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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August 27, 2017: Hard Questions for God

August 27, 2017

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION 

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This week we will launch into our series on asking hard questions for God. Doubters and skeptics especially welcome! Those of us who have spent time with small children know the curiosity is a natural impulse, central to human development--yet it is often squelched because it can be exhausting for the people who are asked to give answers. Unless we truly explore our deepest questions and fears, how can we expect to learn and to grow? We always welcome questions at Church of Hope, but this month we will give special priority to asking our big questions. We’ll kick off this week with a reflection on Isaiah 51:1-6 and considering one question that’s already been asked: Is God of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) the same as the God of Jesus in the New Testament?

 

What are your biggest questions for God? 

Have you been encouraged to direct your curiosity toward God or to accept things on “blind faith”?

How (un)comfortable are you living with uncertainty and mystery?

 

Sunday Morning Series, Aug 27—Sept 24

One of the things people say that value most (and find most unique) about Church of Hope is that we believe in asking questions. Questioning allows us to be open to learn, to grow, to live in wonder and in awe. God can handle it. We can handle it. As we reflect on the Bible readings at services this fall, we will bring our toughest, most troubling questions. Fair warning: we won’t answer them, but we can all learn in the willingness to ask honestly.  email your questions tocolumbiacityhope@gmail.com.

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August 6, 2017: Gender Justice Sunday

August 27, 2017

We apologize for the recording.  This is only a partial recording.  

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION 

Gender Justice Sunday
 

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photo credit: ecla.org

When you think of “God” what do you picture in your imagination? 

Why does our language and imagery for God matter? 

What do our most familiar images and metaphors say about God? 

What do they say about humankind?

A group of 6-8 of us had a great series of conversations about gender justice with the curriculum our church, the ELCA, as we work toward a new social statement, “Faith, Sexism, and Justice.” We learned about Lutheran approaches to the Bible and social issues as well as exploring issues of gender justice from sexual violence to economic sexism to images of God. We are excited to share some of the insights and ongoing questions in our Sunday gathering.

We invite you to view this diverse array of images of God and consider:
  How do these images make you feel? 

What spoke to you in your yearnings for God and why? Which images strike you as “normal”? 

Which images speak to you in a new way?

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May 21, 2017: More than a Single Story

August 27, 2017

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION 

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More than a Single Story

Sundays in May we will explore a single Bible story, John 4:1-30, from a variety of perspectives. Why are we doing this? When we try to make sense of the stories of the Bible, we are not looking for the one right answer. Lutheran Christians celebrate a variety of viewpoints, each revealing something unique and exciting about the many ways God shows up. 
 

Join us this month as artist Tonia Arehart (May 7), equity educator Jondou Chen (May 14), pastor Darla DeFrance (May 21) and counseling psychologist Philip-Justus Pascual (May 28) each offer insights into the story of “living water” and the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well.  

As we reflect on the story this week, consider: 

 

In her remarkable 2009  TED Talk, the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie notes:  “Show people as one thing over and over again, and that’s what they become.” To really understand each other--and ourselves--we must recognize that a single story cannot possibly contain the entire truth of a person. Jesus saw the woman at the well as more than the story that was told about her marital life. Likewise, the story of Jesus’ was told in many versions, four of which we gathered as sacred texts in the Bible.

What are the most important stories that tell who you are?

What stories about Jesus have you found most compelling?

How do the stories you hear and the stories you tell shape your identity and your future?

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July 9, 2017: Was Jesus a Glutton?

August 27, 2017

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION 

Potluck this Sunday! Was Jesus a glutton?  

We enjoy a potluck together every month, and food is one of the highlights of many religious celebrations. (I say, “Easter” you say, “Ham!” I say “Christmas,” you say, “Cookies!”) Yet there is also a tradition in religious practice of fasting and asceticism. Generations have argued the point: Which brings us closer to the heart of God, feasting or fasting?

Is it possible that the question totally misses the point? Our reflection this week is on Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30, and Jesus notes that people criticized John the Baptist for his fasting, but they approved even less of Jesus’ dining habits. In fact, so much of the history of religion is the story of totally missing the point--fixating on the letter of the law while the Spirit blows where it will, codifying ins and outs, rights and wrongs, friends and enemies, heaven and hell, while Jesus and other giants of wisdom break open the mysterious paradoxes that can never be reduced to either/or thinking. The story ends with another paradox, an invitation to take on the “easy yoke” of following him.

Are you more naturally drawn toward celebration or self-denial? 

What can you learn from the opposite persuasion?

What is Jesus’ “easy yoke” that offers rest for the soul?

When is hard work most invigorating?

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June 18, 2017: Having Compassion

August 27, 2017

THIS  WEEK'S REFLECTION 

Having Compassion
 

fd9ac19a-f9e6-465e-8e46-2444d12c4819.jpeThis Sunday our reading is fromMatthew 9:35-10:8, a story from the early days of Jesus’ career when he invited the folks who were following him to join in the work he was doing. The story begins,  “When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless.” Does that ring a bell for anyone--harassed and helpless? It describes pretty much all of us at one time or another. Surely it even described Jesus and his friends at times. He went on to observe to them:"The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” There is so much to do… and not very many of us to do it! Generations of people who have read Jesus’ words have felt invited into the work of having compassion, reaching out to neighbors and friends and strangers in their moments of harassment and helplessness, opening our own hearts to each other to find compassion in our own frustrations.

 

Where do you feel harassed and helpless?

How does recognizing your own limitations inspire you to compassion?

What work do you feel called to join in?

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