Pastor’s Page

We Can Change and Grow Boldly

I recently attended the wedding of a dear friend, and in her bridal bouquet was this incredible assortment of wildflowers and ferns. It was colorful and organic and kind-of messy. The thing that caught my eye, though, was a long twisty green stem that spiraled out from the rest of the bouquet. When you looked at it closely, you could see that it was actually a root that the florist had turned upside down so that it was exposed and utilized in a way that roots normally are not!

I’ve been thinking about that little root as I reflect on where we are as a congregation today. We are in the midst of what feels like constant transition. Our staff continues to evolve. Our youth ministry focus is changing. We’re rethinking how we use our Phinney Houses for mission. I could go on.

I thank God that this congregation continues to hang on and do the hard work of ministry – not becoming complacent, but always engaging in thoughtful conversations and imaginative discernment. But I also recognize that change is hard, and if I’m being honest, I do sense a collective anxiety and weariness about all of this constant change.

Change is scary, not to mention often frustrating and exhausting. When something changes, it means letting go of the way it was, and there’s legitimate grief and fear in that. But it’s also how we know we are alive. No plant can remain the same if it wants to grow, and the same is true for the Church.

So I want to remind us of that root. Our root is Jesus, alive and exposed and right smack in the center of our messy ministry. Jesus always calls his disciples to leave some things behind; to take risks; to make hard choices. But he also begins by saying, “fear not,” and he promises to be with us.

Money, buildings, staff structures – thinking about these things naturally causes anxiety. But we must remember that these are not our roots. These are just the tools that we get to use for God’s mission. With Jesus at our center, we can withstand change and growth just fine. In fact, we can change and grow boldly, rooted in the grace and love of God. What a perfect time – in this long, green, liturgical season of growth – to rest in that promise.

Blessings,
Pastor Anne

 

Pastor’s Page

As I write these reflections I am still basking in the glow of the Three Days.  Allow me to share a few reflections from moments that captured my attention.

What a sight to behold people washing one another’s feet on Maundy Thursday.  It is an odd and potentially embarrassing sort of gesture.  Every year, in fact, the prospect of having the foot washing makes me more than a little anxious, but I would never think of abandoning this ritual. It is a practice through which God touches us, surprises us, and shows us something of the power of Gospel love.  WAY sponsors and candidates washed each other’s feet, as well as children and parents, friends and strangers.  As I witnessed these things, my tears began to well up.

On Good Friday, the wooden cross is brought into the assembly and that is followed by a time for members of the assembly to approach the cross, reverence it, light candles, and pray.  It was a wonder to behold all kinds of people coming together at the foot of the cross. More than once, I felt I was seeing a preview of how the world will one day be.

How can one choose just one moment at the Easter Vigil? There are so many. Here’s just one: the cantor chanted the ancient and beautiful Easter proclamation and the assembly responded, “This is the Night.” Then the children led us in a song that further extolled the light provided by the Paschal Candle. At the last acclamation of “the light of Christ,” everyone raised their individual candle. I felt this was an act paying homage to Christ who dispels all darkness.

So many sights, sounds, actions, and gestures. One of the reasons the church now celebrates the 50 days of Easter is that it takes at least that long to unpack these sacred moments from the Three Days. The ancient term, “mystagogy” refers to the practice of unpacking the mysteries. That is what we will do in the WAY, in formation groups, and most of all in Sunday worship.

As I reflect on the aforementioned moments, I glimpse the reign of God in action: washing one another’s’ feet as the holy alternative to competing with your neighbor; people discovering their common identity around the self-emptying love of the crucified one as an alternative to finding identity around a cause; and worshiping the one whose kingdom is antithetical to the kingdoms of empire.

These moments, for me, revealed something of the nature of Jesus and the reign of God. Now, as we celebrate these great 50 days of Easter, I wonder how these marks of the Kingdom will shape our praying and living.

Alleluia! Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed!

Peace,
Pastor Hansen

 

Pastor’s Page

Easter Is Present Tense

“Christ is risen!”

I love the present tense of this Easter greeting.  It helps us see Easter as more than an event embedded in the past. It is a mystery surrounding and surpassing all time and space. The death and resurrection of Christ is the very heartbeat of the Christian life and community.

Early Christians, I believe, had a deep and abiding sense of this mystery. Over the centuries this dynamic sense of God’s newness diminished. For example, a robust celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection as one saving event developed into a series of separate events during the medieval period. These services became reenactments of the Passion story. In the 20th century we began to uncover the more primitive celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection, most notably in the celebration of the Triduum, commonly known as the Three Days.

See the Triduum as one liturgy spanning three days. What begins on Maundy Thursday continues on Good Friday, finds its culmination at the Great Vigil of Easter, and spills over into Easter Sunday morning. We immerse ourselves in the entire celebration because Jesus’ death and resurrection are not separate events, but one saving reality.

It may surprise us to learn that when we begin the Three Days our Lenten journey has already ended and the mystery of Easter begins to unfold.  Sure, we remember that on this night Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and established the Lord’s Supper, but it is God who is primarily re-membering us, breathing new life into Christ’s body, and making new disciples at the waters of baptism.

Make no mistake, on Maundy Thursday we remember the night Jesus gave us the Eucharist, washed his disciples’ feet, and began his journey to the Cross, but when we gather on this night it is the Risen Jesus who commands us to love one another, stoops to wash our feet, and feeds us at his table of mercy.

Good Friday is a day for prayer, simplicity, and even austerity, but don’t forget that it is the Risen Christ who reigns victorious on the Cross. We gather around this throne of grace to pray for all the world and to ponder Jesus’ promise made true that “when I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.”

When we gather around the new fire on Saturday evening to light the Paschal Candle, the new candle will display for the first time, the numbers 2019, and the refrain of “This is the night” throughout the ancient hymn says that Christ is doing a new thing. It is the Risen Christ who shines light in the darkness, speaks his living word of grace through the scriptures, washes and anoints new Christians, and brings us to the bread and cup of blessing.

Come to the Three Days – the entire Three Days.  Come with all your senses to pay attention and be in awe of the words, sounds, sights, gestures, tastes and smells.  Approach the Three Days as one liturgy, one moment, one event, one celebration. Come to remember the amazing things God has done and most of all, see what God is up to now.  Join in the great chorus: “Christ is risen!  Christ is risen indeed!  Alleluia!”

Peace,

Pastor Hansen

 

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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 

 

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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

 

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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