Pastor’s Page

The Lenten Journey

Standing at the precipice of the waters, those about to be baptized are asked to renounce the forces of evil, the powers that defy God, and the ways of sin that draw us from God.  The catechumen responds, “I renounce them!”  Here at Phinney the initial renunciation is followed by those affirming their baptism and then a third time by the entire assembly.  The tenor of the final renunciation is so wonderfully loud and spirited that it feels like we are raising the roof.

The season of Lent is about getting ready for Easter and the pivotal moment of Baptism. Surrounded by the community, women and men are asked to publicly claim their allegiance to Christ.  Once the newly baptized emerge from the waters they are prayed over and anointed with the gift of God’s Spirit.   One way our candidates in the WAY prepare for the Easter Vigil is to ask: “What do I need to learn to risk or renounce in order to accept what Jesus is offering?”   All of us are invited to pray the question with them.  The scope of this discernment is both personal and communal.  What are we asked to renounce?

This Lent we are making a greater space for this kind of discernment.  The Adult Forums on Sunday morning will include honest reflection upon some of the systems that seek to tear us away from holy love: racism, sexism, neglect of the environment, and consumerism.  These forums will include testimony from those who have experienced these realities firsthand, and an exploration of what a faithful response looks like.

The lectionary readings for Lent will serve up rich images for such discernment.  Look for it, too, in the preaching.  Like we do every year in Lent, we will pray over those in the WAY process as they journey toward Easter.  This year, the 8th grade confirmation students will be among those for whom we pray because they, too, will renew their baptismal vows at the Easter Vigil.

These questions around renouncing are in service to a greater question: “What is Jesus offering to you, to us, and to all the world?”  God’s invitation in Lent is return to God afresh and to the free waters of grace to discover life and love.

God’s Peace,
Pastor Hansen

 

The Vicar’s Voice

Celebrating Black History Month

 “You are where you are today because you stand on somebody’s shoulders. And wherever you are heading, you cannot get there by yourself. If you stand on the shoulders of others, you have a reciprocal responsibility to live your life so that others may stand on your shoulders. It’s the quid pro quo of life. We exist temporarily through what we take, but we live forever through what we give.” – Vernon Jordan

I sang in a choir in college called Essence of Joy. We sang African and African-American spiritual and secular-based music. It was composed of 45 college kids who were mostly white, but with a few people of color sprinkled throughout. We represented a multitude of religions, and our college majors were even more diverse.

One of my biggest takeaways from my four years with this choir was a phrase my professor would say to us: “We stand tall on the shoulders of those who come before us.” This was his way of helping generations of singers to recognize that they had been preceded by others who enabled them to discover, maintain, and sustain high standards in choral excellence. But most importantly, he was teaching us to celebrate the rich musical, historical and cultural heritage of Africans and African-Americans as revealed through our musical offering. He taught me how import-ant it was to learn about the people who have come before us to shape our world.

As we make our way through the month of February, I encourage you to lean into Black History Month to learn more about the rich history that is an essential part of our American culture. As Christians we are called to recognize God’s work through the many hands around the world.  We have much to learn from our ancestors and those who have come before us, for we all stand tall on the shoulders of God’s work in humanity’s history.

Blessings,
Vicar Elizabeth Peter

 

The Vicar’s Voice

Relationships

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

–Howard Thurman, “The Mood of Christmas”.

Christ has been born, presents unwrapped, all the cookies have been eaten, and life has gone back to “normal” with work, school, activities. Yet the good news of Christmas resounds in this season after Epiphany, a time where we get to witness the manifestation of God’s love through Jesus’ preaching and teaching, and to understand just how much God loves us by bringing Godself to walk amongst us humans. It is all about identification: Jesus is the messiah for all people.

I’m almost at the halfway mark of my time at Phinney Ridge as your Vicar. These first few months have been instrumental in establishing my own pastoral identity, finding my voice, shaping my work relationships and broadening my knowledge of Scandinavian and Norwegian heritage! Needless to say, it has been a whirlwind of adventures in Seattle, and many moments of learning things on the fly.

One of the things I have truly loved learning about is the people of Phinney Ridge. I have been going on lunches and dinners with any member who wants to take me out! I have been blessed with the opportunity to be invited into people’s homes, eating at their favorite places, hearing their stories, and really beginning to understand how each person’s identity is wrapped up in our relationship with God. God is truly at work amongst this community. What I love the most is the diversity of life journeys: no two persons have the same story, and hearing your story has been one of the greatest learning pieces for me. For it is in our diversity within community that the fullness of God’s love for us can be realized.

As we continue journeying with Jesus, we learn more and more about our own identities and who we are in the eyes of God. This message is as real today as it was during biblical times. For people today, the fullness of Epiphany is realized in the fullness of our relationships. For every person in whom Christ is born, there is a person who needs to hear a human neighbor affirm that this person’s life is good news, God with us, that it matters to the world. This year, as we enter into this season of revelation, let us not only take note of God among us, but also to affirm God’s activity in one another. Get to know your neighbor, cause I’m really loving getting to know you.

Blessings,
Vicar Elizabeth Peter

 

Thank You for Your Christmas Blessings!

The pastors and staff would like to thank you for all of the cards, letters, and goodies that came to us in the month of December. We feel so blessed to be remembered by you. Thank you for your generosity and care for us and our families. Blessings!

Pastor’s Page

Wait, Watch and Wonder

A dear saint from a previous congregation would only say 2/3 of the Eucharistic acclamation “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.” It was the “Christ coming again” part that tripped her up. She explained it to me and many others this way: she felt she could not say something she didn’t believe. When my former parishioner spoke of believing, she meant knowing. And by knowing she meant verifiable empirical truth.

Enchanted with reason, we modern folks often equate truth with facts and knowing with certitude. Knowing, though, in the biblical sense, is the kind of knowing that comes from the good news passing through our ears, the splash of water on our bodies, oil anointed on our brows, the bread of heaven held in our hands, Christ’s blood of salvation pressed to our lips, prayerful hands laid on our heads, a handshake or embrace at the sharing of Christ’s peace, giving and receiving forgiveness, sharing your bread with the hungry poor, and meeting Jesus in the day-to-day adventure of loving neighbors.

When we say, “Christ will come again,” we shout it out with hope. We know it to be true without doomsday predictions or cleverly devised timetables (some of our relentless attempts at trying to maintain control).  We proclaim this hope joyfully with the conviction that the future is in God’s good hands.

Advent begins with a focus on Christ’s coming again. The trajectory of Advent and the scripture used during this four-week season begins with a focus on the final coming of Christ, continues with a call to renewal and change as we walk with Christ among us, and only in the final days of Advent do we begin to focus on the coming of Christ in the child of Bethlehem.

Advent focuses on the fullness of God’s reign.

Don’t rush into Christmas. Save that for the festive twelve days beginning December 24th.  Embrace Advent as the time we Christians set aside to watch, wait, and wonder at the coming of Christ now and in the future.

Proclaim with joy what you know: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

God’s peace,
Pastor Hansen 

 

Pastor’s Page

Grateful to a Most Generous God

On Thanksgiving Day, we ask the guests seated around our dinner table to share something for which they are thankful.  The responses are interesting, inspiring, heartfelt and funny.  Despite “Black Friday” looming large, the responses invariably come from deep wells of gratitude for who we are, not so much for what we have.

In her stewardship talk a couple of weeks ago, Sallie Shippen knocked it out of the ball park when she observed that our giving isn’t so much about our generosity. It’s about God’s generosity.

In one of our well-known prayers we say we offer our gifts with joy and thanksgiving for what God has given us – ourselves, our time, and our possessions.  These are signs of God’s gracious love.  Gratitude is a response to God and God’s overflowing generosity of healing love and forgiveness.

Like our emphasis in 2015, this year’s Stewardship emphasis on November 18th is Consecration Sunday.  I very much like this approach, as it stresses the need of the giver to give.  There is no talk of budgets, only the joy and power of keeping and growing a spiritual discipline of gratitude in response to God’s generous goodness.

I’m looking forward to what our guests will share at our home on Thanksgiving Day this month, though we need not contain our gratitude until then.  Every Sunday we gather in gratitude.  Every week a table is set with gifts of bread and wine.  Praying over these gifts we give thanks to God for the gift of creation, God’s many loving deeds, and most especially Jesus Christ who stretched out his hands in suffering to free all the world.

Join me in continuing to lift our hearts in gratitude and praise.

Peace,
Pastor Hansen

 

Pastor’s Page

Gift and Challenge

About a year ago, folks from our Synod joined several Christian friends for a service of Evening Prayer at the Cathedral of St. James to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. A display of unity like this, after centuries of division in the Christian church, is testimony to the resiliency, grace, and healing power of God’s Holy Spirit.

In his homily at the service, Peter Sartain, Archbishop of the Seattle Diocese, observed “Christian unity is both gift and challenge.” The statement rings true. How do Christians work and pray and share ministry together? How do we heal the wounds caused by division? While questions such as these are without easy answers, Christ gives us ways to live into the gift and the challenge.

We do well to notice where Christians are exercising the gift of unity. A wonderful example is the Taizé community in France. Taizé is often described as a “parable of ecumenism.” (Ecumenism is the word we use to describe ways Christians draw closer to one another) Taizé is composed of Protestants and Roman Catholics and enjoys a rich relationship with the Eastern Orthodox. Brother Roger, founder of the community, was passionate about reconciliation and unity among all Christians. These things are central to their rule of life:

If communion is a gift from God, then ecumenism cannot be primarily a human effort to harmonize different traditions. It must situate us within the truth of the redemption of Christ, who prayed: “My wish is that where I am, they too may be with me.” The first ecumenical effort is to seek to live in communion with God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Churches sometimes show different paths to achieving this communion with Christ. However, the more deeply each one belongs to Christ, the more they are enabled to see the others correctly, seeing them as sisters and brothers … this requires a conversion undertaken over and over again in a church continually in need of reformation.

– Brother Alois

I have always been supportive of the suggestion that Reformation Day be recast as Reformation/Reconciliation Day. While Reformation Sunday honors the witness of Martin Luther and those who labored for renewal in the church’s past, the day may also serve as a time to pray for the unity of all Christians, to confess the ways we have failed to live as brothers and sisters, to pray for healing where the church remains divided, and plead with the Spirit to deepen our love of each other and our union with Christ.

Our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America enjoys a full communion relationship with many other Christians. This year, on Reformation/Reconciliation Sunday, we begin the practice of inviting the preacher to be someone from one of these traditions. Rody Rowe, a pastor in the United Methodist church and a member of PRLC, will preach the sermon on Reformation Sunday.

God alone brings the gift of unity to Christ’s body. The continual prayer of the church includes praying for the grace to recognize this unity and to dwell in the gift. Join me on Reformation/Reconciliation Sunday to especially pray, as Jesus did, that his followers be one. Amen. Come, Holy Spirit.

Peace,
Pastor Hansen

Pastor’s Page

Every Day Is a New Beginning

Sis Dakan, longtime saint of Phinney, died in early August.  Before breathing her last Sis said, “Every day is a new beginning.”  Sis’ s last words are now permanently imprinted on my heart and mind.  While none of us can explain what happens after death, we trust that God will make of it a new beginning.  The funeral preface for Holy Communion in the Book of Common Prayer says it this way: “For your faithful people, Lord, life has changed, not ended…”

Maybe Sis’s last words can function as a kind of mantra for living as well as dying.  Martin Luther advised we begin each day by making the sign of the cross to remember our baptism.  By such a gesture we embrace each day as a new beginning.  A daily ritual like making the sign of the cross isn’t all that different from commending our beloved dead to God’s eternal care.  Both are gestures of surrender and trust.  For Christians, new beginnings aren’t declarations of “getting it right” or resolutions to try harder.  Beginning anew is rather a gesture of prayer, trusting God to do a new thing.  And God has an uncanny knack for bringing newness through the forgiveness of sins, the healing of relationships, and renewing love.

One of the things I’ve noted about the journey of grief, be it grieving our beloved dead or grieving loss in our relationships, is that God, who weeps with us, also works to bring life from death, especially when enemies becomes friends, the estranged are reconciled, and when we give up control.  Life changes, it doesn’t end.

Sis’s mantra might serve us well as we launch into autumn and the beginning of a new program year.  It’s back-to-school time, and it’s that time of the year when a host of parish activities reemerge – BFJ, the WAY, Sunday school, circles, choirs and much more.   In many instances, God’s work will be cloaked in new wineskins: new staff members, a new vicar, and a few new approaches to forming disciples young and old.  Yet, even with the “tried and true,” God always seems to be up to something new and life-giving and life-changing.

Consider making this something of a daily practice – make the sign of the cross on your forehead, chest and shoulders.  Remember you belong to God who, through the gift of baptism has set you apart to love your neighbor.  Breathe in deeply the gift of prayer and say something like “Every day is a new beginning.”

Peace,
Pastor Hansen

 

Guest Preacher and Luncheon on August 19, 2018

Pastor Robert Moore, director of the ELCA Wittenberg Center in Germany, will be preaching at PRLC on Sunday, August 19.  If you are interested in having lunch with him after the second service that day, please contact the church office and let us know.  This will be a chance to learn about the ministry of the Wittenberg Center, a place that welcomes travelers, hosts conferences, and is committed to fostering Global Lutheran Identity in the interest of spreading God’s healing and reconciling work in the world.  Lunch will be served in the fellowship hall.

 

Pastor’s Page: The Way Is Made by Walking It

In the sermon for Ascension Day I noted that our parish community is getting younger.  We suddenly have an influx of new babies.  It’s a beautiful sight.  I always marvel at the joy and mystery of new birth and signs of new life.  For me, it is a sign of God’s handiwork.   We rejoice with these new parents and families and pray for them in their times of change and transition.

Other changes are afoot as well that are not welcomed with such delight.  Some of our beloved friends in Christ have died.  Others are moving from Seattle.  There are more “Farewell and Godspeed” blessings scheduled than I care to think about.  These changes cause us to grieve.

On top of that, some staff members are moving on from their positions to new vocational adventures.  After serving for several years as Children and Family Minister, Nancy Monelli will be taking courses to become a Spiritual Director and devote more time to writing.   After 32 years at Phinney, Valerie Shields is retiring from her position as Organist and Minister of Music.  We also bid farewell to Diane Figaro, who has led our Youth and Gospel choirs over the last year.  Changes and transitions provoke joy and sorrow and are met with all kinds of feelings.  With no small amount of fear and trepidation, we worry about the future while simultaneously embracing hope for new futures.   The process of saying good-bye is a process filled with the complexity of grief.  Our feelings intensify when many changes are all happening at the same time.

And God is with us through it all.  Maybe even more importantly, God speaks in time of change.   Some of scriptures most cherished stories tell of the relationship between God and God’s people in times of change and transition.  The Bible presents them as journey stories.

Abraham and Sarah leave their home to journey toward a new promised land.  The Israelites take forty years to journey from slavery to God’s promised land.  Once they enter into the promised land, a settled life doesn’t last too long.   There’s a time of exile and return.  Jesus spends forty days in the wilderness, calls disciples to follow him, and finally turns his face toward Jerusalem and the cross.  Even after the Resurrection, Jesus returns to the places he lived before the Ascension.    Finally, Pentecost launches a new movement of the Spirit that extends beyond Jerusalem and into the world.  The church has been on a journey ever since.

In these journeys, God never abandoned God’s people and, in fact, wrestled with them and loved them through it all.  God spoke to them, blessed them, delivered them and saved them.  Most of all, God loved them and spoke to them, not as individuals, but as a people.

I think that’s the best news of all – we are not alone.  We journey together.

A few years ago, my wife Britt walked the El Camino de Santiago in Spain.  It was quite a journey, almost 500 miles over the span of some thirty days.  Along the way there were sorrow and joys, changes and chances, and more than a few surprises, but never a sense of isolation.

Those who have walked the Camino like to say, “The way is made by walking it.”  Maybe that’s a good motto for the church, especially in times of change and transition.  God’s voice isn’t as clear when things are settled.  The church is always on a journey together and the Spirit surges along the way.

Peace,
Pastor Hansen