Pastor’s Page

The Great Three Days

Crucifixion and Resurrection together are the church’s Pasch, her passing over from being no people to being God’s people, her rescue from alienation to fellowship, her reconciliation. Only as this is enacted in the church as one event is the Cross understood. What must happen is that the ancient single service of the Triduum, “the Three Days,” the continuous enactment of the Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection, covering Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Night, be celebrated.

 These words were penned by Robert Jenson, who died last September.  Arguably the most important contemporary theologian in American Lutheranism, he asserted what many systematic theologians are reluctant to say – the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection isn’t so much explained as it is experienced.  In fact, “good theology” comes as a reflection upon the church’s experience of God.

This year, the Three Days are celebrated at the end of March.  The services of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil are one liturgy extended over a three-day period.  To miss one of these services is to miss out on the entire mystery.

When my unchurched friends ask me to explain God or Jesus, I tell them that I cannot do that.  Instead, I will invite them to worship so that they themselves may get a feel for God.  Just so, the death and resurrection of Christ is less a mystery to be understood and more a mystery under which we stand.   We experience the Three Days in its entirety not as a reenactment of the past but the community’s engagement with the saving God in the present.

Do you want to “understand” the death and resurrection of Christ? Come to worship during the Three Days.

And when we journey through the Three Days, God engages us through signs and gestures and actions and symbols.  We wash feet, strip the altar area, touch the wood of the Cross, light candles, drench people in water, and anoint them lavishly.  Lighted candles drip with wax.  Water is splashed on our bodies.  We eat from a real loaf of bread and drink from a large cup.  In these ways, messy as they are, God touches the whole person: body, mind, and spirit.   We are saved from consigning God to the realm of concepts and abstractions.  When touched by God in these ways, we are touched by God’s saving love.

Please join your sisters and brothers for the Three Days.  If you’ve made other plans, cancel them.  The annual Three-Day journey is worth the trip.  It is nothing less than a journey from death to life.

Pastor Hansen


Pastor’s Page

Hearts and Ashes

This year, Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day. The contrast is stark!

The symbols for Valentine’s Day include hearts and Cupid. It is a day to give candy and send flowers. On the first day of Lent, we receive a smudge of ashes on our forehead and join our sisters and brothers in acknowledging the ways of sin that draw us from God.
One day invites romance. The other invites serious self-examination.

Pondering the contrast has led me to a couple of reflections.

First, Christians live in two worlds at once. Grounded in the mystery of Christ, our lives are ordered by the cycles and rhythms of the liturgical year.  We also enjoy and take part in holidays special in our culture. We are not separatists. God is present and alive in every aspect of our lives. The challenge lies in how we navigate faith in an increasingly complex and multi-textured world.

Second, it is sort of fun to imagine how Gospel themes intersect with various celebrations. Besides exchanging valentines, heart language also shows up on Ash Wednesday when we pray: “create in me a clean heart, O God.”  How are the images and themes different?  Where might they be the same?  Early Christians creatively infused Gospel meaning into customs that already existed.  (Christmas, for example, grew from the observance of Winter Solstice.)

These challenges lead to a host of questions: How do we embrace church and culture at the same time?  How does the church engage culture while maintaining the distinctiveness of the Gospel?  How do I balance commitment to Sunday worship with other activities and commitments? Do I need to sort out my priorities?

Questions like these are good to think about and pray, especially in a time like Lent when we ask God to renew our hearts and prepare with joy for the Easter feast.

Pastor Hansen


Pastor’s Page: Taking the Plunge

On New Year’s Day I drove our dog Sally to Magnuson Park.  It’s her favorite place to play.  Along the way, I noticed an unusually large number of people gathered at the entrance to Matthews Beach.  Cars were parked for a long stretch on either side of the road.  Some of the folks getting out of their cars carried swimming gear.  I wondered what in the world was going on and then it dawned on me.  It was the annual Polar Bear Plunge.

Every year people take the plunge into a bitter cold Lake Washington.  For many people, this has become a New Year’s Day ritual.  Despite the bitter cold, many people enjoy the invigorating rush of dipping into cold water.

Last Sunday we began a new year with the celebration of the Baptism of our Lord.  And every Sunday, worship begins when water is poured into the font.  We begin worship in the name of the one in whose name we were first baptized.

Last Sunday gave us opportunity to renew our baptismal vows.  We renounced again those things that separate us from God, renewed our trust in the triune God, and renewed our promises to remain in the community, keep worship central, and to practice the ways of discipleship.  All of this took place around the pouring water that was felt on our bodies when the entire assembly was sprinkled with the water and we dipped our hands into the font.  We renew these promises, not by our resolve, but in and through the power of the Spirit.

The jury is out as to whether I’ll ever take the Polar Bear Plunge.  If it were up to Sally, we would give it a try.  You can probably guess the final verdict.  Though I’m loath to jump into the lake, there is something I can say with great certainty — I will continue to join you in returning again and again to the pouring water and the font.

There we remember who we are by remembering whose we are.  Join me in taking the plunge!

Pastor Hansen


Pastor’s Page: Showing Up

Life in a prison cell reminds me a great deal of Advent – one waits, and hopes, and potters about, but in the end what we do is of little consequence, for the door is shut and can only be opened from the outside.

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Advent is a time for waiting. I have described the season of Advent this way for years. Yet, with all this talk of waiting, we may easily turn waiting into another “thing we have to do.” To be sure, Christian waiting is active. We are called to be alert, attentive and awake to the presence and activity of God. Such waiting gives way to life-giving change. The potential difficulty, as with any spiritual practice, stems from our need to control the practice and the outcome.

“The door can only be opened from the outside.” We would do well to listen to someone like Bonhoeffer, who prayed in his prison cell. We’re not in control of these things.

I once took a week-long course in which the teacher made sure we showed up for class on the last day by issuing a tickler. He said he would reveal the “secret to all prayer” on the last day of class. Though tempted to cut the week early, practically all the students came to hear the full and wise disclosure on all things related to prayer.  As promised, the teacher revealed the “secret” as we sat on the edge of our seats.  He told it to us in two simple words: “Show up.”

I need to remember to show up, especially when I approach life as a list of tasks to be accomplished, or when opportunities for worship or prayer become duties on a check list.  The invitation to “show up” is an important and gracious invitation to be present to another, to regard creation with a sense of wonder, to listen and not just hear God’s word, to be open to interruptions as potential surprise, and to receive each day as gift.

Advent is a good time to take the time to ponder the mystery of Christ. Can we slow down a bit and take the time? It is a great gift to just show up.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Pastor Hansen


Pastor’s Page

Engage with Love

Recently, I got involved in a Facebook quarrel.  An old friend posted a thought provoking question and invited responses.  One of the responders took issue with my reply.  Others chimed in and within minutes several of us got embroiled in an online argument.  When I was feeling agitated and when it dawned on me that I was debating with people I had never met, I left the debate and resumed my preferred posture of Facebook observer.  I discovered that I was engaged in the very behavior I eschew.

In a recent New York Times column, David Brooks reflected on the pervasive heated rhetoric in these bitter times.  Brooks spoke of the need for civility in public discourse: “If you make people feel heard, maybe in some small way you’ll address the emotional bile that is at the root of their political posture.”  Citing Stephen L. Carter’s book Civility, he points to a shining example in the American era of post-Civil War reconstruction: “the best abolitionists restrained their natural hatred of slaveholders because they thought the reform of manners and the abolition of slavery were part of the same cause – to restore the dignity of every human being.”

In the baptismal covenant, we promise to “serve all people, following the example of Jesus and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.”   What does it mean to live out this baptismal promise?   I think it includes how we speak and listen to our neighbors, especially those with whom we disagree.  Instead of presuming to persuade others to our point of view, we are free to approach others with listening ears and the expectation of learning something new.

It is easy to turn up the volume in noisy and polarizing times, but instead of talking with one another, we end up talking past each other.  Living peaceably involves more than turning down the volume.  It is a matter of honoring others.   I like the wisdom of St. James: “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger…” (James 1:19)

Let us love one another in the manner and way of Christ.

Pastor Hansen

On Generosity

Friends in Christ,

There is a legend about the ancient Gauls.  Though conquered by the Roman Empire, these  warriors resisted with every ounce of their being and staged several uprisings. Over time, many Gauls were converted to Christianity. According to the legend, when a warrior was converted and then baptized in a stream or river, he would hold one arm high in the air as he was dunked under the water. Why would they do such a thing? To justify their warrior behavior. At the next battle the Gaul could, in good conscience, grab a sword or club and raise it high saying, “This arm is not baptized!”

In a wonderful book called Giving to God, Mark Allan Powell mentions this urban legend and wonders what the image might look like today – keeping one part of your body dry and free from the influence of baptism. He pictures a modern person perhaps going under water with one arm outstretched clinging to a wallet. I’m reminded of Luther’s comment that sometimes the pocket book is the last thing to be converted.

Like every aspect of our faith journey – prayer, participating in worship, acts of mercy and more – giving generously is a necessary spiritual discipline. Like all disciplines, giving is a practice that nurtures our relationship with God and walking in a baptismal way of life. A discipline around faithful giving prevents us from loving money too much and helps us use money in ways that honor God and promote the values of Jesus.

Generosity Sunday is October 22, celebrated at both services. You will be given opportunity to ponder generosity and discern your commitment to the ministry of PRLC for 2018. As you think and pray, please consider tithing or working toward a tithe in your commitments for next year. Below, you will find a useful chart that outlines percentage giving.

I have found tithing – giving 10% of one’s income – to be a life-giving spiritual practice. Tithing has its roots in the practice of our Hebrew ancestors and has continued to be a faith practice among Christians. I am buoyed by the fact that PRLC tithes to our Synod. I have also been inspired by many a tither whose practices of generosity impart God’s love in powerful ways.

Tithing, or increasing our giving with the goal of working toward a tithe, is a practice I commend. It’s the kind of thing we do as those called to “walk wet.”

Pastor Hansen

Give Generously

Giving as an Act of Worship

At the end of parish announcements each Sunday, you’ll usually hear me or Pastor Hansen say something like, “Now let us offer, with joy and thanksgiving, what God has first given us.” What does that mean, anyway? Well, for starters, it’s counter-cultural, isn’t it? I confess that when I pay my bills, I don’t always do it with joy. We wince at the thought of our medical expenses; we cringe when the grocery tab exceeds our budget; and I haven’t heard of anyone being thankful about the rising cost of car tabs!

When we put our offering in the plate on Sundays (or see it come out of our accounts via the automatic Simply Giving program), we’re not paying a bill. Instead, think of your giving as an act of worship.

A key tenet of our faith is the incarnation – the embodying of God in the person of Jesus Christ. We have a God who loves us so much that God didn’t remain distant, but came in flesh and bone to be with us in all things. And so, much of what we do in worship symbolizes this tangible relationship with have with God through Christ. We make the sign of the cross on our bodies. We splash in water. We taste bread and wine. We share the peace with hugs and handshakes. And we give our actual money. We give it because we believe in the work of mission in this place, sure. But we also give it as a physical reminder that our whole lives belong to God.

We make an offering with joy and thanksgiving not because we are “paying for a service,” but as an act of worship. An act that physically reminds us to turn away from our self-focused desires and anxieties, and toward our generous and loving God.

God bless you,
Pastor Van Kley

Make an Offering

Proportional Giving Guide: Monthly Giving as Percentage of Income

Income 1% 2% 3% 4% 5% 6% 7% 8% 9% 10%
20,000 16.67 33.33 50.00 66.67 83.33 100.00 116.67 133.33 150.00 166.67
30,000 25.00 50.00 75.00 100.00 125.00 150.00 175.00 200.00 225.00 250.00
40,000 33.33 66.67 100.00 133.33 166.67 200.00 233.33 266.67 300.00 333.33
50,000 41.67 83.33 125.00 166.67 208.33 250.00 291.67 333.33 375.00 416.67
60,000 50.00 100.00 150.00 200.00 250.00 300.00 350.00 400.00 450.00 500.00
70,000 58.33 116.67 175.00 233.33 291.67 350.00 408.33 466.67 525.00 583.33
80,000 66.67 133.33 200.00 266.67 333.33 400.00 466.67 533.33 600.00 666.67
90,000 75.00 150.00 225.00 300.00 375.00 450.00 525.00 600.00 675.00 750.00
100,000 83.33 166.67 250.00 333.33 416.67 500.00 583.33 666.67 750.00 833.33

Why Simply Giving

Simply Giving is a “first fruits” method of giving. Many of us are using electronic fund transfers (EFTs) to pay bills each month. Move your church giving to be the first thing to pay each month.

Accurate records are maintained indefinitely.  An electronic contribution is safer than writing a check, and it can’t be lost, stolen or destroyed in the mail.

Flexibility.  Withdrawals can be made weekly, monthly, or twice a month.  You can give to the general fund and various ministries of the church, and a simple phone call or e-mail to the church office can stop your giving or adjust the amount, should the need arise.

Simplicity and peace of mind. When travel or obligations keep you from regular worship, there’s no need to mail a check or dash to church with your offering envelope. EFTs give you peace of mind that your stewardship commitment is taken care of and that PRLC receives predictable revenues. No “summer slump” for the church, no “playing catch-up” for you.

Most importantly, our ministries are strengthened.  Consistent giving allows PRLC to effectively fulfill our mission and vision in our church, in our community and around the world.

So for these reasons and more, I say thanks to the over 90 households currently contributing to PRLC this way. If you are interested in trying Simply Giving, please contact me at, pick up a flyer from Grace Station, or sign up at Simply Giving.

Kirsten Olshausen

Simply Giving

Pastor’s Page: In Giving, We Receive

Last Sunday, we sang the Prayer of St. Francis at one service and prayed along with the Chancel Choir’s beautiful rendition at the next service.  Just then it occurred to me that this much-cherished prayer is a kind of stewardship prayer.

As far as Francis of Assisi is concerned, the stewardship of creation is already a given.  Francis regarded the sun as our brother, the moon as our sister and the earth as our mother.  What I heard this time in the prayer attributed to Francis was a call to be stewards of the Gospel:

 Make us instruments of your peace. 

Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith;
where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Stewards are caretakers of what belongs to someone else.  Our high baptismal calling is to care for God’s creation and to steward the mysteries of Christ through forgiveness, generosity, compassion, and consolation.  God, through Christ, is the author of self-giving love.  It is our duty and delight to share these gifts with our neighbors.

Generosity Sunday is October 22nd.   Giving thanks to God for all of God’s good gifts and the work of the Spirit in and through PRLC, we consider our financial pledges for 2018.  As we pray about our gifts for upcoming year, it behooves us to remember that Christians are called to use money in the same way we steward all of God’s good gifts.

As we consider pledges and tithes for next year, think about the ways in which you and the PRLC community to which you belong may use money further the sacred work of love.  Most of all, how might we increasingly make our regular offerings a spiritual practice where the practice of giving is in itself a blessing to behold?

For it is in “Giving that we receive …”


Pastor Hansen


The Pastor’s Page: Place Your Story in God’s Story

September, 2017

Lucas Cranach the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, Portrait of Princess Sibylle of Cleve, 1526

Lucas Cranach painted many portraits during the sixteenth century. I didn’t realize how many he painted until we visited Wittenberg last June for the tour celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. It seemed like he painted thousands. As court painter for Frederick the Wise, he painted German nobility. Most of his paintings, however, were expression of his Christian faith and commitment.

We were delighted to see many of Cranach’s paintings portraying the biblical story. He also painted Katie and Martin Luther and some of the reformers. Most interesting to me were the paintings that combined the bible stories with the events and people of the Reformation.

Cranach painted himself, Luther, and other contemporaries in a painting of Jesus’ crucifixion. They stand next to John the Baptizer, pointing to the Lamb of God, as they gaze upon Jesus. You’ll also find a portrait of sixteenth century church people kneeling at the Baptism of Jesus. You are apt to find both Melanchthon and Luther among the people seated at the Last Supper or hovering around the empty tomb at Easter. Cranach wasn’t beyond polemic. His portrait of Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard pictures the reformers toiling all day while the papal party showing up to receive the same wages at the end of the day!

I really appreciated how Cranach and other artists placed themselves and the people they knew and the events of their day into the biblical story. Sure, there is a gap between biblical times and contemporary life, but for people of faith the gap is closed. Placing ourselves in the biblical story is one way to access the story of the Bible as our sacred story.

Venturing into God’s large world of revelation through scripture and prayer invites rich use of the imagination. Art is one expression. Imaginative prayer is another. It is one of the hallmarks of the exercises developed by Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1521). In the Ignatian method of praying, you use your imagination to picture a story and its characters from one of the Gospels as you read it. Then you place yourself in the very in the scene as a bystander, participant, or perhaps a conversation partner to Jesus or Mary or one of the apostles.

Our common worship on Sunday morning takes it even farther. Building upon the liturgical practice of our Hebrew ancestors, our communal remembrance of the past is a lot more than mere recall. The ancient story becomes present tense. The God who delivered Israel from slavery and raised Jesus from the dead continues God’s saving work in and among and through the community gathered around the font, the word, and the holy supper.

One suggested practice is to give yourself permission to imagine yourself in the story as you hear it proclaimed in the scripture readings, hymns, Eucharistic prayers and more. Place yourself and your faith community in the story along with Sarah, Abraham, Miriam, Moses, Mary, Peter, and Paul. Picture yourselves sojourning with the Israelites in the wilderness, riding the waves with the disciples on the stormy sea, or having breakfast on the beach with Jesus and the apostles after the resurrection.

Recently, when we heard the story of the feeding of the 5,000 with the simple gifts of bread and fish, I imagined all the richly textured and richly colored world fed by God’s hand. I was buoyed by what I perceive to be God’s dream for the world and I was disturbed that so many go hungry and unfed. In placing ourselves and our neighbors in the story, God maybe is pulling us into deeper engagement with God’s mission in the world.

Place yourself in the story. Include your neighbors and loved ones. Use your imagination. The good news is that God first placed us in the story at our baptism – “Did you not know that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6) From the moment we emerge from the baptismal waters, we spend our entire lives becoming the story we tell.

Pastor Hansen

A Word From Our Pastors

September 2017

One of the promises we pledge to keep in the Baptismal Covenant is this one: “to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.”

To strive for justice and peace is a big promise and an urgent and timely one. It seems even more so when systems of violence obviously seek to belittle human beings and tear apart the fabric of human community. These reflections are being written just days after the demonstration by white nationalists and the KKK in Charlottesville, Virginia. God’s vision of justice and peace has been on our minds and hearts.

You will find in this and every issue of Tower Echoes as well as the PRLC Website the welcoming statement we adopted at the culmination of our process of becoming a Reconciling in Christ congregation.  The statement of welcoming all people is rooted in God’s core value of respecting the dignity of every human person.  We also commend to you the social statement on racism adopted by our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  See

Statements such as these serve may serve as an antidote to the violent rhetoric and behavior of white supremacists and other movements that practice and promote blatant racism, but words alone do not suffice.  How do we seek the things of justice and peace?  In a recent blog entitled “Birthing Justice,” Sarah Brock suggests seeking these things first within ourselves and in community.  She points to Mary’s song (Luke 2) and how Mary begins to trust God’s movement in her and how Mary shares this good news with Elizabeth.

God’s reign of justice is demonstrated for us each week around the bath, the word, and the table.  Look for God’s justice there and share it with your sisters and brothers in Christ and locate where in the world God is calling you and calling us to be agents of God’ reconciling love.

“Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism … to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.”  We say “Yes …”  And here is the most important part: “and we ask God to help and guide us.”


Pastor Hansen and Pastor Van Kley

We Are Beggars, All of Us

The Pastor’s Page

The Pacific Northwest is often described as the “None Zone” because most persons, when asked to state a religious preference, mark the box that says “none.” In this corner of the world, the church is just one entrée in a vast smorgasbord of religious diversity and pluralism.

I rather enjoy this minority status.  When enjoying a position of dominance in the culture, the church can get too infatuated with itself.  I think this so-called “post-Christian” era is a good time to be church. As our institutional moorings shift or, in some cases erode, we are given opportunity to share the good news in fruitful conversation with the culture even while critiquing it, and lean ever more deeply into God’s Spirit for direction and purpose. It gives us a chance to consider who we truly are.

Here’s an example. One of the more popular mantras in Seattle is the phrase, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” When elected Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, Elizabeth Eaton famously remarked, “I’m religious, not spiritual.” Now, I’m not sure what is meant by either phrase, but being back in the Northwest has given me pause to reflect on these things.  I have wondered what Christians might mean by these terms and have wondered, too, about the unique witness of the Gospel in our time and place.

I’ve come to observe that in our culture “spirituality” often goes hand in hand with individualism.  The spiritual person may be the person who is known by their good deeds or the person with a rich inner life quite apart from the church or commitment to any kind of community.  Spirituality in a culture celebrating the autonomous individual can mean whatever we want it to mean.

Christians understand life in the Spirit quite differently. How is it then that we may speak of the spiritual life?

I deeply resonate with the reflections of Gordon Lathrop in his book, The Pastor: A Spirituality:

I have long found deep comfort in the words that Martin Luther wrote on a note found by his bedside when he himself was found dead in 1546 … “I say we are all beggars; this is true.” Having learned about “growth in grace” when I was a boy, studying my catechism, I often wondered if I was really making any progress. I thought probably not. But Luther helped me to see that growth in grace might really mean growth in need, growth in identification with a needy world and with other needy folk, growth in becoming more and more profoundly a beggar myself, waiting upon God. Spirituality is finally “one beggar telling another beggar where there is bread.”

This is a radical point of departure in a culture that tends to reward achievement or promote self-sufficiency, especially when we speak of our need for God or take to heart Jesus’ wish that we “lose our lives in order that we may find them.”

In a recent Sunday Gospel reading we heard Jesus say, “Come to me, all of you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I believe that a spirituality that rests in Jesus promises freedom. We are free to relinquish control, free to be honest about our real need, free to love others, and free to be radically and fully human.

How does this sort of spirituality describe our parish and our witness in the world? I ask that you pray and ponder the question. Here is one small suggestion: perhaps one week the PRLC sign on Greenwood would read: “We are beggars, all of us. This is true.”

Pastor Hansen