June 23 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brothers –

Hoo boy – we’ve been enjoying some beautiful, sunny days out where we live on Hood Canal – with the added bonus of hostingsome out of town visitors – my nephew and his wife from Washington, DC; and, my niece and her fiancé (an Irishman) direct from 5 years teaching English in So. Korea.  It’s meant lots of catching up, and rich conversation. Man, do I feel blessed!

So, a few quick, bulleted points for the eNews  this week…

·      We have identified the members our FPCS Listening Team that will help us begin the process of discerning our way forward and prayerfully discovering what God has in mind for the future of FPCS. We’ve got: Jessica Sofie, FPCS; Glenn Bell, FPCS; JP Kang, AC/Session; Charlie Scoma, Seattle Police Dept., Chaplain; Dani Forbess, Pastor Northminster Pres., Presbytery Catalyzing Missional Community Committeemember; Kathryn Smith, AC/Session member (and experience with new church development); and, Heidi Husted Armstrong, Transitional Pastor.  We are starting to nail down our meeting dates, and scheduling the folks we will be listing to (a diverse lot!) – so it’s a bit of a logistical challenge.  We appreciate your prayers in the weeks and months ahead!

·      Don’t forget THIS SUNDAY we’ll be cleaning out some of the basement after lunch in anticipation of the Compass shelter beginning to move in. If you are able to stay afterwards we sure would appreciate your help!

·      I feel like the sermon text this week - Matthew 10:24-39 – should come with a warning:  “Caution: do not read in isolation; read only in community.” We will DEFINITELY need each other’s help to find our way through this challenging call to discipleship! Check it out in advance – but remember, no commentaries J

Looking forward to seeing you Sunday.

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

June 16 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends in Christ –

The Lectionary Gospel readings land us back in Matthew for the rest of the year, and our text for this Sunday is Matthew 9:35-10:8. If you get a chance to read it before Sunday, read it slowly, and just pay attention.  What pops out for you? What do you find confusing?  How does the text connect - or not - with our lives today? 

One of the things that grabs me in this text is in verse 36: “when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them….”  Jesus cared about people.  Com + passion = to suffer with.  Jesus felt their pain.  His gut ached for them.  His heart went out to them. 

There have been times when followers of Jesus have excelled at embracing the compassionate way of Jesus. 

Some years ago I came across the words of one historian recalling “the dark times in ancient Roman history when city-wide epidemics wiped out whole sections of the population.  The empire did its best to quarantine those sections of the cities, though the remaining people were abandoned to a slow and painful death.  The only people willing to risk their lives to care for these suffering souls were Christians. Many of them flocked to the areas most infected and literally gave their lives to care for the dead and dying.  This heroic example was one reason the empire took a second look at Christianity.” Wow. Jesus-like compassion is evangelistic! 

So what does this mean for us today?

The historian I quoted above kind of gets in our faces when goes on to suggest that it means that “Christians at their best must concern themselves less with the church’s institutional survival, or even their own survival, and more with the welfare of those who are suffering.”

If that sounds a teensy bit overwhelming, maybe we could just start by letting our hearts go out to one person today. 

And day by day let’s keep figuring out how to…

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

June 9 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Friends in Christ –

Once a year the Lectionary designates the Sunday after Pentecost as “Trinity Sunday” (this this coming Sunday). Trinity refers to the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – although the words Trinity or Triune never appear in the Bible.

Have you ever tried to explain the Trinity to someone?  Um, good luck!  Finding the words to explain the mystery of the Divine Three-in-One sometimes feels like trying to carry a huge pile of uncontained sand in your arms.  We tend to rely to our old standby Trinity metaphors, saying the Trinity is like water (it comes in three forms: solid ice, liquid water, gaseous steam - but it’s all water). Or, the Trinity is like an egg (it has three parts: shell, yoke, white - but it’s all egg).  But those explanations always feel a little silly if you ask me.  Worst of all, it makes us think of the Trinity as three objects. It took me a long time to grasp that the Trinity is not a math problem or a science experiment, but a relationship of persons. The Triune God is a community in which we too are invited to participate. Not only is the Trinity “incomparably hospitable to each other” (Daniel Migliore), but to us as well! 

Our text for this Sunday – Matthew 28:16-20 – the final text is that gospel is usually dubbed “The Great Commission.” If you get a chance to read it before Sunday try to forget everything you’ve ever learned about it before, and read it with fresh eyes.  Just pay attention.  Notice what jumps out at you…  What seems weird or odd or confusing about it?  How does the text connect (or not) with our lives today? 

And…any idea why the Lectionary folks appointed this text for Trinity Sunday?

See you Sunday!

Pastor Heidi

June 1 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Brothers and Sisters –

This Sunday is Pentecost!  In celebration of the Holy Spirit coming and appearing as tongues of fire, and alighting on the early believers like they were life-sized candles (Acts 2:3) – wear some bright colors – red, orange, yellow—this Sunday! 

Tom Long, who has taught preaching for years, and is a darn good preacher himself, has noted that preaching the Pentecost event in Acts 2 can be more than a little intimidating: “What sermon can possibly come up to the drama of this passage?”  At Pentecost a steady stream of audio-visual assaults our senses.  Tom Long points out we’ve got everything from --

“a freight-train sized sound of wind from heaven, to
tongues of fire dancing on the heads of the disciples, plus
United Nations-styled multiple language proclamation, and
cries of amazement mingled with yelps of mockery among the hearers…” 

All topped off with a killer sermon from Peter, and people jumping at the chance to follow Jesus… resulting in 3000 converts that day!

Um, so maybe you’ve noticed:  It’s not always like this in the church!  About the loudest sound  we hear is some earsplitting feedback from the sound-system!  And, well, we’ve usually got maybe ONE candle lit!

Maybe that’s why we tend to think, How about we just leave Pentecost to the Pentecostals?

Well…or, how about we become Pentecostal Presbyterians?!

I love Pentecost because it reminds me that the church is not pastor- or personality-dependent; the church is not 3-year-plan or written-mission-vision-values dependent; the church is not big numbers-, or program-, or gothic building-driven; but, the church is Spirit-dependent!  Pentecost means the church is Spirit-created, Spirit-led and Spirit-sustained.

So c’mon Presbyterians – a little less handwringing! 

Let’s get our Pentecost on, and keep it on!

Sermon texts for this Sunday: a quick read of Acts 2:1-13, and then John’s Pentecost at John 20:19-31 (you might recall we just read this text at Easter, too!)

See you Sunday!

Pastor Heidi

May 25 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brothers  –

I’ve been reflecting on the “Compass at First Presbyterian” neighborhood outreach meeting that happened last Monday night. It was a great turnout – some 75 folks from the neighborhood and city, with lots of enthusiasm and support voiced for the 24/7 enhanced services shelter that will begin later this summer. (Read the article from The Capital Hill Times here). 

My overwhelming thought has been, Well, that was fun!  There were ten folks from First Presbyterian that we slapped name tags on, and then they did a great job welcoming people – sharing their smiles, shaking hands, and being their awesome friendly selves!  It was a great way to meet some of the neighbors, and for them to meet some of us.  Go church!

There was one gentleman who sat near the back, who spoke briefly to the whole group – really he gave his testimony about how Compass sort of saved his life some years ago by giving him shelter and support. Compass literally gave him a safe place to face his challenges including a bipolar diagnosis.  He is now clean and sober, gainfully employed and reconciled with his family.  As he shared, it felt like church!  I thanked the man afterwards for sharing, and as we chatted he kinda joked with me, "You know Pastor, I'm a lapsed Presbyterian!" And I said, “Well, come home!”  He gave me his business card.  I don't know if we'll see him in worship, but we might! 

I sure got the sense there IS a neighborhood out there waiting to be known...and loved...  It just felt like Jesus is with us, the Spirit is guiding us, showing us the way.  We are not alone!

So, here’s the sermon text for Sunday: John 17:1-11. Remember no commentaries.  Just engage the text – read it slowly, several times, over and over again, and pay attention: What jumps out at you?  What do you love about this text?  What seems weird or odd or confusing about it?  How does the text connect (or not) with your life or the world today?

See you Sunday!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

It takes a community - Capitol Hill Times article

First Hill residents give blessings to 24/7 homeless shelter at First Presbyterian

By Brandon Macz
5/23/2017 12:27 PM

While organizers of a 24/7 homeless shelter at Seattle First Presbyterian Church had braced themselves for pushback, First Hill residents provided mostly words of support Monday night, as well as questions about how it will work.

“I’d like to say that poor people are not bad people,” said Alice Wesley, a resident of the Skyline at First Hill. “I know that because I used to be poor. I wasn’t bad then, and I’m not bad now.”

Wesley was one of several residents who came with signs of support, identifying themselves as part of the First Hill Y.I.M.B.Y (Yes In My Back Yard) Group. They also provided 22 letters of support for the 100-bed shelter, which is slated to open in the lower half of the church in August.

First Hill Plaza resident Helen Goehring said she thinks the low-barrier shelter, operated by Compass Housing Alliance, will make the neighborhood safer. She said she’s frightened for the people she sees sleeping on benches or talking to themselves on the street, adding it’s also scary for her.

Not scared away by the homeless population in First Hill are developers, said Suzanne Hittman, another Skyline at First Hill resident. She added they’re also not constructing affordable housing in their new, big buildings.

First Hill has Therapeutic Health Services, a major hospital that also provides mental health and substance abuse assistance, plus a program that helps people recently released from prison, Hittman said.

“The First Hill neighborhood is a welcoming neighborhood,” she said, “and we would like to bring this message to Laurelhurst, Magnolia, West Seattle…” and so on.

Seattle First Presbyterian began talks with Compass Housing about using its large space in the lower half of the church back in January, said Pastor Heidi Husted Armstrong.

“For us, as people of faith, it seemed like God was smack dab in the middle of this thing,” she said during the community discussion on May 22. “There are a lot of things that we can’t do here, but that we can do, and we are honored and humbled to be a part of this partnership.”

Read the complete article online.

May 19 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Sisters and Brothers  –

I want to remind you that this coming Monday, May 22, at 6:30pm, Compass Housing Alliance will be having a Community Meeting at First Pres. in the Chapel.  We have been reaching out to our neighbors and interested others - inviting them to come and learn more about the “Compass at First Presbyterian” Transitional Shelter that will begin later this summer.

Francesca Martin, Chief Program Officer at Compass, and our major contact person, reports they’ve already been having some great smaller meetings in the community with interested parties, including individuals, the First Hill Improvement Association, and others.

I want to encourage you to come on Monday evening if you can – because as we start to think about what FPCS ministry redevelopment might look like, this will provide us a little glimpse of who is in the neighborhood…and give the neighborhood a little glimpse of who is in the church. 

In fact, can you let me know if you’re planning on being there?  AND would you be willing to help welcome people?  We’ll probably slap a name tag on you – but if you can smile and say hi, you can do this!  Just shoot me a quick email at Heidi@seafirstpres.org and let me know if you are in!

 

Two more things…

You may have noticed – ha! – but the sun is shining! So be sure and get outside in the next several days and go for a walk and soak up some Vitamin D! 

And, I’ll give you the sermon text for Sunday if you promise NOT to read the commentaries!  DON’T STUDY the “experts.” Just engage the text – read it slowly, several times, over and over again.  Just pay attention: What jumps out at you?  What do you love about this text?  What seems weird or odd or confusing about it?  How does the text connect (or not) with your life or the world today?

OK – remember – no commentaries, right?! 

John 14:15-21.

See you Sunday!

Pastor Heidi

 

Good Friday

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

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

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

City invests in responsive solution for local homelessness crisis

Homelessness Response Blog, article by Julie Moore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read online.

Maundy Thursday Worship Service @ FPCS

Dear Friends –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

 

April 4 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters & Brothers -

Holy week begins this SUNDAY with Palm Sunday… 

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

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

So here’s an idea for worship THIS SUNDAY:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you Sunday!

Pastor Heidi

Mar. 31 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Brothers & Sisters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy Week at FPCS

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

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

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

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

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

Mar. 24 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brothers–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s an adventure!

Pastor Heidi

Mar. 10 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Friends –

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

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

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

Feb. 24 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brother –

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

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

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

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

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

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

Feb. 10 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear friends in Christ -

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

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

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

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

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

HERE’S A SPECIFIC NEED YOU CAN HELP WITH:

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

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

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

Questions? Email Kathy Smith at kathryngear@gmail.com

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

Feb. 3 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear friends in Christ –

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

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

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

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

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

Jan. 27 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brothers –

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace and peace,

Pastor Heidi

Jan. 13 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Brothers and Sisters –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I sure hope our reputation has been improving.

Be the Beloved Community!

Pastor Heidi

Jan. 6 Update from Pastor Heidi

Dear Sisters and Brothers –

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

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

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

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

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

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi