PREPARE THE WAY is a cantata by Bruce Brolsma that beautifully presents words of Isaiah 40:1-11. Members and friends of Gethsemane Lutheran Church (Seattle) presented this in worship on Sunday, December 4. The cantata was commissioned by University Lutheran Church (Cambridge, MA) in honor of the 60th ordination anniversary of Bishop Krister Stendahl. The cantata will be reprised at Horizon House (900 University Street, Seattle) at 2:30pm on Sunday, December 11. All are welcome to the performance which will be followed by caroling and cookies.
As Sundays and Seasons puts it, "At the heart of our Advent preparation stands John the Baptist, who calls us to repent and make a new beginning." Pr Joanne reflects today on how this is a call for communal change, not so much a measure of individual piety. Together we, too, prepare the way of the Lord as we seek to know ourselves connected to one another and charged to care for all. Read the text at Matthew 3:1-12. Use your voice and actions to make known the gentle, inclusive dominion of heaven come near.
Gethsemane Lutheran Church welcomes Pastor Mary Lindberg to its pulpit! Pastor Lindberg calls our attention to one of scripture's most repeated exhortations, "Be not afraid," and she demonstrates how today's readings (Jeremiah 23:1-6 & Luke 23:33-43) help us to do exactly that.
In the wake of a divisive election that has resulted in widespread fear and increased violence, Pastoral Intern Allison Bengfort explores how we can live in a world in which the kingdom of God has not yet been fully realized. Like many of us this week, the disciples in the gospel reading (Luke 21:5-19) are confronted with a reality that elicits uncertainty, pain, and fear for their lives. In her homily, Intern Allison unpacks Jesus' two-fold message of comfort and encouragement, reminding us that God has not abandoned us and that we must endure in bearing the name of the poor.
The beatitudes in Luke (6:20-31) strike many people as way too "in your face" to confer blessing to listeners. Add to that the "woes" that come right afterward and more than a few of us want to run in the other direction. But Pr Joanne asks us to listen more deeply, and to hear in the "woes" not a threat or judgment so much as a wake up call. These textual interjections invite us, she says, to pay attention to what comes next: a message for us all when Jesus urges that we love enemies, do good, bless, pray, and give. He went on to put it another way: Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Nobody said it would be easy. Or that we'd perfect our efforts. But everything points to us taking this as a watchword for living. Not least in these final days before the election. So, let's give it a try. Love enemies, do good, bless, pray, and give. Or, as Jan Richardson puts it, let's live "in love that illumines every broken thing it finds."
Pr Joanne Engquist reflects on living history, including the ongoing reform of the church. 499 years after Luther's action sparked the Protestant Reformation (read more about that here), history is being made on 10/31/16 in Sweden as Lutherans and Catholics gather for prayer in Lund and Malmo (click on the names of each city for a recording of each event).
In her homily, Pr Joanne returns us to Luther's insight that God's Word is a living address that comes to us ever-new and ever-renewing. As the ancient prophet had promised, the new covenant with God will be written on the hearts of God's people, communicating connection and love and forgiveness. This word frees us from all that binds us, and continually names us God's own. In that freedom, we may respond to the cries and needs of our neighbors.
Pr Kari reflects on a story from Luke (18:9-14) about two people at prayer. And she invites us to think about the distances each of them is at...from the community, from God, maybe even from themselves. Her words invite us to consider our own prayers and actions...how we go about our daily living.
Pastoral Intern Allison Bengfort invites us to consider "inside out" realignments that may come through the persistence of prayer. She invites us to think of the times we wrestle -- for justice, understanding, hope, and peace. And reminds us that such prayerful wrestling can be a gateway to renewed strength.
In the biblical stories read this morning, there's a lot of need for healing. Not so different than in our world, in our lives.
As Pr Joanne invited us to listen again to the stories of Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-17) and of the "One who Returns" (Luke 17:11-19), she challenged us, in the spirit of Mary Oliver, to see doorways into thanks. Whatever is happening in our lives, might we "patch a few words together" and find ourselves at a "doorway into thanks, and a silence in which another voice may speak." (Mary Oliver, "praying" in Thirst).
On this Sunday nearest the day Christian churches give thanks for the life of St Francis, Gethsemane and the Garden celebrate a "blessing of animals" in which people bring forward pets and pictures of pets, giving thanks for them as blessings in our lives, and praying blessing on them. In her reflection, Pr Joanne asks us to think about our identity in the grand scheme of creation, and our responsibilities to support and care for life "for every living thing." It's a shift from those who heard in the Genesis story a license to take and do with what we want. And it's an important word for each of us to take to heart.
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