December 14 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hello Friends –

Of all the Advent texts, Luke 3:7-18 on the Third Sunday of Advent is probably the most jarring, with John the Baptizer announcing to the crowds who came out to him in the desert: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”  (Um, you did?!)  If I preached like that, I’d probably get fired, or the congregation would vanish.  But instead of being offended or scared off and running for cover, John’s crowd is fully engaged.  When John exhorts them, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance,” they respond with an eagerness that is every preacher’s dream, asking him, “What then should we do?”

You might be a little surprised at the way John answers that question.

Check it out and we’ll talk about it together this Sunday.

Hope to see you in worship.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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December 6 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hey Everyone –

I keep reading about interesting and creative things congregations are doing to be the church – especially those with building challenges.  Just this morning my sister sent me a short video posted on Sojourners Facebook page about a church in Los Angeles that’s pretty inspiring.  To check it out click here:  https://www.facebook.com/SojournersMagazine/videos/341579506643407/

Granted, it wouldn’t work so well in our climate, but kudos to them for thinking outside the box!

*****

The Second Sunday of Advent always features John the Baptist, so we’ll jump into Luke 3:1-6 this week.  The text is filled with familiar words, and lots of good news, so be sure to check it out.

Also, we’ve got the Lift Gospel Choir joining us for worship this Sunday. Directed by Megan Krantz and our own Jana Detrick, the group was just recently formed, but their energy far surpasses their size!  You will be blessed as they help lead us in worship! 

Hope to see you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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November 30 Update From Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends –

Just a couple things real quick –

We’re having a new members class this Sunday right after lunch – 12:30-2pm – if you want to join FPCS, or want to explore what that even means, or if you’re already a member and need a refresher :).  Join Kathy, J.P. Kang and me for a scintillating look into Presby life!

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And another heads up – Advent begins this Sunday with another one of those “is the Bible trying to scare the living daylights outta me?” apocalyptic texts – this one from Luke 21:25-36.  Except remember what I said a few weeks ago about apocalpytic? (Nope?!) Well, it’s packed full of so much good news and hope! Really.  So c’mon and join us, and let’s get our (“Second”) Advent (=Coming) on!

Hope to see you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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November 16 Update From Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends –

In 1983 I moved to Chico, CA, where I served as Associate Pastor of Bidwell Presbyterian Church for seven and half years. It was my first call out of seminary, working with college students, and I still have connections with that community.  Paradise, CA is just 15 miles away from Chico – and it’s hard to fathom the destruction and heartbreak resulting from the Camp Fire, which is not yet contained.  This morning the news jumped to 63 dead, and 631 missing.

I’m grateful Bidwell Church is serving as a significant staging area for goods and services to those who are in need.  One of my best friends was down at the church for several days this week, and said she spent her time mostly crying with and hugging people.  If you want to help, but just don’t know how, you might consider sending a gift card to Bidwell – for Target, Safeway, or Subway – they will make sure they get in the right hands.  (Bidwell Presbyterian Church mailing address is 208 W. 1st Street, Chico, CA 95928).

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OK, heads up – the sermon text for Sunday is a doozie – Mark 13:1-8! It’s one of those “the end is near” doom and gloom texts that we Presbyterians think are soooooo weird, and frankly would just as soon avoid.  So would you believe me if I told you the message of this text is actually some good news?  (By the way, it’s one of the reasons I argue we should all leave behind that Left Behind book series – when those books lay out a precise time line of end-time events and stir up fear they are missing the.whole.point!)

Anyway, check out the passage and see what you think, and we’ll talk about it together on Sunday.

Hope to see you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

 The Western or “Wailing” Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, the only part of the 2nd Jewish Temple that remains

The Western or “Wailing” Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem,
the only part of the 2nd Jewish Temple that remains

November 9 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends –

It’s been quite a week: The election midterms are behind us, yet political divisions and incivility deepen…  Yet another mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, CA, right on the heels of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA…  Catastrophic fires in California…  A humanitarian crisis (famine) in Yemen…   And, just a few days after celebrating my niece’s wedding in Napa last Saturday, I found out my oldest brother has metastatic cancer.  And what about you – what’s swirling around you?

These are the times I feel most especially the need to be with God’s people, to remember we are not alone.  We need each other.  There’s a comfort in being together, and praying for our world and one another.  

I sure hope to see you in worship this Sunday!

*****

The sermon text is Mark 12:38-44 – featuring the story we often call “the widow’s mite” – about a poor woman in the temple who gives just two small coins, but it’s everything she has.  I’ve preached this text several times, and have always talked about the woman being an example for us (to give generously). But now I’m kind of rethinking that: what if she is more of a warning to us all?

Check it out and see what you think, and let’s talk about it together on Sunday.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

 “Jesus said, ‘This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.’”

“Jesus said, ‘This poor widow
has put in more than all those
who are contributing to the treasury.’”

November 1 Update From Lay Pastor Kathy

Hi Friends –

On Monday night a group of us got together to bake cookies to take to guests downstairs at Compass. It was kind of a reverse trick or treat, instead of us getting treats; we wanted to hand out treats. I took the bags down and joined in their Halloween party and had a great time. Many of our friends were there and I just want to say they all love to dance!  It was good to see so many smiles. Needless to say, everyone loved the home baked cookies. They wanted me to say thank you to all who helped.

We’d like to continue to support our guests in different ways, so watch for updates on how that might happen. If you have an idea, please pass it on to me.

This week, Seattle Police Chaplin Charlie Scoma will be joining us again to lead us in conversation through the text from Mark 12:28-34.

And don’t forget to set your clocks back an hour on Saturday.

Hope to see you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Lay Pastor Kathy

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October 25 Update From Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brothers  –

Finally! A sermon text this week that is totally positive!  The disciples don’t look like goofballs.  Jesus isn’t upset.  I don’t think this passage will make you think, Hmm, maybe I’ll sit this one out this week. 

It’s the healing of Blind Bartimaeus from Mark 10:46-52. Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Best question ever!)  Answer:  “I want to see.”  (Great prayer!)

And there’s so much seeing going on! 

Check it out - and see what you see!

Hope to see you in worship…

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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“I want to see”

October 18 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hi Friends  –

This morning I was watching the fog burn off over the wide expanse of Hood Canal that Rick and I call our front yard – and soaking up the gift of another day of warmth and sunshine in the Pacific Northwest.  Gosh, how many days in a row has it been this Fall?  I can’t believe I’ve lost count!  And, man, the riot of color that rims the blue sky – every hue of orange, yellow, and red!  I love it when God shows off!  O Divine Artist, thank you for sharing it all!

I hope you all get a chance to get outside and open your eyes and breathe deeply in the next day or so – and to give thanks!

*****

So, you know how I always say when we are preaching together that questions are so important.  Bring your questions, I say.  And, there is no such thing as a stupid question, right?

Well…I might have to walk that back a teeny bit. Because I think we catch the disciples asking a really dumb question in this week’s text from Mark 10:35-45.  

Check it out and see what you think. I think we’ll have some stuff to talk about together this Sunday.

Hope to see you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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October 11 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hello Everyone  –

There have been some questions about why the First Presbyterian Church Administrative Commission/Session is proceeding with the sale of the church property, so I wanted to make sure you are of aware of this document: FPCS AC/Session Frequently Asked Questions, October 10, 2018

Please note that although the plan is to sell the property (although there is not a done deal yet), the FPCS AC/Session does not have a plan to close the congregation. 

If after reading the FAQ you find you still have lingering questions, please reach out to Kathy Smith or me – we are happy to talk further with you. 

*****

As part of a small project I am doing for my Pittsburgh Seminary course in Church Planting and Revitalization, a few of us have been spending a little more time in conversation with a few people in our congregation who are in the Compass Shelter downstairs, or others who have experienced homelessness.  These conversations have been so rich; it is such a gift to listen to what our friends have to share.  It just reminds me once again the importance of slowing down and being with people, of stopping long enough just to listen, and how that honors the humanity of another person.  I hope you can figure out how to enter into this practice, too, because YOU will be blessed!

*****

So, we’ve got another challenging text this week – Mark 10:17-31 – where Jesus starts messing with one of our most sacred cows: money!  It’s pretty wild – but Jesus is concerned that a rich guy’s got a deficit!  This Sunday we’ll be wrestling again with what it means to follow Jesus in this kind of crazy, upside down kin-dom of God life.

Hope to see you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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October 4 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hello Friends  –

Sometimes I feel like if I tell you what the sermon text is for Sunday you won’t come to worship – LOL!  Maybe I should explain…

For example, Jesus has been on kind of a roll lately, letting the disciples have it in the Gospel of Mark. 

A couple weeks ago Jesus described to the 12 for the second time that he’s on his way to suffering, death on a cross, and resurrection, but it flew right over their heads. Next thing you know Jesus is trying to straighten them out because they’re arguing over who’s the greatest among them. He’s talking humble king, they’re debating pecking order.  Seriously, people? Yep, that really happened. 

Last week Jesus resorted to hyperbole: if you cause a vulnerable person to stumble in faith, it’d be better if you tied an automobile-size rock around your neck and jumped in a lake (= drowned, died). Or, if you’re just going around stumbling in your faith, it’s better to chop off whatever is tripping you up – your hand, foot, whatever – than to head straight to hell.  (Yes, sometimes Jesus tries to scare the hell out of the disciples).

And then we get to this week’s text – Mark 10:2-16 – where the Pharisees ask Jesus about d-i-v-o-r-c-e.

Is there any other subject that people have felt more hurt, more judged, by the church than divorce?  Maybe you have been divorced.  Or, your parents divorced when you were young.  (Mine did…before I was born…but they got married again…to each other…and had three more kids, including me.  Crazy story, I know.)

And I’ll be honest with you, at first hearing Jesus sounds a little cranky in these verses.  I don’t know, maybe it’s because he’s aware that, as the text says, the Pharisees were trying “to test him.” They were messing with him, trying to back him into a corner.  They knew their question, “Is divorce lawful?”, did not have an easy answer, and Jesus would hopefully offend someone.

But does it help if I tell you that if we really pay closer attention to this passage, and the larger context, it could be titled something like “the good news if you’re divorced?”

You may think that’s a stretch…but I think it’s true, with not an ounce of hyperbole on my part.

So, I invite you to join us for worship this Sunday, whether you’re married, or single, or divorced, or remarried, or straight or gay…to meet Jesus and hear some good news.

I love you guys!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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September 27 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hello Everyone  –

I am loving these warm, sunny fall days and moonlit nights! In my neighborhood the full harvest moon rising over the Canal has been absolutely stunning!

But I’ll also admit there has been a heaviness of late, with so much tragedy around sexual harassment, abuse and violence in our nation – and the Church. As my 17 year-old granddaughter texted me on Thursday morning: “It feels like a really dark world we’re living in lately.”  

I am grateful for courageous victims speaking out, telling their stories. I pray for justice for them, and for their healing and wholeness, even as we long for and work for radical change in our culture. God help us all.

~~~~~~~~~~ 

In our text for Sunday – Mark 9:38-50 –Jesus is still trying to help the disciples grapple with who they are, with what defines them. Will they let Jesus define them?  Will they follow the Jesus way?

As the passage progresses Jesus has some strong words for what his way looks like: Don’t cause anyone to stumble in life and faith, otherwise “It would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.”  He doesn’t let up: “If your hand or foot gets in God’s way, chop it off…  If your eye distracts you from God, pull it out!” (The Message) 

Wow! Is Jesus really serious here?  Wouldn’t we all be walking around maimed?  What do you think?  Let’s talk about it together on Sunday…

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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September 21 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hi Friends  –

I had a great week in Minneapolis, Minnesota learning about Church Planting and Revitalization, and from there a super fun but quick stop in Columbia, Missouri last Saturday and Sunday for a nephew’s wedding.  

I wanted you to know that Sunday’s sermon text this week is from Mark 9:30-37 – another episode where the disciples end up not looking so good.  Notice:  We are more than half way through Mark’s Gospel, and the disciples still do not get who Jesus is, they are filled with fear, and now they are even fighting over who is the greatest among them.   When Jesus asks them what they were arguing about among themselves, they won’t even fess up, there’s dead silence.

There’s all that, and even more, to talk about this week!

Looking forward to seeing you in worship!

Pastor Heidi

September 15 Update From Lay Pastor Kathy

Dear Friends –

Pastor Heidi Armstrong has been away this week in Minneapolis for her Pittsburgh Seminary Church Planting & Revitalization Program.

This Sunday we welcome Seattle Police Department Chaplain Charlie Scomato lead our preaching together through Mark 8:27-38.

Hope to see you in worship!

Blessings,

Lay Pastor Kathy

September 7 Update From Pastor Heidi

Hello Everyone  –

What a text we have to preach together this Sunday – Mark 7:24-37.  Jesus heads into Gentile territory, where a couple things happen, including this:

“…a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about Jesus, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 Jesus said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 

Wait a minute! Did Jesus just call this woman a dog?

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Does this sound like the Jesus we know and love?

What was he thinking?!

We have lots to talk about this Sunday!

 

Hope to see you in worship!

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

August 30 Update From Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends  –

Last week this eNews began with “Whoa!” because I was overwhelmed – ok – panicked! – as I tackled 1100 pages of reading for my next  Pittsburgh Seminary Church Planting and Revitalization, or CPR, class.  This week I’ve got nearly half the reading done (530 pages under my belt!) – and you guys – the stuff I am learning!!!! 

The first book, a commentary on Acts by Willie James Jennings, was so dense, so rich, it was like sitting down and eating filet mignon and fresh steamed crab (dipped in butter!) for days!

Jennings helped me to see again that Acts announces a new beginning with God; it reveals God’s deepest desire; the divine delight is for all people, all creation, to come together.  Acts is about “a holy joining orchestrated by God” in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit.

That means there is no divine final break up with Israel (I’m done with you people!), so God could go after the Gentiles (finally, somebody gets Me!), but the Holy Spirit is joining the two – Jew and Gentile together, which…wait for it… “opens up endless new possibilities of life together with others.” The church really is “a mixed group moving in the same direction.”

I was challenged in a ton of ways by what I read.  Here are a couple:

1 Jennings believes “The single greatest challenge for disciples of Jesus is to imagine and then enact actual together life, life that interpenetrates, weaves together, and joins to the bone,” – which means I have to ask myself, “who are the people nearest me that the Spirit is pressing me to get to know, come to appreciate, and ultimately join?”  

2 For Jennings, the challenge is that, “The Spirit presses us to join with people we do not want to join with…”  There is a “need for imagining and enacting forms of life together that transgress the boundaries we all know so well – racial, ethnic, economic, social, gendered, and nationalist.” Jennings then pulls out all the stops, going after people like me:  The problem is “too many pastors and church leaders have made themselves the high priest of segregationist practices. They have settled for the love of their own people instead of a love that creates a people. They have, out of the sheer need to be accepted, embraced, and celebrated, refused the holy work of the people of God to accept, embrace and celebrate others different from themselves.”  I’m asking myself: How am I a “high priest of segregationist practices”?  And how can I be about ending those segregationist practices?

See what I mean?  I’m learning so much – and that’s only one book (only 570 pages to go!)  I want to tell you all about the second book I finished, Eat What is Set Before You: A Missiology of the Congregation in Context, by Scott Hagley (one of my professors), but I’ll leave that for another eNews…

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This Sunday’s sermon text is Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-21 where Jesus talks about what messes people up doesn’t come from the outside, and gets to the heart of the matter… 

Hope to see you in worship!

Pastor Heidi

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August 25 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends  –

Whoa - this week has gotten away from me (I’ve been trying to tackle 1000 pages of reading for my next Pittsburgh Seminary class!) so forgive me, but this eNews is late, and will be short…

The sermon text tomorrow wraps up Jesus’ focus on the bread of life in John 6:56-69.  Sadly,  now even disciples are deserting Jesus.  Jesus then asks the twelve disciples a very pointed question:  “Do you wish also to go away?”   We’ll take a look at Peter’s response.  And think about what makes us keep sticking with Jesus, too…

Hope to see you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

 

 

 

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August 16 Update From Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends  –

I still get overwhelmed at the grocery store. By aisle upon aisle of food.  And stuff.  So much stuff.

Take the bread aisle.  White bread. Wheat bread. French bread. Rye bread. Sourdough bread. Dave’s Killer bread. And like 17 varieties of each.  And Kalamata olive bread. And gluten free bread.  And Hamburger buns, hot dog buns, tortillas, flat bread, naan, focaccia.  I’m sure I’m missing some more!  SO. MUCH. BREAD.

When Jesus says, I am the Bread of life, I think it falls a little flat on our ears.  Big deal.  Most of us are not desperate for bread.  We have choices.  Many of us are going with a more low carb diet, trying to cut out bread! Bread? Ho hum.

But for the crowd that followed Jesus, bread was a basic ingredient of life, an essential, the essence of survival.  When Jesus said, “I am the Bread of life” he meant “I am what you need to survive, to really live. Forever.”  We sorta tune out, but they were all ears.  “Give us this bread!” they say. 

Well, up to a point, at least…

This week in the text from John 6:51-58, Jesus says, “The bread that I give for the life of the world is my flesh” (verse 51), and “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (verse 54).  Jesus pretty much stays in this flesh and blood mode for this entire passage.  Enough to cause some tension.  With these graphic words he’s starting to lose them. 

I admit, it does sound a bit weird, doesn’t it?  There’s a definite “ew” factor here.  So what is Jesus talking about?  Or, maybe more importantly, what is Jesus promising us, or what is Jesus inviting us to? 

Looking forward to sharing the good news with you in worship! Bring your appetite!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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August 9 Update From Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends  –

I’m baaaaaaaaack!

What a trip!  Epic!  Trip of a lifetime.  Everything I hoped for and then some.  IMAGINE SIX WEEKS  AWAY.  42 days.  On the water.  722 nautical miles total.  On a very small boat (25” long).  On a very large body of water.  Talk about getting perspective!  Whew! 

OK, so it wasn’t without challenges, there were some rough seas and rocky times, but you may remember my major goals were to (1) come back alive;  and (2) come back married! Mission accomplished!  Rick and I are filled with gratefulness for this adventure, happy to share the amazing (and gory) details.  And we find ourselves already contemplating a next trip…

One person’s prayer for me as we departed touched me deeply:  “I'm picturing you out on the water, brave and adventurous, seeing God everywhere!”  And it happened!  I did things I didn’t think I could do.  And God was revealed again and again in the stunning beauty of creation, and in the exquisite stories of ordinary-extraordinary human beings we encountered along the way.  All I had to do was pay attention!

But it will be good to be with God’s people on Sunday, worshipping God and reading Scripture together in community again – one of my most very favorite things to do! Looks like you all have been hanging out in John 6 (which begins with Jesus feeding the 5,000), and we will do so a bit longer – this week in John 6:35, 41-51. Check out the text: I’m wondering why people are starting to get all bent out of shape when Jesus says he is the “bread that came down from heaven”?

And then when Jesus says, “I am the Living Bread” – I realize sometimes I kind of wish he would’ve said something more like, I am the banana split of life, or the old fashioned glazed donut of life!  I wonder, What am I really hungry for?  What are you hungry for?  What do we want?  And what do we need

Looking forward to sharing with you in worship!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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August 3 Update From Lay Pastor Kathy

Dear Friends –

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I hope you are enjoying the cool down as much as I am. While I love the heat, the coolness of the day allows me a time to recharge, slow down a bit, and relax. God knows when we need a break and he offers it to us in many ways. Sometimes we recognize it, give thanks and are able to redirect our focus to the one who gives us life and other times we are so caught up in the business of the day that we miss it. Sunday worship often becomes the only time where we hit the pause button. I encourage you to pause today, just for a moment, and look around at God’s creation, receive His peace, and be assured His grace is shining on you.

This is Communion Sunday and Rev. J.P. Kang joins us again to lead us through John 6:24-35.  “35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Hope to see you in worship!

Blessings,

Lay Pastor Kathy

July 27 Update From Lay Pastor Kathy

Dear Friends –

I hope you are all finding ways to enjoy this summer. I heard a report that Seattle is the most under-air-conditioned major city in the country, so staying cool can be a challenge. I can picture the five thousand plus people, who are in the passage this week that came to see Jesus, were probably really hot with that many people all crowded together. Even with the grassy field, it was still probably not comfortable. I have trouble imagining why they would stay. Conversations this week helped affirm the reason they chose to stay. Hope. Jesus brought hope to the many then as he brings hope to us today. I heard it this week through friends who are struggling with family issues, I heard from folks in the shelter who are working toward a more stable life, I heard it through strangers just needing to share with someone. Jesus gives us hope. Don’t’ be afraid to share that with someone, because we all need a little assurance that things will be alright.

Sunday, Pastor Ed Park joins us again to lead us through John 6:1-21. Jesus tells his disciples to feed the five thousand plus he walks on water!  Take a look at this story with new eyes.

Hope to see you in worship!

Blessings,

Lay Pastor Kathy

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