May 17 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Friends! –

We’ve been taking some time after worship/lunch these days for some Congregational Conversations about some of the transitions we are facing at First Pres. Seattle.  Last Sunday we had a great conversation about what has happened at FPCS in light of what has been happening in the larger Church in North America, what some call “the great unravelling.” It refers to the massive social change in the last 50 or 60 years, and the fact that the church no longer at the center of culture.  We had a great conversation about change, and why change is soooooo darn difficult for us to embrace.  (For starters: Change is loss. People don’t resist change. People resist loss.)

This week our Congregational Conversation will focus in on the kinda crazy idea that the great unraveling might actually be good news for the church! And we’ll explore some ways we might begin to live into God’s future for the church.

So plan on sticking around after worship/lunch this Sunday (from about 12:15 or so, for about 45 minutes). I’ll have some things to say – but your voice will matter, too!

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As we continue in the season of Eastertide, on the 5th Sunday of Easter the sermon text is John 13:31-35 – which brings us to one of the simplest, but most challenging things Jesus ever said. I hope you get a chance to read it through a few times before worship, and we’ll explore the text on Sunday as we preach together.

Look forward to seeing you on Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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May 10 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hey Everybody! –

It was good to take some time after worship last week to talk about some of the transitions we are facing as a congregation. And, in fact, as I mentioned, I’d like to carve out some more time in the coming weeks to have a bit more conversation together.  So mark your calendars and plan on staying after worship/lunch (from about 12:15 or so, for 45 minutes) for a few more Congregational Conversations in the coming weeks. I’ll have some things to share, but your voice will matter, too:

May 12     What happened to the Church? (The Great Unraveling); and, why is change sooooo hard?

May 19     Can we really sell – and even (gulp) demolish? – a church building??? (Aren’t they sacred space?)

[May 26     We’ll have worship and lunch, but no Congregational Conversation today]

June 2      How to do church in the 21st century? Start with “the God question”

June 9      Developing a litany for letting go, and leaning into God’s future…       

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As we continue in the season of Eastertide, the sermon text for Sunday is John 10:22-30 – which, um, doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the resurrected Jesus!  Still there’s a lot here to chew on, so I hope you get a chance to read it through a few times before worship.

Look forward to seeing you on Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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May 4 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Everyone –

Ooops – this eNews is late – Rick and I have been busy with a massive yard project late this week – thatching, aerating, overseeding and adding a layer of compost to our lawn (about 8,000 square feet!). I can barely walk today! But I’m grateful to be outside in this glorious weather!

Two things real quick –

We are starting to think about some transitions at First Pres. and I want to bring you up to speed this Sunday – so plan on sticking around for a few minutes after worship if you can. 

Then take a minute to check out the sermon text for tomorrow – from John 21:1-19 – once again the resurrected  Jesus is showing up and meeting people where they are. There is so much to talk about here to encourage us in our journey of faith.  I look forward to talking with you tomorrow!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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April 18 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Friends –

Today is Maundy Thursday – and while we do not have a service tonight at the church, I found it helpful to reflect on what one pastor just reminded me:

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Also – for those who can make it – we’re joining Plymouth Church for a Good Friday worship service at noon tomorrow.  The address is 1217 6th Ave, Seattle (just a couple blocks from FPCS).

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*****

And then we’ll gather on Easter on April 21, 10:30 am in the Chapel to celebrate the good news of the resurrection.  Think about someone you could invite - somebody from your family, or a friend or neighbor...someone who’s searching, who needs to know God’s not dead.  After all, we’re not just gathering to remember what happened 2,000 years ago, but to be invited to consider again the crazy good news that Jesus is alive – NOW!  Indeed, Jesus keeps showing up among us – not only in church, but in our everyday lives, with abundant love and life transforming power. 

We’ll have a simple lunch after worship, too, so plan on sticking around if you are able.

Grace and peace to you this Holy Week,

Pastor Heidi

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April 12 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Friends –

This Sunday is Palm Sunday – the beginning of Holy Week.

I hope you’ll take a few moments to read through the text in Luke 19:28-40. What do you notice?  What does it stir up in you?  What are your questions? Where do you see yourself in the text?

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At the end of Palm Sunday service we’ll begin to transition into the Passion of Jesus…

I also want to invite you to be participate in a Good Friday worship service that I am going to be part of this year – over at Plymouth Church, 1217 6th Avenue (just a couple blocks away from First Pres.), at noon:

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And then we’ll gather in the Chapel to celebrate Easter on April 21, 10:30 am.  Maybe give some thought to inviting somebody from your family, or a friend or neighbor...someone who’s searching, who needs to know God’s not dead, and abundant love and life transforming power exists.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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April 5 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brothers –

Scripture is messing with me again. More specifically, Jesus is messing with me.

Last week we had the so called prodigal son spend his entire inheritance in loose living, only to be upstaged by an even more Prodigal ( = extravagant, lavish, excessive) Father. I think it was Ann Lamott who said, “Grace always bats last.”  Yup. With the bases loaded. And hits a home run. Every time.  In Jesus Christ God holds nothing back. 

Apparently the lectionary wants us to grapple with extravagant giving again this week as we meet another spendthrift (I always thought the word meant stingy or miserly, but it too means generous, extravagant) – this time in the form of Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, who takes a vial of super expensive perfume and pours the whole thing on Jesus feet and wipes them with her hair.  A little over the top, don’t you think? His disciples thought so. Well, actually only one of them did.  Um, it was Judas.  Judas hated the waste.  But Jesus made it clear Mary was doing the right thing.

In response to this text a friend of my confessed: “My tendency is to idolize restraint.”  Me too.  I’m pretty frugal.  I opt for moderation.  Do the prudent thing.  Hold back a little in reserve.  If I really sang that old timey hymn, I Surrender All, it might sound more like--

I surrender…some

I surrender…some

Some to Jesus I surrender

I surrender…some

See what I mean: Jesus is messing with me.

*****

Read through the text in John 12:1-8 + 9-11 a couple times and see how if it might be messing with you, too: notice what it stirs up in you; notice your reactions, your questions.  And let’s talk about it together on Sunday.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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March 29 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brothers –

Oh boy – I’ve read the sermon text for this week a gazillion times before.  It. is. so. familiar.  At first I thought I would just go on automatic pilot.  But it’s rocking my world again!  It’s making me think!

     How can I have been a follower of Jesus this long and still wonder if it’s true that no matter how far we have strayed or screwed up, God runs out to meet us with open arms and a feast of welcome? 

     How can I have been a follower of Jesus this long and still be trying so hard to remember every day that I’m not better than anyone else, that God has no favorites, that no one is more deserving of God’s love than another?

     How can I have been a follower of Jesus this long and so often forget that we are created to care for something beyond ourselves, to joyfully give our lives away in love?

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I suspect Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 is super familiar to you, too, but I hope you’ll get a chance to read it through a couple times and notice what it stirs up in you, your reactions, your questions.  I look forward to sharing in another rich sermon conversation together on Sunday.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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March 22 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Friends -

My “grateful meter” has been up there a bit these days – for the sunshine we’ve been having (yes, even though I know the rain will return).  The warm weather even spurred some long overdue window washing around the Armstrong house!    

I was also really grateful for the Holy Spirit-ish time of worship at FPCS last Sunday – as we reflected on Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem, his desire to gather God’s people like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and how that text connected with the shootings in the Muslim mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.  We actually had a majority of people of color in the congregation last Sunday (outnumbering white people), and folks coming from a variety of socio-economic places, which made our preaching together particularly rich.  Once again I had the sense that we are a sneak preview of the kin-dom of God, and a truly blessed congregation.

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So I’ll be honest: I had to read the sermon text for this Sunday from Luke 13:1-9 (a conversation between Jesus and some bystanders) about a gazillion times before anything started making sense! In other words, nothing was really grabbing me…but eventually the penny kind of dropped! There is some really good stuff here – about why people suffer (you might be surprised at Jesus’ answer)…and about repentance (it’s not just feeling bad about yourself).

I hope you’ll get a chance to read it through before Sunday a few times, notice your questions – and I look forward to sharing in a sermon conversation together.

Hope to see you on Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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March 15 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hey Everyone!

OMGoodness. We had quite the amazing event earlier this week at FPCS with nearly 600 folks from the NEXT Church Conference swarming through the building and filling the Sanctuary.  It was two and half days packed with prophetic challenge, inspiring worship, and a deep sense that the relentlessly creating Holy Spirit is not done with us yet (First Pres. and the larger PCUSA denomination)! Visions were enlarged, souls fed, hopes deepened.  Gratefulness to Good oozed all over the place!

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As I write this eNews our world has been shattered by yet another hate-filled white supremacist terrorist attack - this time with Muslims being gunned down in mosques in New Zealand.  Early this morning I was moved by the heart-wrenching wisdom of Dr. Omid Safi, Director of the Islamic Studies Center at Duke University, who wrote:

*This terrorist attack is not an aberration. This is not about mental illness, it is not about one person. This is where all the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant discourse over the last few years leads to. A friend Susannah Heschel recalls her father, the great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel saying:  “Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda. Words create worlds…”

Words create worlds.

Beautiful words create beautiful worlds. 
Hateful, divisive, angry words likewise create a hateful and ugly world.

We have to confront racist, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, patriarchal words. If we wish to create a different world, we have to confront these words everywhere and everywhere, and offer beautiful words instead.

*This is global. The terrorist in New Zealand praised Trump, and praised Serbian genocidal anti-Muslim movements. The response also has to be global. Those of us committed to love and justice have to be reaching out to one another, comforting one another, loving on one another, and protecting one another.

*Start at home. Hug your kids. Reach out to your Muslim friends. 
Show up. Show up in love and solidarity and support. 
We are in this together. Some of us are more vulnerable than others. It’s up to all of us to love and protect one another.

Especially as we continue in the 40 day season of Lent – a time of spiritual preparation and repentance, of turning to God – we not only confess our personal sin, but our participation in sinful systems that do not protect vulnerable people, and with God’s help, we rededicate our lives to “show up in love and solidarity and support.”

*****  

In the sermon text this Sunday, Luke 13:31-35 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. Jesus laments.  Take a look at the text and see what taps you on the shoulder (for me it’s this verse: “How often I have desired to gather your children together as a hen gather her brood under her wings…”).  Bring yourself to the text, notice your questions – and we’ll share in a sermon conversation together on Sunday.

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Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

March 8 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hey Friends!

The 40 day season of Lent has begun.  It’s a time of preparation, of repentance, of turning to God.  People often give up something for Lent – chocolate, Facebook, wine…church (just kidding).  Someone suggested just giving up for Lent! That might actually get closer to the whole point – to give up ourselves more fully to God. These coming weeks can be a time of taking spiritual inventory; or, something like a spiritual spring cleaning - giving us not only a heightened awareness of our human frailty and sin but making us more receptive to the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection and the gift of God’s grace as we approach Easter.

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The sermon text this Sunday is Luke 4:1-13 – Jesus temptation in the wilderness – which is a powerful way to begin our Lenten journey together. Jesus was tempted – not unlike us.  Take a look at the text and see what taps you on the shoulder, or maybe notice what you’ve never seen before, or even what kind of bothers you – and we’ll share in a sermon conversation together on Sunday.

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And whoops – I almost forgot – Daylight Saving Time is this Sunday!  So remember to Spring Forward one hour on Saturday night!

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One last thing: FPCS has the great privilege of hosting the NEXT Church Conference this week, a national gathering of mostly Presbyterians. We’ve got some 600 or so pastors, leaders and congregational folks coming in from all over the country to hear speakers and participate in workshops – all interested in trying to figure out how to do church for today and tomorrow.  Right up our alley, huh?!

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Look forward to seeing you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

March 1 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Everyone!

I want to say thanks to all of you who were able to participate in the little Experiment in Lament we did after worship and lunch over the last several weeks. The feedback I am receiving is that it was a valuable experience for a number of reasons:

·       Some people found the lament experiment helped them name some of the pain and sadness we feel at FPCS -- about the church split, about the impending sale of the church property (even if we agree with it!), and, about the uncertainty around what our future looks like (even though we know are not dissolving the congregation)! Lament not only gave us permission to be honest with God about all this stuff, but saying it out loud to each other helped, too.

·       Some people found the lament experiment gave them an opportunity to experience and appreciate the rich diversity of our congregation: we are wealthy and poor, younger and older, newer and more seasoned in faith, and we come from different racial-ethnic and cultural backgrounds. It was so great to be together and connect with each other a little more.

·       Some people found the lament experiment helped them open up their hearts to trust God a little more deeply, to feel a little more spiritually grounded in hope. 

Someone suggested a great follow-up to our experiment in lament that I want to pass on:  maybe sit down and take a few minutes to ponder or write down your own personal lament for where you are in your life right now – perhaps write down your lament for FPCS.  Offer this as your prayer to the Lord.  (And let me know if you’d like to share it with me, or would be willing to share it with our community of faith.)

*****

Ok, so our text this Sunday is one the lectionary tackles every year, the Transfiguration of Jesus, this time in Luke’s Gospel 9:28-36, with the addition of 37-43a. It’s a pretty familiar text, so the challenge is always to let go of everything we already know, and be open to hear God speaking afresh. Read it through a couple times.  What strikes you this time? What taps you on the shoulder and says “Notice me?”  And, do you think the lectionary is nuts putting these two very different passages together?!

Hope to see you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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February 22 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Everyone!

It’s Friday, and just after noon out here on Hood Canal.  This morning it was snowing a bit; about 30 minutes later the sun was trying to break through! And, now the white stuff is coming down pretty hard again – although the word is that there won’t be any lasting accumulation in the next couple days.

SO WORSHIP IS ON!

The sermon text for this Sunday is one of those passages that I’m afraid if I tell you what it is, you might take a pass and stay in your warm, cozy bed, or linger a little longer over than second cup of coffee!  We’re still in the Sermon on the Plain, when Jesus says in Luke 6:27-38 – not once, but twice – “love your enemies.” Gulp. And he throws the “Golden Rule” in here, too: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Eugene Peterson’s translation in the Message makes it plain: “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!”)

This whole passage has been called the heart of the gospel.  I’ve also heard it called “crazy talk.” Because what Jesus is calling us to here is so upside down to the way most people think life works!

So, nobody is going to beat you over the head with this text this week.  In fact, how about we talk about what the text doesn’t mean?  And, then about whether or not we can even really do what Jesus is asking us to do here? And, maybe why it’s so important.  I hope you’ll come be a part of that conversation!

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Also, don’t forget to stick around as we continue our little experiment in lament this Sunday – right after lunch, a little after noon or so, for about 45-60 minutes.  It’s really been fun!

We’ve been taking a look at “lament” – a unique type of biblical literature and practice that helped sustain God’s people in times of crisis, chaos and challenge.  Last week we looked at Lamentations, a funeral dirge if there ever was one – 5 WHOLE CHAPTERS of lamentiness!  But I found two surprises: one was  focusing on Lamentations chapter 3, where after 2 ½ chapters of all hell breaking loose, of unmitigated misery and suffering and forsakenness, there’s this little ray of hope right in the middle of it all, at verse 21:

“But this one thing I call to mind…

The steadfast love of the Lord (“hesed”, God’s covenant love) never ceases,

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.”

That’s in Lamentations!

The other helpful thing is that every chapter in Lamentations is an acrostic, meaning every sentence of each chapter starts at the beginning of the Hebrew alphabet and goes to the end, aleph to tav (our A-Z).  An acrostic is a way of saying, Everything is covered, nothing is left out; and also, lamenting doesn’t go on forever, there’s an end. Enough.

This time we’ll hear a little more about what God might have to say in hard times, after the “enough” of lament, via the prophet Isaiah (chapter 43, if you want to sneak a peek).

Hope to see you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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February 15 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Friends!

I made it to Portland last Monday to help lead the Transitional Ministry Workshops for four days (assisting Scott Lumsden and Eliana Maxim from Seattle Presbytery). Rick stayed home and endured 30 hours without electricity (thankfully we have a generator), as well as digging our little Scion xB out of the snow, and putting on chains and driving on snow and ice multiple times. I was grateful to come back to cleared roads, though our driveway is still a pretty icy, snowy mess!

But the downtown Seattle streets, and the church parking lot and sidewalks are clear, and there is no snow in the forecast this weekend, so we are good to go for worship this Sunday! 

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The sermon text for this Sunday – Luke 6:17-26 – is usually called the Sermon on the Plain.  Take a close look, and maybe compare it to what you remember about Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount.  Give some thought to the differences, and maybe ponder what you think Luke is up to here…  

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Also, I hope you will be able to stick around as we continue our little experiment in lament this Sunday.  After lunch, a little after noon or so, we’ll gather around and spend 60 minutes taking a look at and talking about lament – a type of biblical literature and practice that helped sustain God’s people in times of crisis, chaos and challenge.  Perhaps God will use it to sustain us, too!

Hope to see you on Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

“Jesus looked up at his disciples” Lk 6:20  “Fixed his gaze on them” (says another translation)

“Jesus looked up at his disciples” Lk 6:20

“Fixed his gaze on them” (says another translation)

February 10 Worship Canceled Due to Weather Conditions

Hey everyone!

Well, that was a lot of snow – 6” or more out here on the Hood Canal – and at least that at First Presbyterian Church in Seattle! And the temperature is supposed to plummet in the morning making things especially icy.

So, we’re making the call to CANCEL WORSHIP TOMORROW.  Everyone stay safe and warm!

Hope to see you in worship next week!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

February 8 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hey Everyone –

As I write this we are under threat of Snowzilla 2019.  If it’s as bad as they are forecasting, we may need to cancel worship on Sunday – but let’s wait and see.  So, we’re on for now, but watch your inbox for an email update tomorrow for any change.

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Last Sunday we had our first of three week experiments around the biblical literature and practice of lament… and it was actually kind of fun! We had a dozen folks stick around to talk about what everyone is thinking and feeling about the changes we’ve been through and are ahead of us at First Pres., and to read and talk together about Psalm 88, the lamentiest of laments!  This week we will take a closer look at Lamentations chapter 3.

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Our sermon text this Sunday is Luke 5:1-11, where, among other things, Jesus schools fishermen on how to fish :).

Hope to see you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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February 1 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello friends –

Last Sunday we read Jesus’ first sermon – some call it the “Nazareth Manifesto” – in Luke’s Gospel.  Jesus’ home town crowd seemed pretty receptive to he had to say, at least initially – but as we’ll see this week, minutes  later they were incensed, to the point of running Jesus out of town. They were ready to throw him off a cliff!  Holy cow – was the sermon really that bad?  An epic fail?  Check out the text in Luke 4:21-30 and let’s talk about what in the world happened…and maybe continues to happen today.

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Also, remember you are invited to stick around after lunch to be a part of a project I am undertaking in conjunction with my latest Pittsburgh Seminary class.  Beginning this Sunday I will be doing a little 3 week experiment around the bibilical literature and practice of lament… (It’ll only take about 45 minutes or so.)

One reason I want to do this is because a little over three years ago the congregation experienced a painful split and now we are facing the sale of the property. And although this change is in many ways good news, even still it’s a huge decision, and it may be accompanied by feelings of loss and grief. Change often is.  Letting go can be difficult. Especially when we don’t know exactly where we are going or what the future looks like!

That’s where the biblical literature and practice of lament comes in: The Bible is filled with examples of God’s people in the midst of a crisis of chaos telling the truth about their situation to God. They didn’t bury their feelings or act like it was no big deal.  They didn’t put a smiley face on it.  They cried out to God.  They let God have it!  Ultimately, lament helped them get to a place of deeper trust in God.  

I think it could be a helpful practice for us, too.

Hope to see you Sunday! 

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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January 25 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hey Everyone –

Last Sunday we saw how Jesus’ public ministry began in John’s Gospel – with the miracle of turning the water into wine at Cana – emphasizing the gifts of transformation and extravagant abundance in Jesus.

This Sunday our sermon text from Luke’s Gospel in 4:14-21 has Jesus’ public ministry begin very differently.  Sometimes considered Jesus’ first sermon (some called it the “Nazareth Manifesto”), Jesus quotes words from the prophet Isaiah to launch his mission, and “good news to the poor” is pretty much it in a nutshell. 

One commentator describes this text as “One of the most ignored, watered down, spiritualized or glossed over texts” in many churches today.  I wonder if you agree? How – and why – do we do this?  How do we join in Jesus’ purpose today?  There’s a lot to talk about this week!

*****

Also, I want to invite you to a little project I am undertaking in conjunction with my latest Pittsburgh Seminary class…

Beginning Sunday February 3 right after lunch, for about 45 minutes or so, I will be doing a little 3 week experiment around the biblical literature and practice of lament with anyone who wants to stick around.  WHY? Because here we are as a congregation, having been through a very challenging time of change due to a painful church split, experiencing a great sense of disruption and loss, and now preparing to leave a familiar location and building (when? we’re not exactly sure yet!). And we’re not even exactly certain where we are going or what the future looks like! It can all be a little overwhelming, if not distressing.  (Not to mention all the personal, social and political challenges and disappointments that we are experiencing all the time that make us wonder, Where are you Lord?!) 

So, I wonder if the biblical literature and practice of lament might help us out a bit – by encouraging us to tell the truth about our situation to God, and preventing us from burying our feelings and having to act like it’s no big deal, and ultimately by helping us get to a place of deeper trust in God.

I hope you can stick around a little longer beginning Sunday afternoon February 3 and join in this little mini-experiment…

Grace and peace, friends!

Pastor Heidi

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January 11 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends –

Ok, permit me a little braggy moment here:  I just got back from spending a little over 48 hours in Chicago – basking in the brilliance of my goddaughter, Lanise, an actor featured in the play “Familiar” at the Steppenwolf Theater.  The play had us busting up in side-splitting laughter one minute, and bawling our eyes out the next.  It’s about a family that emigrates from Zimbabwe (back when it was called Rhodesia) to America, and raising two daughters in Minneapolis, and the tensions that grow between wanting to maintain and losing one’s cultural heritage.  It draws out issues of racial identity, adoption, marriage, religious differences, and well, family.  And it’s familiar!  There’s my god-kid on stage, herself adopted from Haiti, living it out loud for all to see.  I was challenged, encouraged, humbled, and couldn’t be prouder to be shaped by knowing her and experiencing her gifts! 

Pastor Heidi, goddaughter Lanise, Lanise’s Mom Karla

Pastor Heidi, goddaughter Lanise, Lanise’s Mom Karla

*****

The sermon text this Sunday is the story of Jesus’ baptism from Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 which the Lectionary revisits this time every year (from one of the gospels).  Read it through a couple times – listen with your heart – notice what touches you…  Maybe ponder a bit: Why was Jesus “who knew no sin” even baptized?  Do you remember anything about your baptism? If not, what does it mean for you to say, “I am baptized?”

Hope to see you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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January 3 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends -

I must admit - the greeting “Happy New Year” always rings a little hollow for me – because I am so aware, even in my small circle of friends, of so many incredibly challenging situations that people are dealing with: my oldest brother who gets an update tomorrow on how his treatment is affecting his cancer; a 40 year old friend who is on IV drip three times a day with a high-powered antibiotic to beat a super-resistant infection; our dear friends living downstairs in the Compass at First Presbyterian shelter hoping to get into housing, but also trying to get their lives together on many other fronts. And who can forget the violence and famine in Yemen that fills our screens with images of little bodies with distended bellies and skeletal limbs; or the threat to the first fair and democratic election in the Democratic Republic Congo since it gained independence in 1960; much less the political division and impasse in our own nation that has everybody yelling at each other – or not speaking to one another at all.

The list goes on, and it is all rather unsettling, and daunting.  Happy New Year doesn’t quite cut it.

I know I’ve said this before, but this is why Sunday is so important for me, why I live for worship, for church, for being the beloved community together, for kinship:  We are reminded that God is with us and for us.  I am not alone; we are not alone.  And the God who loves us calls us to love one another.  I know we’re not perfect; we’re all a mess. (If you think you have no mess, um, that’s your mess!) But when we come together, we are reminded of God’s grace – we receive God’s forgiveness. And we see ourselves in a larger Story, God’s Story, of making all things new.  The Story of God’s unfolding promise to mend the entire universe!

Happy New Year?  I’m holding out for New Creation – through the life, death and the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ! Now that has the ring of truth to it!  And we need to hear it, and sing it, and say it, and pray it again and again and again!  Which is what we get to do every Sunday!

* * * * *

The text this Sunday is Matthew 2:12 – the familiar story of the Magi.  Read it through a couple times – listen with your heart – notice what touches you, what do you love?

O come let us adore Him!

Pastor Heidi

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December 21 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear sisters and brothers –

A part of me always looks forward to this day – for today is the Winter Solstice. (If you need a scientific explanation, my husband Rick will be glad to provide you one on Sunday, like he did for me – again – last night, and, um, like he does for me every year!) The thing is, after tonight, we turn a corner: the days ever so slowly start to get longer in the northern hemisphere.  Translate: MORE LIGHT in the Pacific Northwest.  Yes, I suffer from a bit of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) so this is music to my ears. 

But still the thing is, Winter Solstice is also the longest night – yes, the last longest one for a while, but dang, it is LONG and DARK.  You may have noticed: the whole month is.  Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to celebrate Christmas in the southern hemisphere where it’s summer right now.  But here we are in winter darkness.

Some churches have a Blue Christmas or Longest Night service to acknowledge the sadness, grief and depression that many people struggle with this time of year.  I led such a service some years ago, and we each lit a candle for the dear ones we had lost, or were missing in our lives.  I swear it took me 5 minutes to say the names of my parents outloud I was so overcome with grief.  It’s not always like that, I’m not always on the edge, but that was a hard year for some reason, and some years are harder than others.

Christmas, and all the expectations of Christmas, often make it harder. Spending time with families that aren’t perfect; or having no family to spend time with.  Spending too much money on presents that don’t satisfy, or we don’t need; or having no money to spend.

One of the reasons I am glad Christmas does come in our deep, dark winter is we point to the promise that in Emmanuel, God-with-us, meets us right where we are.  Jesus Christ the LIGHT shines in the darkness of sin, and grief and evil and the darkness cannot put it out. It’s not just a dark season that is changed, but our very can be transformed by God’s amazing light and love.

Part of my new favorite poem (you might hear it again on Sunday) puts it this way:

Let me tell you the Good News:

There is Good News.

That’s it: 

goodness, somewhere, rushing toward us in the place where future meets present tense.

Hope unwinds across the fragile world and whispers its nightmares away.

*****

The text this Sunday is the Christmas story from Luke 2:1-20.  Read it through a couple times –a listen with your heart – notice what touches you, what do you love?

Looking forward to seeing you Sunday.

O come let us adore Him!

Pastor Heidi

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 The Holy Family by Margret Hofheinz-Döringhttp://bit.ly/rK5376