February 23 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hey everyone!

I’ve mentioned recently that sometimes we make Lent too much about giving up something (fasting from chocolate, or Facebook, or alcohol…or church!). But we miss the point if we just see Lent as an opportunity to empty our lives of something, and do not seek to be more open to the presence of Christ all around us.  Lent is not just for emptying, but spiritual filling. 

That’s why I love the new little song we started learning in worship last week, by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, titled Christ Within (based on St. Patrick’s Breastplate, an old Irish prayer). It reminds me of Christ’s presence all around, willing to fill us…

     Christ within, before and behind

     Christ beneath, above, beside

     Christ every hour, every day, every night

We’ll bring this tune back as the Sending Song again this week, and hope to tackle it as a round.  To that end, you might want to give it a listen a few times and get it in your head so we can pull it off!  Here’s the link so you can practice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkH6FjTfCtI

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Sunday’s sermon text is Mark 8:31-38 – and it’s kinda of a doozy.  After Jesus spells out what’s ahead for him (namely suffering, rejection, death, and rising again) Peter freaks out and reads Jesus the riot act. Then Jesus reads Peter the riot act!  The next thing you know, Jesus paints a picture of what discipleship looks like – to follow him in self denial and take up your cross. I’m pretty sure this did not go over so well either, at least initially.  So, how does it go over with us?

I hope you’ll take time to read through the passage a few times and see what you think, and let’s talk about it together on Sunday. 

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And before I sign off, a few updates

Mark Smutny recently resigned as the Program Director for Compass at First Presbyterian (the shelter in the church basement) to take a position as Operations Manager for Sound Generations’ Hyde Shuttle transportation program.  Robert Taylor is now the Program Director, and we wish him very success!

Gail Irving has decided to make a change - while she loves being at FPCS, she desires to use her ordination and be more directly involved in pastoral ministry (including preaching and leading worship more regularly) and has been invited by Rev. Doug Early to do so on Sunday mornings at Queen Anne Presbyterian Church.  As a result, Gail's last Sunday being in charge of the meal at FPCS will be this Sunday, Feb 25. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us, Gail – we pray God’s blessing on your new adventure!

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

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February 15 Update from Pastor Heidi

Friends in Christ -

The season of Lent – the 40 days (minus Sundays) leading up to Easter – began yesterday on Ash Wednesday (also VaLENTine’s Day)!  We had a few folks show up for “ashes-on-the-go, and then Pastor J.P. Kang and I went downstairs to the basement and offered “ashes for Lent” to the Shelter guests. “Oh, yes, I know what that is!, said one woman, and stepped right up.  “What’s Lent?” asked another person.  I explained it’s a season before Easter when we’re honest with ourselves and with God about how we’ve messed up, that we made mistakes; we don’t hide from God, but tell the truth, we repent, and God forgives us.  “Oh, that’s good,” he said, “but I think I’ll just save ‘mine’ for somebody else who really needs it.”  That kinda cracked me up.  I went through the women’s dormitory area, and adminstered the ashes to 3 or 4 women chillin’ in their bunks.  One woman seemed particularly fragile and sweet.  I said to her, “The ashes remind us of how fragile we are – we are dust, and to dust we shall return.  But remember, God doesn’t hate anything God has made. When we mess up, or find ourselves in a mess, God loves us, and forgives us.  God never gives up on us.  I want you to remember that.”  We were looking at each other eyeball to eyeball:  “I want you never to forget that God loves you very much, OK?” “Yes…” she said. 

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I’ve always been a little ambivalent about giving up something for Lent.  It just seems like we end up focusing on the thing we are giving up, and feeling deprived, rather than making space for God or experiencing spiritual growth or life.  But the point of spiritual practices like prayer, fasting, works of love, simplicity, and reading and mediating on the God’s Word is to connect us with God.  We’re not just giving up something, we’re giving up ourselves to God.

A couple days ago I came across a list of Simple Lenten Spiritual Practices written by Annie Corson Lambert, a member of a church I served in Tacoma a few years back (Trinity Presbyterian, on the Hilltop). I really liked her suggested spiritual practices because, well, so many of them seem so practical.  I asked Annie if I could share her list with you, and she eagerly gave permission, so I’ve attached it. Please take the time to open it – I think you will find it to have some really creative and helpful suggestions for your Lenten journey. 

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Sunday’s sermon text lands us back in Mark 1:9-15 (again!), which starts with Jesus’ baptism (check), and ends with Jesus at the beginning of his ministry in Galilee “proclaiming the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near” (check).  But sandwiched in the middle is the shortest Gospel version of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.  Just. Two. Verses.  Gonna be short sermon, right?  Ha! Well see!  Read through this passage and see what you think is going on and let’s talk about it together on Sunday. 

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

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Ash Wednesday

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40 days of Lent begin today on Ash Wednesday. Join us for a very brief service in the Chapel at 5pm - more like “ashes to go.”

February 9 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hello Brothers & Sisters -

I want to give you a heads up and let you know this Sunday might be a little different – because we’ll have another small church of 15 or so folks joining us for worship this week.   Sanctuary Church is a small congregation that has been located in the Capital Hill area for a number of years. For some time now their church leadership has been discerning a call to leave their present denominational affiliation and become a congregation in the Pressbyterian Church (USA).  As part of helping their congregation know what that means, they’d like to worship with a PC(USA) congregation on a Sunday morning, and well, we’re right here in the neighborhood J

I know, I know – the story we usually hear is about congregations leaving the PC(USA).  But, actually, at recent Presbytery meetings we’ve received pastors who have come into the PC(USA) from different denominational backgrounds, and new worshipping communities, too.  The Holy Spirit keeps doing a new thing.  Like our General Assembly Stated Clerk, Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, recently said, “We’re not dying! We’re reforming!” 

So, be ready to get your “hospitality” on, and warmly welcome a few more unfamiliar, but friendly faces to worship this Sunday!   The PC(USA) thanks you!

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Also, this Sunday is “Transfiguration Sunday” – our sermon text is Mark 9:2-10 – when Jesus is basically “metamorphosed” on the mountain before Peter, James and John, in a blaze of light and mysterious cloud.  It’s a spectacular manifestation of divine glory, or maybe that’s glow-ry.  I remember someone once saying this might be the original event that first produced the phrase, “I guess you had to be there!”, because no matter how hard we try, it seems we’re never quite able to explain it.  Of course, maybe trying to explain it isn’t the point.   Sometimes we just need to be willing to enter the mystery.

Notice Peter and company were terrified.  I wonder why?  What were they afraid of?   And, is there anything in the passage that helps to allay their fears…and ours?  Lots to ponder together this week…

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And finally, just a quick note to let you know that next Wednesday is not only Valentine’s Day, but Ash Wednesday – which marks the beginning of the season of Lent leading up to Easter.  We’ll be offering a VERY short and simple opportunity that evening at 5pm in the Chapel to have your forehead marked with ashes in the sign of the cross.  It’s not really even a “service” – though we’ll say a prayer, and read a Scripture, but it will take only 5-10 minutes.  More like “ashes to go.”  So take a few minutes to come by after work, and begin your Lenten journey of repentance by remembering “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” It’s a meaningful way to begin our journey to Easter and the celebration of the resurrection…

In the meanwhile…

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

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February 2 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hey friends!

So you know how we’ve been prayerfully trying to discern how God might be leading First Presbyterian into the future.  As a first step, last July we put together a little group of folks from FPCS and Seattle Presbytery that we called the “Listening Team.” Their job over the last several months was to…well, listen to what God might be saying to us through the voices of various people and partners in our neighborhood.  It ended up being an incredibly rich experience, and we now have a summary report of what we learned through these conversations.  Copies of the “FPCS Listening Team Summary Report” will be available on Sunday morning.  

It’s certainly not the end of the journey, there’s more to discover and discern, but this has been a great start.  Let me know if you have any questions about the report, or where we are…

I was invited to meet with another church in the Presbytery one evening this last week – they were curious about what was happening at FPCS – and especially wanted to know about our Listening Team process.  It’s a congregation that is also a little bewildered about their future – somedays even a little fearful if they’ll make it.  (You know, we’re not the only ones).  I was glad to share our story, and remind these folks (and myself!) that the Lord is the Lord of the church. We may not know where this whole thing is going, but what a Companion we have along the way, showing the way! 

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Our sermon text on Sunday is Mark 1:29-39 – lots going on in this text – including Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law, and, by that evening, a whole bunch of other people (“they brought to him all who were sick or possessed by demons”… “the whole city lined up at his door.”)  No wonder Jesus then tries to get away for a little prayer retreat…but the disciples hunt him down…which results in Jesus clarifying his mission.  Like I said, lots going on here.  Read it through a few times before Sunday, and take note of what strikes you in the passage.

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And again, just a reminder – the ferry schedule has changed, so I don’t have to skedaddle quite so quickly after lunch on Sundays.  So on Sunday morning plan on sticking around a little longer if you’d like and let’s hang out and chat.  I look forward to visiting a bit more with you all!

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, Rembrandt sketch

Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, Rembrandt sketch

January 26 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hey everyone!

Just touching bases real quick before Sunday…

I’m wondering what feelings or reactions the word “authority”conjurs up for you?  Is it a good thing?  Bad thing?  A good experience for you? Negative experience  for you?  Who has authority?  Parents, teachers, police, and um, maybe pastors? Who else?  Anybody ever slap a bumper sticker on their car that said “Question Authority”?  What makes authority…authoritarian?

I’m asking because our text on Sunday is Mark 1:21-28, which says regular folks were impressed with Jesus because he taught as “one having authority” – not like the scribes, who were the ones who had, well, authority!  So, what made Jesus different?

Just something to be thinking about…

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Also, just a heads up – the ferry schedule has changed, so I don’t have to skedaddle quite so quickly after lunch on Sundays.  So on Sunday morning plan on sticking around a little longer if you’d like and let’s hang out and chat.  I look forward to visiting a bit more with you all!

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Oh, and one last thing – Kathy Smith, member of the Administrative Commission and Clerk of Session was approved by Seattle Presbytery to serve as a Commissioned Ruling Elder at First Presbyterian Seattle – meaning she will keep doing ALL the awesome things she’s been doing at FPCS, plus now she can partcipate in the sacraments (communion and baptism) if we ever need her to. Kathy is a kind and faithful soul, with a generous heart, and we are blessed to have her be a part the beloved community here.

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

January 19 Update from Pastor Heidi

Hey friends –

True confessions: I don’t usually look to Presbytery meetings for inspiration…but the one we had this week – wow, just WOW!  Two things rocked our little Presbyterian meeting…

First, the inspired preaching of The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the PC(USA), and, notably, the first African-American in that position.

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Dr. Nelson is a gift to the church – he’s a life-long Presbyterian (pastors in the family go back three generations!) who is pastoral, humble, prophetic, Jesus- and neighbor-loving, justice-seeking, engaging and inspiring.   Acknowledging that our denomination has shrunk from over 4 million members to 1.3 members now, Dr. Nelson urged that a church beset by worry needs to remember: “The church belongs to the Lord, and we belong to the Lord.”  I loved it when he said: “We’re not dying; we’re being reformed!”  What a good word for us at First Pres., huh?!

Our Presbytery meeting was also rocked by the commissioning of Alexis Ruhumuriza as Commissioned Lay Pastor of the New Hope Revival Congregation, a multi-ethnic outreach to people of mostly East African descent that is nested at Bellevue Presbyterian Church.  Man, what an energetic ball of fire Alexis is, full of the Holy Spirit and hope! He exudes trust and joy in Christ. When the New Hope Revival Band led us in singing songs in various African languages, the Presbyterians actually cut loose!   It was kind of crazy – and pretty special!

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This Sunday we’ll take another look at what it means to follow Jesus through the lens of Mark 1:14-20.  Come ready to engage the word together – a word that calls, transforms, and gives life!

I’m so glad we get to do this together!

Be the church!

Pastor Heidi

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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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