The Pastor’s Page

O Blessed Spring

I recently read a little book called Light Boxes, a fantastical story about a small town experiencing a perpetual February. Tired of the winter that never ends, the townspeople conspire against February. A group known as the “Solution” tries all kinds of remedies to push back winter and all its devastating effects on the community and its way of life.

It occurred to me that the winter ethos is such that it often feels as though it will never end. Massive snowing occurred this February, and that’s something of an anomaly for Seattle. Winter always comes to an end, but we certainly may feel it is perpetual. I wonder if the little book I read was trying to say that in spite of all our resistance to winter, it’s beyond our control. The best thing to do is let it run its course.

I enjoy winter, but at some point I find myself longing for spring. Hints of springtime pop up this time of the year, when the days begin to lengthen and the flower bulbs begin to bud. Winter yields to spring and the promise that new life will emerge from death.

It is no mistake that the Christian year corresponds to the cycles, seasons and rhythms of the natural world. In the darkest part of winter, we light Advent candles and plead for the light of Christ to come. At Christmas and Epiphany, we say the darkness will not dispel the light, and now we look forward to Lent. The word for Lent comes from “the lengthening of days.” Lent is springtime.

The great thing about springtime is seeing new life burst out from all corners of creation. And it happens, too, in the Christian community. Lent is a time to experience and witness new birth and new growth. Adults and children find themselves preparing for Baptism at Easter. Many others are preparing to affirm their baptism, and all of us are called to return to the bath of baptism and the great promise that the God who provides perpetual welcome is also at work changing our lives. The way of life begun at the bath continues a lifelong pattern of dying and rising again.

Springtime carries such great promise. You can be assured of my prayers for you this Lent. May Christ shower us again with light and life.

Peace,
Pastor Hansen

 

PRLC Going RIC

RIC LogoAt the February meeting, the PRLC parish council came to consensus that our community become a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) congregation. As an RIC congregation we are officially welcoming to sisters and brothers from the LGBTQ community. This decision is the result of much discernment. The conversation and prayer around this issue has taken place for many years. In the last year alone we’ve held adult forums and hosted other venues for conversation. At our January annual meeting we took a straw poll to gage the support of the congregation. The results of the poll were overwhelmingly in support of PRLC becoming an RIC church.

What’s next? The RIC committee will be at work fashioning a “Welcoming Statement.” How might such a statement, inclusive of the LGBTQ community, welcome all people and what does it mean for us to welcome all? Please feel free to pray these questions and to offer input by contacting Tiffany Megargee, chair of the group. And know that you are always welcome to speak to Pastor Van Kley or myself with any concerns or questions you may have.

As the Body of Christ we are Jesus’ welcoming arms. May the Spirit continue to lead the way.

God’s Peace,

Pastor Hansen

A Journey Toward Easter and Baptism

BaptismThe journey of Lent is a journey toward baptism. That is made abundantly clear in the Gospel lessons this year. Taken from the Gospel of John, these stories were used to instruct catechumens in the earliest church. Still, they are used in our WAY gatherings during Lent to prepare adults for baptism and renewal of baptism at the Easter Vigil. These stories from John are descriptions of life-giving encounters with Jesus: Nicodemus, the Woman at the Well, the Healing of the Blind Man, and the Raising of Lazarus.

You can expect your pastors and vicar to focus on these texts and on some aspect of Baptism throughout Lent. The font will be front and center. The liturgy will be trimmed down to reflect the fast that precedes the Easter feast. Such a “trimming down” draws our attention to the primary symbols of bath, word and meal.

We will accompany our WAY candidates through various rites during Lent. The Rite of Enrollment occurs on the First Sunday as those preparing for baptism endorse their desire to be baptized with their signature. In addition, all of our WAY candidates will be presented with the gift of the Creed and worship book on the third and fourth Sundays in Lent.

Ash Wednesday

The Lenten journey begins on Ash Wednesday, a solemn call to fast as we begin our journey to the baptismal waters at Easter. The liturgy includes confession of sin and the imposition of ashes. With the cross of ashes on our brow, we long for the spiritual renewal that flows from the Easter feast to come. This year Ash Wednesday falls on March 1st. We will have three worship opportunities:

  • 11:15 am and 7:30 pm: Liturgies are held in the sanctuary.
  • 6:30 pm: A shorter service in the Tree of Life room, intended for families with children.

All three services include imposition of ashes.

More Worship Opportunities in Lent

We have so many excellent opportunities to worship and learn together this season. As we simplify other aspects of our life and seek spiritual depth, we can center around a practice of prayer, either alone or together.

In addition to the services offered on Ash Wednesday, we will also be having Lent Midweek services every Wednesday during Lent:

  • March 8, 15, 22, 29, and April 5. Please mark your calendar for service at 11:15 and soup lunch at 12.

These midweek services will be a chance for quiet reflection, singing the simple music of Taizé, and praying with the Psalms.

We are also expanding our adult education during Bread for the Journey in the season of Lent. There will be an adult education class at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday evenings in the Fireside Room, and we will be praying with the Psalms in a new way. It will be a time to touch our hearts and spirits rather than living in our minds.

Please come join us, and enjoy a holy Lent.

 

 

The Pastor’s Page

Sacred Listening

I stopped looking at Facebook during Advent. It’s not because Facebook is so bad. The issue is that I know myself all too well and am keenly aware that such things cause me to be distracted. When distracted, I don’t listen so well.

None of us can ever be completely free from distractions. Still, God invites us to pay attention to our lives. Listening is foundational to all our living. For Christians, such listening includes an engagement with scripture, prayer and the relationships we cultivate in the community of faith and among our family and friends. It includes listening to our deepest yearnings and paying attention to our experiences. In all of these ways God speaks to us. It is no wonder that Jesus, more than once in the Gospels, invites us to listen.

Over the past couple of years we’ve been in a discernment process here at Phinney. What began with a small group has now expanded to the parish council. Discernment is all about listening. Purposeful listening leads to making choices that are life-giving and consistent with God’s loving intentions. We want to endeavor to be such a community of faith in the very fabric of our common life and in the way we lead and move into the future.

The next step in this discernment journey is to invite all the members of PRLC into sacred listening.

During January, some items will be posted on the long wall in the fellowship hall. These are “four windows” or directions for the future of Phinney, the fruit of the parish council’s discernment. There you will be given opportunity to share your ideas, the fruit of your own listening.

You will hear more details during worship. Basically, you will be given several weeks to listen and respond. The council has listened and identified four areas for the future of PRLC – ministry in daily life, ministry to our neighborhood, ministries of justice, and ministry with other faith communities.

Where will God take us in these directions?

You are invited to explore this question with your sisters and brothers in Christ. Not a bad way to begin the new year.

Peace,
Pastor Hansen

 

The Pastor’s Page: Troubling the Waters

“Our profound human duty is not to interpret or cast light on the rhythm of God’s march, it is to adjust as much as we can the rhythm of our small fleeting life to God.”

– Nikos Kazantzakis

The Christian journey is precisely a journey.  Christ is always coming.  Lives bathed in prayer seek Christ’s presence, and to situate our lives in those places where the light of Christ beckons us.  One of the reasons I love the season of Advent is that it is a time when God calls the church to recapture lost visions and so be open to the new possibilities for life offered up by God.

Several leaders in our congregation have been responding to such a call.  It is a call to seek to enter into a journey of both reflecting upon the hard truths of injustice, and so enter into a new and renewed sense of justice reflecting God’s vision for a reconciled and diverse human community.  This has led them to embark upon a journey that begins in January and will last for several weeks.   Troubling the Waters for the Healing of the Church is a resource developed by our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for use in predominately white congregations to examine and reflect upon white privilege and so journey toward a more intentional partnership with people of color.

The preface to the resource reads:  Despite good intentions and past hopes, the journey to be a multicultural church is unfinished.  Simply opening the doors and saying, “All are welcome,” is clearly not enough.  This process is an intentional journey to enter into addressing hard question of what needs to die in order for new life to rise.

Having reviewed the resource and spoken with those who will lead the process, I’m very hopeful and encouraged by this process.  It is steeped in the promises of Baptism.  First, it is centered in God’s promise to be faithful to us.  Secondly, it seeks to address the promises we make in baptism to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.  These promises are not made in a vacuum but within our dynamic relationship with Christ of dying each day to that which is broken and sinful and rising each day to God’s newness.

The name for the journey is based on the great African American spiritual, “Wade in the Water.”  The repeated line, “God’s a-goin’ a trouble the water” was sung by slaves just prior the Civil War.  The song was coded with escape instructions.  Over the years the song has pointed to God’s help in leading people to freedom.

Troubling the Waters is based in a deep and rich use of scripture, prayer and reflection.   It is a journey that honors listening – listening to God, listening to one another, and listening to our neighbors to seek deeper understanding.  When God troubles the waters, you can be sure that healing and new life will prevail.

Peace,
Pastor Hansen

 

Christmas Greetings from Your Staff

Dear members and friends of PRLC,

This time of year gives us an opportunity to reflect on all we have and all we hope to be. As your staff, we are looking back at 2016 with immense gratitude. We have seen a lot of change, and a ton of growth! God has certainly smiled upon us, and has strengthened our relationships and ability to do ministry together as a team.

Phinney is a uniquely vibrant place. It is diverse, thoughtful, worshipful, faithful, and joy-filled! It could not be such a wonderful community without your presence. Each one of you – of every age and background – is essential to this ministry. We thank you for trusting us with the care of PRLC. We thank you for sharing your stories and prayers with us. We thank you for your hard work serving our neighborhood and world. We thank you for your time and your financial support. We thank you for your vision that keeps us always changing and growing and looking ahead. We, your staff, are grateful for the call to serve alongside you at PRLC. May God richly bless you, and our community, in the coming year.

In Christ,

Pastor Anne Van Kley
Pastor Bryon Hansen
Minister of Outreach Patrick Meagher
Minister of Children and Families Nancy Monelli
Parish Administrator Kirsten Olshausen
Parish Communications and Office Manager Christina Bogar
CDC Director Tim Sullivan
Lead Custodian Dallas Cooper

Worship in Advent

advent-2016-peaceablekingdom

PEACEABLE KINGDOM, (c) 1994 by John August Swanson

There’s a great old story about a preacher who ran through the streets of a city shouting, “We must put God in our lives.  We must put God in our lives.”  Having heard this, a wise old person of prayer approached the preacher in the city plaza and said, “You are wrong, sir.  God is already in our lives.  Our task is to recognize it.”

I think this is a pretty good way to describe the gift of Advent.  In this season we are invited to look for the Holy One who is already present.  Best of all, with Advent, we get to look for the light of God in the dark!

Our ancestors in faith were on to something when they established this four-week period of yearning and longing for the light.  In ancient times, people would literally put the brakes on their work and usual activities in winter when little light filled the day.  Since the wheels on the wagons weren’t being used, they would take a wheel, festoon it with greens and torches, and suspend it in the air as a reminder that the darkness would not prevail.   It became a little sun to replace the missing sunlight and way of wooing back the sun of the earth.   Christians were wise to adapt this practice as a way to wait upon and welcome the “new sun” in Jesus Christ.

So, we pray by the light of our common Advent wreath at church and our Advent wreaths at home, waiting and watching for the light to gradually come full circle.  Yes, we trust the light that will come.  And, yes, the light is already here.  While God’s saving future will one day fill all of heaven and earth, God invites us to see where God’s future light is cast into the present.

This year, the lessons for the first reading during the Sundays in Advent, come from the great visionary Isaiah, offering up beautiful pictures of God’s promised future reign:  swords beat into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, a peaceable kingdom where wolf and lamb coexist, waters breaking forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert, and the sign of a child who shall be called Immanuel.

Where is this light cast in the present?   Where, in the midst of a world filled with war, do you find peace?  Where, in the midst of great need and want, do you find community and wholeness?  Where do you discover the light of Christ?  Where do we discover the shimmering light of God among us?

These readings from Isaiah will be highlighted in the sermons.  In addition, we begin our worship each week in Advent surrounded by semi-darkness.  When the flame reaches the Advent candles on the wreath, the lights go up.  The signs and symbols of the season shine with the promise of Christ’s coming again, Christ’s coming among us once, and Christs’ abiding presence with us now.

Come, live in the light!

Message from the Bishop about Standing Rock

My heart breaks to see the pictures of armed police in riot gear dispersing the peaceful protesters who positioned themselves on the land that separates the Missouri River from the Dakota Pipeline. It is the very ground I stood on yesterday and joined hands with nearly 100 tribal members and water protectors to offer up words of prayer for peace and the care of the river.

There are two distinct narratives taking place at Standing Rock. One is that it is a dangerous gathering of militants who are planning to use whatever means necessary to stop the pipeline from progressing. The other is it is a peaceful gathering that has drawn more than 320 tribes from around the world along with faith leaders and environmentalists who share a common desire to support the Sioux community who believe their sacred sites are being desecrated and the future of their water source is being put at great risk.

I must tell you I experienced nothing of the first narrative. What I did experience was the gratitude of the Standing Rock people that a faith delegation had come to stand alongside them to pray for peace. When our prayer circle broke there were several tribal members who embraced me with tears running down their faces.

I can assure you that even if the pipeline goes through, this story is not finished. I see this as a kairos moment in which to open a wider conversation of how we treat our indigenous brothers and sisters and how we care for our sacred earth and waters.

Please keep all involved in Standing Rock in your prayers!
+ Bishop Unti

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Bishop Elizabeth Eaton addressed the camp.

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The Pastor’s Page: Finally, Came the Poet

Bichon friseI first met Pastor Dick Christensen about 35 years ago. I’ll never forget our first visit. I noticed a small plaque on his office wall that read: “God so loved the world, God did not send a committee.” Many years later, after meeting Britt for the first time he turned to me and said, “Be good to her.” Then he turned to Britt and said, “If he gets out of line, call me!”

Beneath this enchanting humor lay core convictions about God, life, the church, and loving one’s neighbor. One way to describe Dick’s core values is that he had a passion for truth-telling and getting to the heart of things.

As a friend and pastor, I could always count on Dick to speak a truthful word, sometimes consoling and sometimes challenging. More than once he shared some observations that I needed to hear but didn’t always want to hear. He couldn’t help but be honest. He was a crummy liar. You probably observed this at a meeting, in a bible study, or in a conversation. Dick was a truth-teller who spoke caring and cogent words because he loved a lot and listened well.

His care for others extended well beyond his circle of family, friends and parishioners. It showed up in his passion for justice, and the way he met strangers. While serving as Phinney’s Interim Pastor, Dick stood outside in front of the church building for an occasional smoke break and struck up conversations with all kinds of people. He would interact with restaurant waiters, grocery store clerks, or just about anyone he encountered for the very first time as if he or she was the most important person in the world.

The pulpit was another place where Dick delighted in speaking the truth. This Gospel word was all about God’s love. Yet, his sermons could never be consigned to mere sentimentality. They were often a clarion call to live the things of God and often included searing descriptions of how we can be poor stewards of the Gospel, both in church and society. More than once, as I listened, I thought “I can’t believe he’s saying that.”

Never one to shrink from controversial issues, he always had to get to the heart things and he did so with the language of poetry. By poetry, I don’t mean silly rhymes. He dwelled in images, story and symbols and used them to speak the good news.

In Finally, Comes the Poet, the Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann insists that preachers reclaim poetry. The Gospel, he says, is so precious and important that it cannot be given over to the world of prose. The prophets of the Bible opened up new worlds and new vision by uttering poetry. The danger of prose is that God’s word may come as explanation. It is to opt for that which is safe and settled. The poet speaks a word from God that is often unsettling. This word doesn’t pass on information. It changes us. Prose seeks clarity and precision. The poet stirs the imagination and points to a God who delights in doing a new thing. You could pretty much count on Pastor Christensen to speak in this way and it was undergirded with a healthy sense of mystery.

Mystery shaped his preaching, liturgical leadership, and pastoral care. This respect for mystery wasn’t esoteric by any means. Stewards of mystery still have their feet planted on the ground. Just so, Pastor Christensen helped us worship the God who is unseen and at the very same time helped us see God’s hidden activity in the everyday, ordinary stuff of life. You wouldn’t expect less from a Nebraska farm boy.

Many comments I’ve heard from you about his ministry during the Interim period at Phinney were a confirmation of what I knew of Dick, maybe best described by the prophet/poet Micah: Doing justice, loving kindness, walking humbly with God. (Micah 6:8)

I suspect many of you, like me were sad that we didn’t get a chance to say good-bye. A sudden death can deepen and complicate grief. We do not grieve, though, as those without hope. Dick is entrusted to the God of Jesus Christ and with that knowledge we can rest assured that he is in good hands.

“Rest eternal grant him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him.”

Peace,
Pastor Hansen