lullaby or goofy children’s rhyme, but a song of protest that would be at home on the front lines of any revolutionary movement. Her song is not without precedent: in the Hebrew Scriptures another mother burst into a similar song. When Hannah learned that she would bear her long-awaited baby Samuel, she also responded by singing praise to the God who

“raises the poor from the dust,
     and lifts up the needy from the garbage pile.”

We’ll be joined by our very own real-life Hannah and her baby Samuel (Frelot) this week to consider these ancient mothers’ songs and how the fierce protectiveness of motherhood can extend to all children (and all who are vulnerable) rather than becoming inwardly focused. Hannah Frelot is working with her husband Jasen and other collaborators here in our basement to create the new Columbia City Preschool of Arts & Culture as well as the up-and-coming Kids & Race program. Join us for a lively discussion on how Mary’s parenting helped shaped the young Jesus into the man he became, how the fierceness of motherhood can be channeled for the greater good, and the power of song in shaping our lives.
 

(How) does the care and compassion we practice with those closest to us extend outward to others who are vulnerable? 
 

What music do you play and sing in your home and how does it shape your life?

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December 10th, 2017: Choosing Hope

December 31, 2017
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“My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyedI have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,with no extraordinary power,reconstitute the world.”

― Adrienne Rich
 

Sometimes good news comes very well disguised. The angels of Luke’s gospel announce to the shepherds “good news of great joy to all people,” but the angel of Matthew’s story came to Joseph with the somewhat less delightful news that his fiancee, Mary, was pregnant. (Matthew 1:18-25) For Joseph, knowing that he wasn’t the father, this could hardly have registered as good news. Our retelling of the Christmas story rarely takes seriously how betrayed and confused Joseph must have felt. But if we put ourselves in his shoes for a moment, what would we have done?  What did he fear? What did he risk? What did he doubt?

Matthew’s gospel sets the stage: things are a mess. A marriage is on the rocks before it even begins, corrupt and greedy politicians rule the day, innocent lives are threatened by the power games of the leaders. If any of this sounds familiar, sit with Joseph’s story this week and ask: When an opportunity (like Joseph’s invitation to be Jesus’ stepfather) feels like a total disaster, what goodness might actually be hiding within it? In spite of everything, Joseph chose hope. In spite of the evidence, Joseph chose to trust Mary and to love their child. Even with a visit from an angel, this couldn’t have been easy for him. It’s never easy for us, yet the world is held together by our courage to choose hope, our strength to be like Joseph and live into the world we want to see.
 

How do we take seriously the brokenness and pain of the world and yet hold on to hope that God is in it

How do we choose the Advent promises of hope, love, peace, and joy?

 

BonusFor another take on how Joseph might have felt, check out“Joseph, Better You than Me” by The Killers

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December 3rd, 2017: Advent Begins

December 31, 2017

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION

 Advent Begins
 

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During the four Sundays of Advent, we will hear the story of Christmas in four parts, through the lenses of the 4 Gospels, from the points of view of 4 characters in the story (John the Baptist, Joseph, Mary, and the mystical “Light of Christ.”)  All of these stories are usually melded together for the typical Christmas tableau, but we will take them separately this month to consider the unique perspective of each. The stories and rituals of Advent offer us a way to root ourselves in these ancient stories in order to also awaken to the reality of God in the present moment and reach out in hope toward the future. You are invited into the story to open your heart to the wonder of the story of God finding a home in the world.

 

This week we begin with the story of John the Baptist from Mark 1:1-8, the “voice calling out in the wilderness:  “Prepare the way of the Lord!”

Advent is a season of preparation, getting ready--but what are we really waiting and hoping for? How can this story invite us to slow down and pay attention to what is real, what matters?

How does rooting ourselves in the stories and rituals of the past (our personal histories as well as traditions that span centuries) give us strength for the present as well as hope for the future??

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November 26th, 2017: Power of Vulnerability

December 31, 2017

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION

 Power of Vulnerability
 
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Ah, the holidays. That time of year when we gather round to give thanks at the same time that we face the fact that our families are not *exactly* like the greeting card visions. Perhaps we are lonely for those no longer among us, feeling the stress of old wounds, the heaviness of  the distances that have grown up between us. Thanksgiving is perhaps best known as that day you look into the faces across the table and wonder, “How did it happen that we are related?”

As our country is growing even more politically polarized, we come to the time in the church year that celebrates the Reign of Christ.  The day was established in 1925 in direct response to the rise of Mussolini as dictator in Italy. The world had seen the wreckage of WWI,
had sworn it would never happen again, and yet saw the nations moving toward ideologies and power dynamics that would erupt into WWII. It doesn’t have to be this way, the church tried to say. Our ultimate loyalty must be to God, to Christ our King, not to Mussolini or Hitler, or even to Churchill or Roosevelt. Not to Trump or Clinton or Sanders. We actually can have a common grounding in our humanity that goes deeper than our political loyalties.

Of course this is so easy to say that it can be trivial, so we also hold in mind the story of Matthew 25:31-46 in which Jesus as king subverts ideas about power and leadership. Looking at power through the lens of Jesus’ chosen powerlessness makes us stop and ask—what about the most vulnerable members of society? What about those who don’t seem to have any power to wield? What happens to us in the choices we make about how to treat those who have less than we do? Learning to see the image of God reflected in the most vulnerable people among us can also prepare us to see the image of God even in our most difficult relatives, even in our most complicated selves.

Where is God showing up in your life during this time of Thanksgiving?

What relationships (or lack thereof) are hardest to give thanks for--and what power might be hidden in those? 

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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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