Good Friday

 “It was nine o’clock in the morning when they nailed Him to the cross.  Even the bandits who had been crucified with Him insulted Him.   -Mark 15:25

     And at noon, the whole country was covered with darkness which lasted for three hours.   -Matthew 27:45

     At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why did you abandon Me?” 
-Matthew 27:46

City invests in responsive solution for local homelessness crisis

Homelessness Response Blog, article by Julie Moore

The City of Seattle has awarded $1.3 million in funding to Compass Housing Alliance to create an enhanced 24/7 homeless shelter opening in summer 2017. The funding acknowledges Compass Housing Alliance’s proven and innovative, person-centric approach to providing shelter and support to Seattle’s homeless population. Compass Housing Alliance will combine safe shelter, complete wrap-around services and intensive case management to bring 100 new, much-needed shelter beds to King County. This model aligns directly with the City’s Pathways Home plan announced last fall.

“The City is very excited for this shelter to open,” said Catherine L. Lester, Director of the City’s Human Services Department. “This shelter is an example of our commitment to making investments that are person-centered. As we continue to implement the principles in Pathways Home, we will continue to invest in services, like this shelter model, that are meeting people where they are and providing individualized services and supports.”

The new Enhanced Shelter is a direct response to the real needs of people who need both immediate and longer-term support to successfully transition out of homelessness. It also provides space for people to bring their possessions, and to come inside with their pets or companions. These accommodations can reduce the barriers persons living outside are facing that typically prevent them from staying in shelters.

Compass Housing Alliance has partnered with Seattle First Presbyterian Church at 1013 Eighth Ave., to house and operate this new shelter initiative. Leaders of Seattle Presbyterian Church are excited to provide the space necessary for this shelter’s unique purpose.

“The 24/7 enhanced shelter model offers individuals the opportunity to stay in one place while searching for a permanent solution, rather than returning to the streets each day and hoping for a bed somewhere that night,” said Janet Pope, executive director of Compass Housing Alliance.

According to Pope, offering a safe place alongside nutritious meals, allows the time for a full assessment of each individual’s needs, to build trust and work toward addressing the barriers to stable housing.

“Compass Housing Alliance has nearly 100 years of experience serving a vulnerable population and have advocated for this system-changing, 24/7 model within the four shelters that we operate. With this enhanced shelter support, individuals can readily secure the appropriate resources to navigate the system toward a successful housing placement,” Pope explained. “The new shelter follows the successful model that Compass Housing Alliance has implemented across our other shelter and housing programs. We can have greater impact in developing a 24/7 facility of this capacity.”

“We follow a faith tradition that champions the concerns of the last and the least in society,” said Reverend Heidi Husted Armstrong, who is currently pastor of Seattle First Presbyterian Church. “We are so thankful to partner with Compass Housing Alliance and in helping people, our lives will also be changed.”

The site also will have an on-site manager to interact with the community, and address issues and the environment around the church grounds.

There will be a community meeting to discuss the shelter on May 22 at 6:30 p.m. at Seattle’s First Presbyterian Church.

Read online.

Maundy Thursday Worship Service @ FPCS

Dear Friends –

As the 40 day Lenten journey to Jerusalem draws to a close, this Thursday night we will recall the disciples gathering in an upper room for the Last Supper…and within hours Jesus being nailed to a cross.

Old Testament scholar Derek Kidner, in his commentary on Genesis, makes the connection between these events and the Garden of Eden, when Eve was tempted and disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit:

“She took…and ate:  so simple the act, so hard its undoing.

God will taste poverty and death before ‘take and eat’ become verbs of salvation.”

Amazingly, God tastes poverty and death in Jesus Christ, not to beat us up, not to make us feel bad, not to read us the riot act, but to help us realize how dear we are to God.

Jesus says “take and eat” and offers us the bread and cup – to give us a tangible expression of God’s love, and who doesn’t need that?

I hope you can join us as we celebrate Christ’s body and blood at Maundy Thursday Worship Service, 6:30 pm—7:15 pm.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

 

April 4 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters & Brothers -

Holy week begins this SUNDAY with Palm Sunday… 

We’ll be reading the account from Matthew’s gospel, which tells us that as Jesus entered Jerusalem “the crowd spread their clothes on the road.” (21:8)   Seems kind of strange to us, but probably this was the way common folk were rolling out the red carpet for King Jesus.  Their cloak or coat was likely one of the most expensive things they owned; this part of their wardrobe had a dual function as both clothing and blanket.

Look closely and you’ll see how the artists below included the carpet of clothing in their artwork: 

So here’s an idea for worship THIS SUNDAY:

Let’s participate with the Palm Sunday crowd!  If you are able, please consider bringing an extra coat or sweater from your closet – or maybe a clean sleeping bag or blanket – to present in worship as an offering.  Afterward we will then share these items with those in need in our community. 

Then on THURSDAY we’ll gather in the Chapel at 6:30 pm for a Maundy Thursday worship service…
I want to encourage you to get to Easter not just directly from Palm Sunday, but by way of the cross. It will make your experience of faith and life MORE REAL, and deeper. 

During this service we will celebrate the Lord's Supper, and participate in a brief Service of Darkness with short dramatic Scripture readings. 

(You are invited to participate in a Good FRIDAY Ecumenical Service at 12 noon, at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1217 6th Avenue, Seattle.  More info at http://plymouthchurchseattle.org/ )

And then we’ll be ready to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday!

Think about inviting family members or a friend…  (Just a note: The meal time after worship on Easter will be simplified to accommodate the schedules of those planning to gather for meals with their families and friends.)

My prayer is that the life, death, and resurrection – the whole journey – of Jesus – will continue to shape us, both as individuals, and as a community of faith. 

See you Sunday!

Pastor Heidi

Mar. 31 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Brothers & Sisters

The season of Lent – the 40 days of reflection and repentance leading up to Easter – is almost over.  This Sunday is the last Sunday of Lent – although technically Lent doesn’t include the Sundays.  Sundays are still days for celebrating the resurrection.  The resurrection doesn’t go on hold during Lent. You don’t pretend it hasn’t happened.  You can’t do Lent, you can’t do Christian faith, without the resurrection!

This coming Sunday the Lectionary text is particularly adamant about getting the resurrection in our crosshairs – as Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 10:1-45).

There are a couple interesting things in the text that jump out at me that I hope we can explore on Sunday…

·      Why didn’t Jesus rush to Lazarus’ side when he heard that his friend was sick?  Why do you think Jesus deliberately waited 2 more days to come to Bethany?

·      Verse 33 describes Jesus as being “greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved,” and again at verse 38 Jesus was “greatly disturbed.” During this Lazarus event Jesus was clearly troubled; maybe even indignant, angry.  Why? Why do you think Jesus so upset?

Then after this Sunday, the following Sunday, April 9th, is the beginning of Holy Week. 

Here’s what will be happening during Holy Week – we hope you will join us…

Holy Week at FPCS

Palm/Passion Sunday
Next Sunday, April 9th, 10:30am
As Jesus entered Jerusalem “the crowd spread their clothes on the road.” Matthew 21:8

PLEASE NOTE:  If you are able, please consider bringing an extra coat or sweater from your closet – or clean sleeping bag or blanket – to present in worship, and share with those in need in our community.

Maundy Thursday
Thursday, April 13th, 6:30pm
A brief worship service, including the Lord's Supper, and Scripture readings with Service of Darkness.

Easter
Sunday, April 16th, 10:30am
Celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord!

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

Mar. 24 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brothers–

I still have boats on the brain (see my Feb. 24th eNews)...

It’s partly because during Lent I am reading a little book about Celtic prayer.  The down-to-earth, rustic Celtic missionaries brought a living faith from Britain to Ireland in the 5th century,  thanks to St. Patrick (we just celebrated his big day March 18); and, then to Scotland in the 7th century, thanks to Columba.

Through the centuries the Celts were spiritual pilgrims, the horizon their call. With a love for adventure they sailed through rough waters aboard their coracles (little boats) not simply to map uncharted territory, but in search of union with a sea-going Christ. 

Maybe it sounds kind of cheesy, but the way the Celts saw it, Jesus really was their Captain. So off they went – their eyes set on Christ, his presence encircling them.

Calvin Miller, author of The Path of Celtic Prayer, suggests that we, like the Celts, must venture forth, and be willing to pray something like this:   

“God, anywhere, anytime, bless this little boat, this voyage I am on.
Give me travels in which I learn not necessarily where I am
or how I’m getting on in the world,
but the  joy of sojourning that draws me into your presence.
Help me confidently sail with you into tomorrow,
knowing that without you tomorrow has no significance
but with you it holds no threat.”

Calvin Miller says the Celts would call this a “long wandering prayer.”  A prayer for the journey. A lifetime prayer. 

It’s an adventure!

Pastor Heidi

Mar. 10 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Friends –

Just a quick reminder - don’t forget to set your clocks ahead this Saturday night…

Of course you’re always welcome to worship, even if you’re running a little late!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

Feb. 24 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brother –

Two nights ago at 8:59 pm the house started shaking, then came two enormous jolts.  Turns out it was a 4.2 earthquake, the epicenter on lower Hood Canal just 8 miles west of our house.  The kinda funny thing was Rick had just spent the whole day transferring our old 25’ cruiser boat weighing 5,000 lbs. from its double axle trailer onto a couple boat stands with a few piles of huge wooden blocks strategically placed under the keel.  The last thing he said as he finished about 5pm was, “We’re good – unless the big one comes!”  Needless to say after the shaker came 4 hours later he ran outside to check on the boat which fortunately stood stoically in place.

I’ve always been a little captured by the fact that one of the earliest images used to describe the church was a boat. 

In fact, at points the church has been likened to Noah’s Ark - because, as Frederick Buechner explains, both have “just about everything imaginable on board, the clean and the unclean both…” resulting in, um, messes everywhere.  And yet, “even at its worst, there’s at least one thing that makes it bearable within, and that is the storm without…”  The church can be a safe place, a harbor.

Still sometimes one can feel overwhelmed in the church-boat.   I recall the 14th century saint, Catherine of Siena, who in the last years of her life, had a dream (or was it a nightmare?!) where a really big ship landed on her shoulder!  Is it any surprise that the brilliant, irenic and deeply spiritual Catherine woke up paralyzed, and died a few months later?   She remains the patron saint for all who feel crushed by the weighty burden of the church. 

So, we’ve named our little troller boat the “Willie C”, after my grandfather.  But a close runner-up name was Misneach (pronounced “Mish-knock”) – an Irish Gaelic word meaning, Courage!  Don’t lose heart. Don’t quit.  Stay with the boat.  It reminds me that when the church-boat is navigating troubled waters, or is not making any headway, or has even lost its way, the Lord says: Misneach!  Courage! Take heart!  It is I. Don’t be afraid.  (Mark 6:50)  It really isn’t ever entirely on our shoulders. We are carried. Best of all, Jesus promises never to abandon ship. 

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

Feb. 10 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear friends in Christ -

“You are the salt of the earth,” we heard Jesus say last week.  If salt loses its flavor it is good for nothing but the trash can.

It’s not a single kernel of salt that seasons; kernels need critical mass. We’re in it together.

Yet a big pile of salt sitting right next to that pot of soup or chunk of steak – but just millimeters away – does not season one bit.  Salt has to get closer, get worked in, be applied.

You are the hot chili pepper of the earth, is the way one commentator updates the metaphor.  The church, the Jesus movement, brings zest to life, flavoring human existence with love, and grace and forgiveness, with joy, and peace, and charity - things that seem to be more and more in short supply  these days.

Otherwise we risk becoming closer to the “tofu” of the world – a bland substance, that just absorbs the flavors of those around us. 

HERE’S A SPECIFIC NEED YOU CAN HELP WITH:

We’d like to help some folks in our congregation who are immigrants from Iran with some basic needs, by bringing these items to the church:

--Hygiene products: shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste

--Household items:  dish soap, toilet paper, paper towels, and laundry detergent 

Questions? Email Kathy Smith at kathryngear@gmail.com

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

Feb. 3 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear friends in Christ –

A couple months ago a Presbyterian pastor friend shared an excerpt from the Presbyterian Study Catechism - Question 39 - which speaks to how followers of Jesus are called to treat people of other faiths (or for that matter, people of no faith at all). In recent days the response has continued to resonate in my mind and heart:

"I should meet friendship with friendship,
hostility with kindness,
generosity with gratitude,
persecution with forbearance,
truth with agreement,
and error with truth.
I should express my faith by word and by deed.
I should avoid compromising the truth on the one hand
and being narrow-minded on the other.
In short, I should welcome and accept these others in a way that honors and reflects the Lord's welcome and acceptance of me."

As a tsunami of words, news, commentary and opinion washes over us these days, I continue to find this brief paragraph both remarkably comforting and challenging as I attempt to seek first the Kingdom of God and confess Jesus alone as Lord.  It’s not just some bland tolerance, but Christ-like humility and radical love that are being championed here. 

I hope we can encourage and help each other with this response this Sunday! 

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

Jan. 27 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brothers –

Whew - it’s been quite a week.  It feels like one of the more divisive moments in the history of our nation – at least in my lifetime (although others of you have lived longer than me, and may see it differently).

I have to say once again I am grateful for the centrality of corporate worship in the Christian life. Every Sunday we gather to affirm our ultimate allegiance to Jesus as Lord, to seek first the Kingdom of God.  We are assured that fear and hate do not have the last word. Grace abounds.  Love wins. 

Interestingly, this week the lectionary text is Matthew 5:1-12 – the Beatitudes (the “Blessed are’s”) – the same text that was read at President Trump’s inauguration.  This is one of those texts that reminds me of something one of the early church fathers said…

“Scripture is like a river . . . broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim.”
                       --Gregory the Great (540-604 AD)

Sometimes the Beatitudes seem so simple and straightforward; other times it feels like we’re in way over our heads, challenged by this upside-down kingdom, grappling with the way of Jesus.

Waders and swimmers alike, I look forward to jumping into Scripture with you this Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

Jan. 13 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Brothers and Sisters –

Last Sunday we were urged to remember our baptism – not just the moment of it, but the meaning of it – to realize that everything that God says to Jesus in his baptism (“You are my beloved Son”), God says to us in our baptism: You are God’s beloved child. 

Martin Luther King’s favorite expression for the church was “the Beloved Community” – meaning together we have the joyful opportunity of letting others know that they are loved by God, too.

This coming Monday we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, honoring this great champion of civil rights and justice in our time.

Some years ago I read an article I haven’t forgotten since, titled, “Why Dr. King Would Have Boycotted MLK Day.” (Kevin Thrun, The Other Side, January & February, 2003).

So why does the author argue that Dr. King would have boycotted the holiday in honor of his birth?  Because the people Dr. King fought for – the low wage workers: the janitors, the cooks and cabbies, the maintenance workers – don’t even get the day off!

The article goes on to explain what happened at the MLK events in Philadelphia years ago – how hundreds if not thousands attended these official celebrations, including, not surprisingly, many middle-class Christian activists who had the day off.  But that middle-class Christian activist group stood in stark contrast to all the young Black, Latino, and African hotel workers loading cart after cart of MLK materials into conference halls; in contrast to all the valets parking hundreds of luxury automobiles; in contrast to all the kitchen workers serving countless plates of food; in contrast to all the janitors hauling out dumpsters full of trash. 

And in the end, the article reported, the only thing all those workers had to say on that MLK holiday was, Those church folk sure don’t tip worth a damn.

Yikes!  That’s what characterized the beloved community?  Stinginess?  We who have been welcomed?  We who have received so much?  We who are so dearly loved?

I sure hope our reputation has been improving.

Be the Beloved Community!

Pastor Heidi

Jan. 6 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brothers –

You know how something comes across your radar, and you just SIT UP and take notice?  It happened to me yesterday afternoon, when I heard a little “ding” alerting me as another email marched into my already crowded inbox, this one from Steve Aeschbacher, the Co-Moderator of the Administrative Commission/Session for First Presbyterian Church Seattle, sent to the Session members.  But what I read was so timely, so encouraging, I asked Steve if I could share it with you, and he said sure.  Here’s what Steve wrote:

Dear friends,
I am so grateful for each of you and for getting to be on this journey together as we shepherd this congregation and seek to build Christ's Church in Seattle.
Today I went for a walk in the cold and prayed. Part of the time I was listening to a guided meditation on the shoot of Jesse (a wonderful part of an advent retreat by “Pray as you Go”). We were encouraged to look at a plant or tree that showed the seeming stillness of winter, and to think about how preparations for spring are happening even now. How God is at work even in the seeming quietness.
I was really struck by thoughts of Seattle First--its present and its future. I was looking at this scene of mostly leafless trees standing in the cold sun, waiting for spring. "The congregation is waiting!" was my strong sense. The congregation we are called to serve is there, and is waiting for God's time to bloom again. How do we cooperate with God while we join in the waiting?
Blessings to you as we approach Epiphany!

So I bet you’ve noticed – it IS freezing outside, and nothing is growing right now.  But it doesn’t mean nothing is happening. 

What IS happening?  I don’t exactly know.  But God knows. And I don’t know what it will look like.  But there is hope.  God is at work.  And as Steve says, what we CAN do is try to “cooperate with God while we join in the waiting.”

PRAYERFULLY PONDER THIS: What does it look like for you, for us, to cooperate with God while we join in the winter-time waiting? 

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

Dec. 22 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Friends –

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

I’m looking forward to seeing you at the Christmas Eve worship service this Saturday at 4pm!  We’ll enjoy some Christmas carols, candles, the Christmas story, and some simple refreshments together.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

PS Remember, there will be no worship service on Christmas Day; we’ll resume our normal worship schedule on Sunday January 1st, 10:30 am.

Dec. 7 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends –

Just a quick note to get the following information regarding the 4pm Christmas Eve Worship Service on your radar. 

Also, PLEASE NOTE:  There will be no worship service on Christmas morning. Sunday morning worship will resume on January 1, 2017.

THIS SUNDAY, the third Sunday of Advent, we meet up with John the Baptist again – and you might be glad to hear he’s a little less firey than last week.  In fact, we could even describe him as being in a bit of a slump or a funk – which, actually, according to mental health experts, isn’t that far off from a lot of folks in in our corner of the world this time of year. Talk about a timely text!  Apparently John even has his doubts about Jesus.  Come and explore his doubts – and yours – and hear some good news.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

Dec. 2 Update from Pastor Heidi

Brothers and sisters –

Advent is not only filled with anticipation for the coming of Jesus, but a yearning for peace.  We saw a picture of peace in our opening Scripture last week from Isaiah 2:4–

[God’s people] shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

And we’ll see it again this Sunday in the images from our opening text from Isaiah 11 –

6 The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

It’s easy to lose hope, to give up on peace, but we could all use a little peace right now, eh?  Our world needs peace more than ever.  But where to begin?  How to start? How to continue?

A very dear friend of mine, who is a pastor, offered this Advent prayer last week.  It gave me hope because it told the truth.  It helped me to pray for peace.  Maybe it will help you too.

Unexpected God,
your advent alarms us.
Wake us from drowsy worship,
from the sleep that neglects love,
and the sedative of misdirected frenzy.
Awaken us now to your coming,
and bend our angers into your peace.
Amen.

In the name, and in the power of the One who is the Prince of Peace –

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

 

Nov. 23 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brothers –

Last Sunday was just one of those Sundays when I felt like I got a little glimpse of the kingdom of God on earth.  Was it the Biblical text (the crucifixion of Jesus between two criminals) tenderly drawing us together, or the bit more diverse-than-usual gathering and sharing of voices as we engaged the Scripture together?  Was it the Christ the King Sunday theme assuring us in these divisive and contentious times that Jesus alone reigns as Lord of all? Was it the lunch hospitality afterwards with lively conversation around the tables? 

It was probably all those things – and more – for which I am so grateful in this season of Thanksgiving. This time of year, I recall words spoken by the 13th century German theologian, Meister Eckhart: “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘Thank you,’ that would suffice.”  Let’s keep praying that prayer!

This coming Sunday is the first Sunday of the Church new year. Yes, Advent begins:  we prepare for the spiritual advent-ure of welcoming Christ into our world and into our lives, and of always being prepared for Christ’s coming again. Be careful of this season getting hijacked by crazy busy-ness.  Two reminders: 

(1) Be deliberate about shopping and spending money.  Rein (reign?) it in. Keep it simple.  Keep others in need on your radar.  Look around you.  Serve them in Jesus’ name.  You can do it.  

(2) Slow down. Stay spiritually centered.   Read through a Gospel.  Or consider using a daily Advent devotional guide like the one attached from Columbia Presbyterian Seminary to keep you on track.

I look forward to being with you Sunday.

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

Nov. 18 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends -

First, the heat is back on!  The Chapel will be warm on Sunday! Yay!

Also, this Sunday is the last Sunday of the church year – usually designated “Christ the King” or “Reign of Christ” Sunday.  Not a bad place to land less than two weeks after a divisive national election, huh?  In fact, our last lectionary text from Luke is 23:33-43 – when the Roman occupying power crucifies Jesus, “The King of the Jews”, between two thieves.   Just a guess, but I wonder if there just might be a little something about politics here for us…and much more!

Holy Spirit come and help us listen to the text, and to one another! 

Hope to see you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

Nov. 10 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear friends –

I am down in Roseburg, Oregon, watching some of our grandkids, and attending a memorial service for a longtime mentor this week.  Rick and I were glued to the TV screen Tuesday night.  By now there has been an avalanche of commentary on the election dissecting what happened.  But I’ll be honest, I am still in shock, and fairly speechless.  So this will be short…

Losers: please don’t despair.

Winners: please don’t gloat.

And followers of Jesus, let’s recall the words of the prophet: “…what does the Lord require of you - but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) 

In other words, sisters and brothers, let’s…

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

PLEASE NOTE: The church heating system has not been repaired yet - so the Chapel will still be chilly this Sunday.  Remember to dress warmly and bring a blanket if you'd like.