January 12 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brothers –

Yesterday when the FPCS Administrative Commission/Session (our church leadership board) met, last week’s sermon text from Mark 1 on was still rattling around in my head and heart…   

10 And just as [Jesus] was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 

11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

In our preaching we noted that not only does Jesus identify with us sinners in his baptism, but God identifies with Jesus.  The divine affirmation is repeated in all three synoptic gospels: Jesus hears the words every kid longs to hear.  And in fact we went on to explore that what God says to Jesus in his baptism, God says to all of us in ours: through Jesus Christ we are all dearly loved children of God.

But yesterday at our meeting I shared with the Session some unpreached leftovers that didn’t get said last Sunday, namely, that what God says to us in our baptism, God longs to say to others through us.  We become the voice through which God speaks, saying to others, You are dearly loved by God.  As a result, barriers come down, and the circle of God’s beloved community expands.  (By the way, that was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s preferred term for what God is all about – “the beloved community” – a good reminder as we observe MLK Day this coming Monday.)

Father Gregory Boyle, who wrote “Tattoos on the Heart”, which describes his life-changing work with gangs in Los Angeles through Homeboy Industries, uses a different word to describe the ever expanding beloved community. He calls it kinship, and he often illustrates what that means by telling a stories from his work... 

Father Greg does a lot of speaking, and often tries to bring a couple homies with him, guys who have usually never flown, or even travelled, much less spoken publically.  On a trip to Gonzaga University, the Catholic University in Spokane (where every freshman was given a copy of Tattoos on the Heart to read) Father Greg brought Bobby and Mario with him. Mario was the most tattooed individual Father Greg had ever seen – all sleeved out, neck blackened with his gang name, his face covered with tattoos.  Father Greg had never been out in public with Mario before – and kind of watched in horror as people sidestepped them at the airport, and mothers pulled their kids in close.  And yet, Father Greg noted, everyone at Homeboy would agree that Mario was the gentlest of men.

When they got to the event at Gonzaga, Mario and Bobby – voices shaking, beyond nervous – told their stories of violence, terror, and abuse, with people hanging on every word. This was followed by Q & A.  One woman stood and directed a question to Mario:  “You say you’re a father, that your son and daughter are starting to reach their teenage years.  What advice do you give them?”  As she sat down, Mario clutched the microphone:  “I just…” He started to tear up…  “I just…”  And then he choked out the words:  “I just don’t want my kids to turn out to be like me.”

Then the woman stood up again…now it was her turn to cry:  “You are loving…you are kind,” she said.  “I hope your kids DO  turn out to be like you.”  And then the audience to a person stood and began to clap. And all Mario could do was hold his face in his hands.

What just happened?  In Father Greg’s words:  “A lanky, tattooed gang member [had] revealed [his full humanity], his wounds in front of a thousand strangers, who lost the temptation to despise him and recognized themselves in his brokenness. Suddenly [there it was –] kinship – an exquisite mutuality.”  All of God’s children dearly loved, in it together.

Somehow, that’s what we are trying to do most of all here at First Pres. Not just protect our assets or property, or win a legal battle, as critical as that may be.  We are here to promote and protect kinship. To be the beloved community.  To remember that we are baptized, and be thankful that we belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ and to one another.

At the end of the day yesterday I felt the urgency of this invitation to kinship more than ever. I am compelled to affirm that no one comes from a sh**hole country, that every human being is created in the image of God, that everyone is beloved and needs to hear it.  That includes my Haitian God-daughters, who have enriched my life immeasurably.  And our dear friends Celestin and Maggui and their family and friends from Congo who are an enormous blessing to our little congregation.  As well as our guests experiencing homelessness who are living downstairs in the Shelter and trying to find a sustainable path forward, just to name a few.

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This Sunday we’ve got a great text for doing “evangelism – 21st century style”.  Check out John 1:43-51, especially Jesus’ interaction with “can anything good come from Nazarath” Nathanael.

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

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January 4 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends in Christ -  

I’m not exactly a great fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I’m all for taking time to prayerfully reflect on our lives – to pause, to seek God, to sort of hit refresh (though it’s never instantaneous!) 

On New Year’s Day a pastor friend posted a list of questions (she borrowed from someone else) on Facebook that helped me do just that, and I thought I’d pass them on to you. 

You could print out the list and then take one question a day, and just mull it over for that day.  Or, you could cut and paste the whole list into a Word document and in one sitting type your responses/reflections under each question.  Maybe consider sharing your thoughts with someone you are close to – a friend or spouse.  Or keep it handy, in your Bible, or at your bedside, and refer to it now and then throughout the year.

Here’s the list of questions (attributed to Donald Whitney, with some slight editing from me):

1.     What’s one thing you might do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2.     What’s one of the most humanly impossible things you will ask God to do this year?

3.     What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family or communal life this year?

4.     In which spiritual discipline/practice do you most want to grow this year, and what will you do about it?

5.     What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6.     What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7.     For whose spiritual growth will you pray most fervently this year?

8.     What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9.     What keeps you from praying? What would it take for you to become more prayerful?

10.  What’s one thing you plan to do this year that will matter most in ten years? That will matter most in to kin-dom of God?

This week is Baptism of the Lord Sunday, and our text is Mark 1:4-11. It always raises at least one big question: Why was Jesus, the sinless one, even baptized in the first place?  And Jesus’ baptism always raises questions about the meaning of our baptism as well.  Can’t wait to explore this together!

See you Sunday!                                      

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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Be the church!

Be the church!

The Presbyterian Outlook article by Heidi Husted Armstrong:

First Presbyterian Church of Seattle: Then and now

First Presbyterian Church of Seattle was organized in 1869 with seven charter members (one man and six women, including founding pastor George Whitworth’s wife, daughter and daughter-in-law). By 1939, FPCS had 11 assistant pastors, a session of 110 elders and church membership peaked at 8,818 members, the largest in the nation. Though today its geographical footprint is an entire city block of buildings on the eastern edge of downtown Seattle in a neighborhood called First Hill, FPCS’s membership hovers much, much closer to that initial charter membership number than the later pinnacle.

While membership decline was initially attributed to the launching of many branch churches whose members had been retained on the FPCS membership roll, over the decades, like many other downtown churches, the decline was the result of urbanization, with a steady post-World War II exodus to the suburbs. In addition, over the last 60 years, the relentless hemorrhaging of the mainline church over theological disagreements has affected this historically theologically conservative church. The concrete “brutalist” architecture sanctuary erected in 1969 that seats 1,200 hasn’t been used for Sunday worship in well over a decade.

More recently, FPCS experienced a painful church split in late 2015 that was the final blow to the once thriving church. In February of 2016, the Seattle Presbytery’s administrative commission concluded that the session “was unable or unwilling to wisely manage its affairs in accordance with PC(USA) polity, [and] had caused a schism within the congregation,” which resulted in their removal from leadership (although by then the previous co-pastors had resigned their ordinations).

What remains today is a pretty small (though unusually eclectic) group. On any given Sunday, you’re likely to find 20-30 people gathered for worship in the chapel: a handful of long-time members, a new person or two from the neighborhood or another part of the city, homeless and marginalized folks, tourists visiting from afar, a few presbytery supporters and occasional “temporary” folks in town receiving specialized medical treatment on nearby “Pill Hill.”

What also remains is ongoing complex litigation and a property development joint venture option that complicate the fundamental question for the congregation: Do we have a ministry future? Still, with legal and development questions hovering in the background, the gospel imperatives persistently rise to the surface: What does it mean for us to serve God now? How do we live the good news right here? How do we love our neighbors?

Read more online.

December 22 Update from Pastor Heidi

December 22 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends in Christ –

Our  4th Sunday of Advent & Christmas Eve worship service is at our regular time this Sunday - 10:30 am - followed by lunch and Christmas-y goodies – so plan on sticking around!  (Bring a Christmas goodie to share if you’d like).

And because loneliness can be a challenge at Christmas –be sure to give some thought to if there are any family members, friends or neighbors you can invite and bring with you.

I’ve been noodling the Christmas text from Luke 2:1-20 – in many ways it’s so familiar, but also so wondrously earth-shattering!  Can’t wait to dive in to it together with you on Sunday! 

The text ends with Mary “pondering” what the shepherds proclaimed about her newborn child.  Imagine this new young mother still trying to wrap her head around the mystery of the incarnation, God made flesh, Embodied Love, held in her arms…

I love how one of the most famous early church fathers, Augustine, grappled with the mystery of the incarnation in a sermon from the 4th century:

“Man’s maker was made man
That He, Ruler of the stars,

might nurse at His mother’s breast
That the Bread might hunger
The Fountain thirst
The Light sleep
The Way be tired on its journey
That the Truth might be accused of false witness
The Teacher be beaten with whips
The Foundation be suspended on wood
That Strength might grow weak
That the Healer might be wounded
That Life might die.”

Indeed, there is much to ponder!

See you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

December 15 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brothers –

Um, that wasn’t exactly how I expected things to go last Sunday… But 15 minutes before worship started a migraine headache got the best of me and I knew I was a goner.  So, my sincere thanks to Rev. Gail Irving for stepping in VERY last minute and guiding the flock through worship!  I went home and climbed back into bed for about the next 20 hours, and woke up the next day feeling something closer to normal – thanks be to God!

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Interestingly, this Sunday the Lectionary text lets us have another go at John the Baptist.  Last week was Mark’s John; this week is John’s John, who is not so baptise-y.  Check the text out – John 1:6-8, 19-28 – and see what differences you notice, and we’ll preach it together on Sunday.

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And, here’s a heads up for the following Sunday, Dec 24th – which is the 4th Sunday of Advent AND Christmas Eve all wrapped into one this year.  On Christmas Eve there will be no afternoon or evening worship service at First Pres. We will have just our regular morning worship service at 10:30am, followed by lunch and Chistmas-y goodies!  Please consider inviting family members or friends!  And, if you’d like to bring cookies or something sweet to share on the morning of the 24th, let Gail Irving know after worship this Sunday or email her at gailirving@comcast.net   

See you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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December 8 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends in Christ –

We discovered last Sunday that one of the watchwords for Advent is, well, watchfulness.  The refrain we heard in Mark 13 alerting us to the coming again of Christ was “stay awake.” We talked about how being watchful and staying awake is more than just standing by idly, looking heavenward, waiting for Jesus to descend.  There is a kind of active waiting, that keeps us living in time altogether differently – by loving the least, the last, the hard-to-love in Jesus’ name; by not  hogging our stuff, and sharing ourselves and our abundance and living generously; by not holding grudges and forgiving others with Jesus’ help; by dealing with abuse and injustice, and caring for refugees.      

By the way, this is one reason why I don’t get all worked up about everybody saying “Merry Christmas” again.  Although I love saying “Merry Christmas!” I just don’t think this is what Jesus came for.  As one pastor put it, being Christian (staying awake) has less to do with the words we use for a holiday greeting than the acts of love we do on a daily basis.

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Last Sunday after worship, later in the day, I was pondering this Advent theme of “watchfulness”, I also thought of the not uncommon occurrence of people falling asleep in church (um…it might have happened that very day). And it occurred to me that, ironically, falling asleep in church (and anywhere else for that matter) might just be an example of staying awake!  Because, think about it: sometimes what prevents us from falling asleep is anxiety and worry.  (I know this from personal experience).  But falling asleep is a way of letting go, a way of trusting God.  And trusting God is a way of “staying awake” to who God is, of being alert to God’s promises.

So, there you have it: sometimes falling asleep is a way of staying awake!

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On the Second Sunday of Advent this week our sermon text is Mark 1:1-8.  Most scholars agree that Mark is the first Gospel to be written. No one had really ever written “a Gospel” before Mark; he pretty much invented the genre.  So what’s interesting then is Mark has absolutely nothing to say about the birth of Christ! There is no Christmas in Mark.  And where Mark does begin might make you wonder, “Is that any way to begin a Gospel?” Take a look, and we’ll talk about it together on Sunday…

Grace and peace!

Pastor Heidi

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Compass at First Presbyterian Featured on Q13 News

Enhanced shelter model takes different approach to move homeless off the streets

SEATTLE – It’s been two years since Seattle and King County officials declared homelessness an emergency.

Since then, more and more people find themselves living on the streets – and for some, finding a shelter that will accept them can be a challenge.

But now there’s a push to reinvent how shelters operate and get more people off the streets and into stable housing.

Seattle now has two 24-hour shelters that operate like temporary dorms.  They also offer free services to help people get people ready to rent a permanent apartment.

See more.

November 3 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Chuuuuuuurch!

As we round the corner into November, with the Thanksgiving holiday a little flicker in the distance, I begin to become more aware of how cranky and negative I can get, and am often spurred to ramp up my prayers of gratitude. So, here are a few things I’m grateful for:

Last Friday I attended the Compass Housing Alliance Fundraising Lunch. About 15 minutes into my chicken and couscous salad, they showed a video highlighting the new shelter – “Compass at First Presbyterian” (in our basement).  I just sat there and pretty much lost it.  Tears started falling as the video told us about how real lives are being changed – it featured two guys in particular, both working night jobs. One guy talked about how great it was to have his own bed, bed #16, at the shelter. And the best news: these guys are already close to getting permanent housing. I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

Last Saturday afternoon I was full of joy and gratitude as Rick and I spent a couple hours kayaking in our backyard out on Hood Canal.  It looked like this – I mean look at how flat that water is, and those fall colors reflected on the water! :)

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(This morning, just a week later, I’m looking out on a steel gray sky that is spitting snow…and I’m trying to be grateful for that, too!)

Last Monday we had a Session meeting (the Session is what we call the leadership board at First Presbyterian). The Session is currently comprised of the Administrative Commission members, most of whom are pastors and elders from other churches in Seattle Presbytery. These people are hugely gifted, smart, caring, and generous.  They are prayerfully seeking God’s direction for First Presbyterian, and I feel so honored to serve with them. More gratitude!

Yesterday I was at a meeting downstairs at the “Compass at First Presbyterian” shelter, this time to strategize with a bunch of different stakeholders, including shelter guests, about how to make what the shelter is doing even stronger.  I loved being there, getting to know folks better, and we generated a lot of good ideas. I even bumped into one of the guys in the Compass video and got to talk with him!  Ha – almost started crying again!

I’ll be grateful this Saturday night when Daylight Saving Time begins and I get to turn my clock back one hour when I go to bed!  Don’t forget to FALL BACK. :)

And I’ll be grateful this Sunday when we gather as a community of faith to worship God together, because we can’t do this life of faith alone.  We need each other.  If you get a chance, take a look at the sermon text – Matthew 23:1-12 – where Jesus tries to straighten out the religious leaders…  (Hmmm, wonder how that translates to our context today?!)

Hope to see you Sunday…

Gratefully!

Pastor Heidi

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October 28 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hey Everyone!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts last Sunday after worship about the future of the church…  And thank you for keeping First Presbyterian in your prayers as we continue to discern God’s way forward! 

There are a couple things going on this Sunday that I want to alert you to:

It’s Reformation Sunday…which may not mean much to some of you, I know! But, since this is the 500th anniversary it’s kind of a big deal.  Long story short – back in 1517, the medieval church was kinda going off the rails, full of corruption and losing sight of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, when a monk named Martin Luther did his level best to get things back on track.  The 16th century Reformation was pretty much a “back-to-the-Bible” movement, including the work of our great, great, great Presbyterian granddaddy, and second generation Reformer, Jean Calvin, in Geneva, Switzerland.

I’m sure I’ve told you before what Martin Luther said when he was asked how he managed to renew the church in the face of so much opposition, but it bears repeating.  Remember, here was a guy whose life was a Petri dish for discouragement.  At one point, Luther was literally hiding out in the church for a year for fear of losing his life.  But when Luther was asked what he did to make the Reformation happen, how did he manage to pull it off, he answered by saying – and this is not an exact quote, but the essence of what he said was: “While my friends and I drank beer in [the pub in] Wittenberg, the Word did it all!”  I really like that!  The beer part!  And the Word part:  The Word did it all.  And, truthfully, the Word continues to do it all among us still!

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This Sunday there will be another large group using the Sanctuary around noon.  We will still be meeting for worship in the Chapel for worship at 10:30 am, and for a simple meal afterwards – but there might be a little more commotion than normal, so just a little heads up.

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This Sunday the sermon text is Matthew 22:34-46.  If someone asked you – What’s most central to Jesus’ teaching that I need to know? or, What’s most important to the life of following Jesus that I need to do? – what would you say? I think our text might point us in the right direction…

Hope to see you tomorrow!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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October 13 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Sisters and Brothers  -

I wrote last week about the seeming bumper to bumper pile-up of concerns and disasters affecting people close to home and around the globe. It got a little closer to home for me last week as the Santa Ana winds whipped through Napa, CA, the town where I was born and raised, and where two of my brothers still love, and many aunts, uncles, countless cousins and friends still live. All of a sudden the words I wrote last week became very personal as the firestorm  began to rage (surrounding Napa, and devastating nearby Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Calistoga, too). Although some of my family members and friends did evacuate, so far all are safe and their homes have been spared. But it’s hard to celebrate dodging a bullet when your neighbor burned to the ground, and so many others have lost everything they owned, and the sheer beauty of the Napa Valley is marred.  My sister in law who works as Base/Emergency Management Coordinator at Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa says today the winds have calmed, but, “We’re not out of the woods yet.” Hard to imagine. Thank you for your continued prayers for the many who have experienced total loss in the inferno, and remain under continued threat and very frightened.

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Just a quick heads up that a few folks from the Listening Team will stick around after worship/lunch on October 22 (not this Sunday, but the following Sunday) for a very informal time of hearing from any in the congregation who have thoughts to share as we discern FPCS’s future.  If you would like to share briefly about – What do you see happening in the neighborhood?  How do you see FPCS investing here in the future? Do you sense any possible partnerships with others? – this is the time for the Listening Team to listen to you!

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The sermon text this week is Matthew 22:1-14 – the third, and (I must admit I am happy to say) last parable that Jesus told to help straighten out the temple leadership (and, I think, Matthew used to straighten out the church in his day, as well.)  It’s a parable about a wedding banquet, which sounds cheery enough, but if you thought the earlier two parables were a little cranky – holy cow – this one seems like we are catching Jesus/Matthew on a really bad day!  Lots of violence, gnashing of teeth and outer darkness, o my!  Check it out, read it through several times, bring your questions and insights, and let’s trust the Holy Spirit will guide us, and see if we can proclaim some good news this Sunday!

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

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October 7 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends in Christ -

The litany of pain and destruction affecting our country and the world grows: Massive fires and earthquakes and hurricanes and flooding. Persistent wars, and talk of nuclear war. Systemic white supremacy.  Political polarization.  Famines.  And now another mass shooting. The brokenness of creation, the fragility of existence and the depth of human sorrow are a fresh oozing wound.  

What are we followers of Jesus to do?  Of course we feel it.  We grieve. And we pray.  Half the Psalms in Scripture are prayers of lament “for crying out loud.” We let God have it.  And we respond, we help.  Historian Rodney Stark reports that during the dark times of the Roman Empire when the Plague raged, when attempts were made to quarantine whole populations of infected cities, leaving people to suffer and die, the only people willing to care for them were Christians, even at the risk of their own lives. Stark notes, “This heroic example was one reason the empire took a second look at this outlandish sect.”

But when “stuff” happens do we Christians really face it? 

Sometimes our tendency is to assure people, especially our kids. We boldy claim, “Well, honey, it won’t happen to you”, or “I won’t let it happen to you”.  What? Like Jesus-people are exempt?

But how about if we were to claim that God is our refuge?  That Jesus Christ is the Sovereign Lord and Ruler of the universe, that he is our security?  What if we tried to say that sometimes it is not until we get to the place where God is all we have that we come to know that God is all we need?  That’s not glossing over it.  It’s the truth.  It’s a call to trust. 

The person who has helped me find the words I most want to learn to say in the face of tragedy is a theologian named Gilbert Meilaender; they are words he offered in the wake of September 11, 2001:

“My child, the world is always a dangerous and threatening place where death surrounds us.  [But] When I brought you for baptism I acknowledged that I could not possibly guarantee your [earthly] future.  I handed you over to the God who loves you and with whom you are safe in both life and death.  There is no security to be found elsewhere, certainly not from me or those like me.  Live with courage, therefore, and, if it must be, do not be afraid to die in the service of what is good and just.” 

Ultimately that’s what the church says, and what the church does: With God’s help, we continue to live with courage.  We refuse to limit the loving-kindness of God only to people who look and think like us.  We continue to pray and work joyfully and relentlessly for the coming of God’s kin-dom – the kin-dom of the poor, the marginalized, the discouraged and devastated.  Following Jesus we continue to make our lives a protest against all that is evil and trivial and tyrannical in our world and in ourselves. 

Worshipping God together in community helps us stay on track, to keep God at the center of it all. 

The sermon text this week is Matthew 21:33-46. I admit, at first read it’s more than a little unsettling, but ultimately I think it’s full of hope as well.  Hope you can come be a part of it this week!

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

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September 28 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Friends in Christ -

There’s a small pile of things I want to communicate in this eNews, so hang on…

NEIGHBORHOOD WALK THIS SUNDAY after worship

This Sunday after worship, Alex Hudson, Executive Director for the First Hill Improvement Association (that’s our neighborhood!) will lead us on a walk through the neighborhood.  Alex is a young, vivacious, energetic enthusiast of all things First Hill.  You will love her!  So, wear sensible shoes, and maybe bring an umbrella! And let’s be a part of listening to the neighborhood… (should take about 45-60 minutes).

TAKE A KNEE…OR TWO…

Rev. Eyde Mbanglo has filled in for me several times this summer while I’ve been on vacation and study leave, and I really love what she posted on her Facebook page in response to the “take a knee” controversy:

   “Beloved,
   You are my friend.
   I love you.

   I respect your desire to change your weekend plans and 'fast' from (boycott) football. I do.

   As you discern what to do with an extra hour or two on The Lord's Day, please consider exploring the       reality of systemic oppression and racism in our beautiful country for many of our brothers and sisters.

   On Sunday, as many of us kneel for a moment (some on the field, some in church, and some in our hearts) to rest in God's protective embrace and humbly invite God's perfect wisdom in how to eradicate any supremacy other than God's, I invite you to just consider the intention behind many athletes kneeling is not about disrespecting anything or anyone, but on the contrary is 100% about honoring God's love and care for everyone.

   Respectfully, our brothers and sisters simply don't know what else they can do, but to kneel.”

IN WORSHIP THIS SUNDAY…

We’ll begin worship with a new Gathering SongLord Jesus, Think on Me, #301 in the blue hymnal –  so try to give it a listen a few times this week if you get a chance.  You can access it here on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=NqQ1IPOIZwA

This week’s sermon text, Matthew 21:23-32, follows Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem where he turns the tables (literally).  Not everyone thought that was such a neat idea.  I often wonder, How would I have responded to this real, in-the-flesh Jesus guy?  And really, how do I now?  Also, one of the things I love about this lectionary passage is how Jesus engages others with questions.  He asks, What do you think?  Kind of like we do with our “partners in preaching” participative style of engaging the text together. (I got the idea from Jesus J)

And it’s World Communion Sunday – so all across the globe Christians will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper, anticipating that great heavenly banquet when people will come from north and south and east and west and sit at table together in the Kin-dom of God! There’s a place at the table for you!

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

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September 22 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Chuuuurch!

I just returned from a week of study leave, holed up in a cabin off the grid in northern California, where I devoured 5 mostly recently published books about churches facing decline and the hope of congregational renewal.

I will say I was encouraged in my fundamental conviction that God is always up to something new, even something great!  As one author put it, even for congregations for whom slow death is the only possibility – God is still present and at work!

Of course, in the face of decline there is no simple, easy path to discovering the way forward (and, furthermore, there is no guarantee that what is to come will be continuous with what used to be – meaning things will likely look very different in the future.) 

As one author reminded me, the predicament of the unclear and convoluted path forward that we and many other churches “find ourselves in is ultimately the fault of the Holy Spirit.” Sounds kind of shocking, but I kind of like that – blaming the Holy Spirit! – because let’s face it, perhaps much to the chagrin of us Presbyterians, “the Holy Spirit never does anything decently and in order.” 

Of course, it’s also true that the “the Holy Spirit is our only true guide.”  But on the road to discernment and the discovery of the new thing God is up to, the author concludes, “If we are attentive to the Holy Spirit, we need to be comfortable with chaos and willing to embrace disorder…”  

Yep that’s what we’ve got going – if not chaos, then a little confusion, a little disorder, a little not knowing.  The Holy Spirit in charge.  Let’s keep helping each other be ok with that!

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Just a heads up that this week’s sermon text, Matthew 20:1-16, is another parable of Jesus, one of those little ticking time-bombs that sort of explodes with meaning.  This one we might struggle with a bit: is it bad news…or good news…  What do you think?

See you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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September 8 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends in Christ –

People from the church – and the larger neighborhood - keep asking me, “How can we help with the new 24/7 “Compass at First Presbyterian” Shelter?”  At this point, as the Shelter ramps up with new guests arriving every day, they have several immediate needs that we can all help with, including:

     --Twin bed sheets, both flat and fitted, any color

     --Blankets and quilts

     --Bath Towels

     --Socks

So spread the word!  Any of the Compass at First Presbyterian staff can provide a donor receipt to donors. Just stop by the entrance to the Shelter on Spring Street (below the Chapel entrance, down the ramp). Thank you!

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This week’s sermon text, Matthew 18:15-20, includes instructions for dealing with church conflict.  Jesus is aware of a few things from the get-go: that life together wouldn’t be easy; and that while reconciliation is to be pursued, apparently it isn’t always possible. The passage actually culminates in one of my favorite verses of all time, when Jesus says, 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”  It’s a promise, you can count on it, and I think it’s important not to forget the context in which these words are spoken…

See you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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September 1 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends in Christ –

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

Rick and I returned this week from two weeks of vacation touring the South Sound on the “Willie C.” (our 44 year old 25’ troller camper boat) and boy did we have fun!  We were probably never more than 50 miles away from our home as the crow flies, but out on the water we were in another world, and I felt as removed from my regular routine – and upon return, as rested and renewed – as I have ever been. 

I jumped back into pastor mode on Wednesday at the Grand Opening of the “Compass at First Presbyterian” 24/7 shelter.  And what a way to re-enter! I was blown away by how the remodeled basement looks.  (For those of you who were not able to attend, I think we might be able to do a quick tour with Program Manager Rev. Mark Smutny this Sunday).  In addition, the folks from the City said they have never had a more well attended and celebratory shelter opening ever.  Our First Hill neighbors are welcoming this shelter with open hearts and arms. So many people expressed their extreme gratefulness to First Presbyterian for opening our doors in this way.  My response is, To God be the glory!, My prayer is, Thy Kingdom come!

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So, I really missed preaching together, and can’t wait to dive into this week’s text: Matthew 16:21-28.

In last week’s passage Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?”, and Simon Peter nailed it: “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.” Bingo! Even Jesus seemed impressed!

But in this week’s text, Peter goes from solid Rock to stumbling block (yikes: Jesus even calls Peter Satan!). And Jesus begins defining his own terms. How Jesus will be Messiah begins to come into focus, and it’s not what Peter or other people think. What’s more, Jesus’ Messianic job description has got some pretty profound implications for how his followers are to live, as well. And hang on – because I wouldn’t exactly call it the promise of smooth sailing! 

See you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

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Compass at First Presbyterian Grand Opening

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Please join City of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Compass Housing Alliance, and First Presbyterian Church on August 30th as we open the doors to a new approach for helping people living outdoors to come inside. The grand opening of Compass at First Presbyterian celebrates an innovative program model in support of Seattle’s most vulnerable community members.

Compass at First Presbyterian is an enhanced 24/7 homeless shelter with 100 beds, funded by the City of Seattle in partnership of Compass Housing Alliance and Seattle First Presbyterian Church. The program combines safe shelter, wrap-around services, and intensive case management to bring stability, growth, and community to King County. Learn more here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Seattle First Presbyterian Church
1013 8th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104

Opening Begins: 11:00 a.m.
Opening Concludes: 12:30 p.m.

Coffee and light refreshments will be provided.

Aug. 10 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Brothers and Sisters –

In our text for Sunday – Matthew 14:22-33 – Jesus needs a break, so he sends the disciples along by themselves to cross Lake Galilee, which sometimes acts more like a sea when a storm kicks up, which is precisely what happens. No problem – there are seasoned fishermen on board.

In the early dawn Jesus comes to them, walking on the water.  And it’s kind of funny, because THAT’S when the disciples have a heart attack! Not in the 10’ seas.  No, Jesus scares the living daylights out of them.  They think: “It’s a ghost!”  Yeh, the guy who just fed 5000+ people.

Only Matthew’s version includes Peter’s request to join Jesus on water.  Apparently with the storm still raging.

I was in a boat on some very rough water recently.  I have one question.  Is Peter nuts?  WHY GET OUT OF THE BOAT?????  That’s the LAST thing I would want to do.

I have been thinking a lot about this.

To my mind, there’s one good thing about getting out of the boat.  It has to do with sinking. 

And there’s one good thing about sinking.

Let’s talk about it on Sunday…

Grace and peace!

Pastor Heidi 

PS Don’t forget - it’s time to register for this Seattle Presbytery sponsored event! 

Saturday, September 23, 9-4, at First Presbyterian Church Seattle
Cost $10

Racism dehumanizes us all — Dismantling racism heals us all.

Recognizing that racism goes beyond personal prejudice, Crossroads offers a distinctive power analysis of how racism functions in institutions, and offers tools to create antiracist transformation.

REGISTER NOW:
--at http://seattlepresbytery.org/events/2017/923-crossroads-anti-racism-training, and let Heidi or Kathy know you are planning to attend.
OR
--sign the sign up list on Sunday morning, and we will register you.

Aug. 2 Update from Pastor Heidi

Ahoy Sisters and Brothers –

Rick and I have just returned from a week of vacation – a maiden voyage on our 25’ Swedish made 36 horse-power troller boat, putt-putting out of Hood Canal and all the way up to Bellingham at 6 knots.  Except for the pea-soup fog out of Port Ludlow (we don’t have radar), the little “small craft advisory” we ran into outside of La Conner (let’s see, were those winds 10 mph or 25 mph?!?!), heading south out of Bellingham Bay into 16mph winds, and eventually rounding Foulweather Bluff as it more than lived up to its name (were those waves 4’ or 6’?), everything went just fine!  The Volvo MD-17 diesel engine that Rick rebuilt last winter ran flawlessly.  I love that we burned only a little over a ½  gallon of fuel an hour.  Yeehaw! 

I suspect a sermon illustration or two will come of it.  But as I keep telling people, “Nobody died, and we are still married!” And we had a blast.  But it’s good to be back on terra firma, for a while anyway!

~                ~                ~                ~                ~

So, we’ve got a super familiar text for this Sunday – Matthew 14:13-21 (the feeding of the 5,000). My advice? Try to forget everything you’ve heard and think you know, and read it with new eyes!  We’ll also be celebrating the Lord’s Supper this Sunday, too.

~                ~                ~                ~                ~

I also want to get the info below in front of you…  I’m hoping as many of us as possible from First Pres. can go together.  The church can help cover the cost, just let me or Kathy Smith know.  So please make every effort to save the date on your calendar!

Many blessings, friends – hope to see you Sunday!

Pastor Heidi


SAVE THE DATE:

Seattle Presbytery/  Saturday, September 23, 9-4   /  at First Presbyterian Church Seattle

Racism dehumanizes us all —
Dismantling racism heals us all.

Recognizing that racism goes beyond personal prejudice, Crossroads offers a distinctive power analysis of how racism functions in institutions, and offers tools to create antiracist transformation.

Led by nationally recognized leaders with experience training church leaders, this event is open to all our churches.

MORE INFO:  http://seattlepresbytery.org/events/2017/923-crossroads-anti-racism-training

You can:
-- register yourself at the link above, and let us know you are planning to attend.
OR
--let us know you want to attend (sign list on Sunday morning), and we will register you.

July 20 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends –

First, a little housecleaning is in order…literally.  :) 

With Compass Housing Alliance working diligently downstairs in order to move the Shelter in later this summer (yay!), we need to get the upstairs kitchen cleaned up and a little more functional for Sunday mornings.  We’ve planned a WORK DAY at FPCS on Thursday July 27th from 9:30 am – 4 pm. We hope to clean and organize the upstairs kitchen as well as pack dishes. (I’ve never seen so many dishes!)  If you have questions or want to help you can contact Kathy Smith (kathryngear@gmail.com) or Gail Irving (gailirving@comcast.net).

Second, I’m loving the sermon text for this week, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. Our latest ticking-time-bomb (aka parable) includes more seeds this week, but then (tick-tick-tick) some weeds get thrown in, too! 

I remember a Bible teacher once saying that this parable is perfectly suited for the world we live in; more precisely, that if ever there were a Bible passage designed to help people make it Monday through Saturday – this is it!  (A pretty bold claim in a culture that thinks the Bible and churchy stuff is pretty obsolete!)

So, wanna know why? 

Let’s talk about it together on Sunday!

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

July 6 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends –

I don’t know - maybe it’s because we’ve had a steady stream of houseguests for the last two and half weeks out on the Canal – but, while it’s been great fun, a part of this Sunday’s sermon text from Matthew 11:25-30 seems to be resonating with me a bit more than usual…

28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Ah yes, great fun, but a little weariness has set in…and the need for some rest, too!

Eugene Peterson’s translation in the Message helps us see it’s not just the general busy-ness and heavy loads of life that Jesus is addressing, but more the burden of a legalistic, Jesus-less life of faith or religion that he has in view:

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Check out the whole passage we’ll be looking at this Sunday:  Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30.  Try to avoid what other people have written or said, and just wallow or marinate in the text, reading through it over and over again, paying attention to what you see, what speaks to you…

Learning the “unforced rhythms of grace”,

Pastor Heidi