Sunday, May 28, 2023

May 21, 2023 - Seventh Sunday of Easter - A Reparations Road Trip - A Discussion with Juan Carlos

Bishop’s Associate, Juan Carlos La Puente preached the message in today's service. He was also part of a group discussion afterwards. Marilyn T. Keller, other musicians, and others from the Oregon Synod Reparations Team were present and Marilyn led the music at our Sunday worship as well.

Marilyn's vocals were dynamic and inspired others to sing The gospel-based music also had the worship participants moving in time to what everyone was singing. 

This was the seventh "Road" trip for the Synod Reparations Team. I had heard about how moving and unique the stories were being shared at these churches. To be able to share this experience at Creator made me appreciate the true and frank conversations personally, and helped me feel deeply what Juan Carlos preached in his message earlier at the service.

He broke his message into three points: 

1) Don't be alienated from your own body, from your own story. He stressed how important it was for Jesus to be present though the individual rather than depending on the figure of Jesus and / or feeling Jesus will shield and protect you from the world. Jesus understood the need for the disciples to go back to Jerusalem where they were afraid of the authorities.They were encouraged ti take the same journey as Jesus despite the danger.

2) Be willing to walk along with survivors. I'm sure people empathized but Juan Carlos detailed what this makes possible by using Mary, the mother, being at the crucifixion of her son. He gave the context from a Mother's perspective of seeing her son as victim and yet sill providing relief to the disciples who had survived and continuing to walk with them. That context shook me emotionally

3) The distinction between the world and eternal life. There is a beautiful blurring of the lines between separation and communion. Juan Carlos spoke of love being expressed through the diversity we constantly have such trouble in living in this life. We cling to the truths we think we have found in life rather than opening ourselves up to God's bigger truth.

A "road trip" to remember right here at our doorstep. 

Thursday, May 18, 2023

May 14, 2023 - Sixth Sunday of Easter - New Member Welcome



Our season of celebrating baptism continued today by welcoming our new members with their sponsors

This Sunday we welcomed new members to the Creator community: Bill Haase ~ Brandy Henry ~ Victory Hernandez ~ Barbara Hicks ~ Daniel, Lauren, Nina, and Elizabeth Larson ~  and Rin Sims.

Today's Gospel is John 14;15 Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

What does Jesus mean by keep here? The word translated as “keep” used here in John echoes a Hebrew word found in Genesis 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.”

And, at the heart of keeping the earth is the keeping of the commandments. We were called to care for the garden by caring for loving God and neighbor. We guard creation. We guard justice.

And keeping — treasuring, really — springs from love.

Today we felt this love as the new members were introduced to the congregation by their sponsors.There were smiles and sharing all around. 

Towards the end of the Gospel text is John 14:20: On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. This is an identity statement we kept in our hearts today as well.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

May 7, 2023 - Fifth Sunday of Easter - Pastor Steve's Sermon - The Direction of God, The Direction of Jesus.

When entering Creator by going up 132nd there is a sign that looks like what is picture on the left. This reminds me of something Pastor Steve used as an illustration today regarding today's Gospel where Jesus tells us "I am the way".

For Pastor Steve he confessed he found it hard to find what he needed in a store and many times he asks for directions.  He appreciates when the salesperson offers "Let me take you there". 

He felt that was what Jesus says "I am the way". Like the salesperson he is essentially offering to act as the map to guide us to the place that has been prepared.

This sign on 132nd next to Creator is in keeping with that same understanding. Trying to be of help in getting you to your prepared place. It shifts the emphasis from the way you get there to the prepared place. It is not just tolerance of other beliefs in God but helping others get to their prepared place. And everyone has a prepared place.

Recently I was talking with someone who complained about how "woke" everything was. I asked him what he thought "woke" meant and he said that being "woke" or socially aware includes an understanding and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Diversity refers to recognizing and valuing differences among people, including differences in race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, and ability. Equity refers to creating a level playing field for everyone, so that all people have equal opportunities to succeed regardless of their backgrounds. Inclusion refers to creating an environment where everyone feels welcome and valued, regardless of their differences.

Together, DEI represents a framework for addressing social inequalities and promoting fairness and justice. When someone describes being "woke" as including a commitment to DEI, they are emphasizing the importance of understanding and addressing social injustices, particularly those related to discrimination and marginalization of certain groups.

Overall, the concept of being "woke" has evolved over time and can be defined in different ways by different people. However, for many, it includes a commitment to promoting social justice and equity, including through a focus on DEI.

So I wondered why my friend took umbrage to this. For me DEI reminded me of "Imago Dei". This is a Latin phrase that translates to "image of God." The concept of Imago Dei comes from the Bible, specifically from Genesis 1:26-27, which states that God created humans in his own image and likeness.

The Imago Dei is a fundamental concept in Christian theology and philosophy, and it has been interpreted in different ways throughout history. Some of the most common interpretations of Imago Dei include:

  1. Rationality: This view holds that humans are made in the image of God because they possess rationality, which distinguishes them from animals and allows them to understand and appreciate God's creation.

  2. Creativity: Another interpretation of Imago Dei emphasizes humans' creative abilities, which are seen as reflecting God's own creative power.

  3. Relationship: Some theologians interpret Imago Dei as referring to humans' capacity for relationships, particularly with God and with other humans. This view emphasizes the importance of community and love in human life.

  4. Moral responsibility: Finally, some theologians interpret Imago Dei as referring to humans' moral responsibility and capacity for moral reasoning. This view emphasizes the importance of ethical behavior and the pursuit of justice.

Overall, the concept of Imago Dei emphasizes the inherent dignity and worth of all human beings, regardless of their race, gender, or social status. It also highlights the responsibility that humans have to care for and respect one another, as well as for the natural world that God has created.

I found out his work required him to take DEI training. As he described it, this training, for him, was prescriptive. They talked about how he should use the label "latinex". He was actually married to a woman he described as a Wise Latina, and his kids are Latina guys and girls. For him Latinex was a PC term he would never use.They also said the goal was to be "color-blind". He took exception.

I believe I would have taken umbrage with that kind of training. so he and I had pasts with DEI that were very different. I respect his experiences and we had a conversation where he ended up respecting mine.

When talking about God we need to understand the different experiences that will be engaged in our conversation to have a more meaningful conversation.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

May 7, 2023 - Fifth Sunday of Easter - Baptism of Brenda Sue Webb - One Baptism in a Season of Baptisms

Today Creator celebrated the sacrament of baptism in the midst of a season of baptisms. Each Sunday of Easter we are opening with a Thanksgiving of Baptism.

The sacramental nature of baptism involves, of course, the ritualistic washing with water, symbolizing purification and rebirth, and initiating the individual into the community of believers. Baptism is often seen as an important step towards becoming a member of a church community.

The feeling you belong at church can be an important aspect of one's spiritual life. It provides a sense of community, support, and a shared sense of purpose with others who share similar beliefs. Baptism can be a significant step in developing this sense of belonging, as it represents a commitment to the community and its shared beliefs.

Feeling at home in a church community can also be an important part of one's spiritual life. It can create a sense of comfort, familiarity, and safety that allows individuals to open up and be vulnerable with one another. Baptism can be a key element in developing this sense of home, as it represents a willingness to be vulnerable and open with others in the community.

Brenda's baptism was certainly meaningful to Brenda individually and the Creator community as a whole. The timing gave the baptism an added importance in a number of ways. First was our anticipation of this baptism. Brenda's baptism that has been on our minds and in our collective imaginations for months. Secondly, the congregation extended our call to Emillie Binja as our new pastor and she accepted while we were in this season. During the call process Pastor Emillie and members of Creator felt an instant sense of belonging together. Why did was this feeling of all of us being at home with each other so prevalent? 

Pastor Emillie recently wrote the following to Creator members by way of introduction:

Greetings to you, my siblings in Christ,

As we embark on this journey of knowing and being known, both by God and each other, may we be strengthened and enlightened by the Love and Grace of our savior Jesus Christ as witness and evidence to the light of God that shines so brightly amongst us all.

With these words she articulated an aspect of where this sense of belonging is rooted. This is why this baptism mattered, like all baptisms matter. The sacrament of baptism centers us in the person of Jesus Christ and reflects on our relationship to God, the Father.

At the heart of this Thanksgiving of Baptism during Easter we are, in essence, "practicing resurrection" together. . Listening to the water pouring into the baptismal font calls to move into a new understanding of the expressive words we use in our worship. We are remembering and unlocking baptism's power as a sacrament to move us from the idea of belonging to the community (which we have experienced with Brenda from the first time she worshiped at Creator). We moved from acting on idea of belonging and feeling at home to experiencing our relationship to Jesus, and with each other, through practice.

We welcomed Brenda today. We are welcoming other new members this coming Sunday. We will "officially" be welcoming a new pastor in July. We will be a different congregation as a result. We feel that new energy already and we can hardly wait for what's next.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

April 30, 2023 - Fourth Sunday of Easter - Good Shepherd Sunday - The Universal "Gotcha"

In his sermon Pastor Steve started by pointing out something interesting. Last week the Gospel lesson was the Emmaus story, which was the congregation's name for which he served for many years in Oregon. This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday, He was a Pastor developer for a church in Marshfield, Wisconsin called Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.  

Of course, the I am the Good Shepherd, is part of John's I am texts. They are: 

I am the bread of life - John 6:35-48
I am the light of the world - John 8:12 9:5
I am the gate - John 10:7
I am the good shepherd - John 10:11-14.
I am the resurrection and the life - John 11:25
I am the way, the truth and the life - John 14:6
I am the true vine - John 15:1-5

In today's Gospel is the third of Jesus' I am statements, the I am the gate, and stops just short of the fourth I am

In John 10:7, Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep." This statement is part of that longer passage in which Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.

When Jesus says he is the gate for the sheep, he may be using this metaphor to explain his role as the only way to salvation. In ancient times, shepherds would often keep their sheep in a pen made of stone or wood with only one entrance, which was guarded by the shepherd. The shepherd would lie down in the entrance to protect the sheep from predators and prevent them from wandering off. In this way, the shepherd served as a gate or door for the sheep.

Likewise, Jesus may be saying that he is the only way to enter into salvation and find safety and protection from spiritual predators. He is the gatekeeper who will only allow the true sheep to enter and find rest and security. In other words, Jesus is the only way to have a relationship with God and receive eternal life.

So, when Jesus says he is the gate, many feel he is emphasizing his exclusivity as the only way to the Father. He is the means through which we can come to God and receive the abundant life he offers. Every time that Jesus is understood to be making a claim of exclusivity, however, I find that is worth a deeper exploration.

Lutherans trust only God's grace saves. When exclusivity around certain beliefs about the attributes of God are emphasized, it is troubling. Beliefs can put up barriers to the ways we understand one another if we don't agree. I heard in last year's Synod Assembly The Sutras; Discourse on a Better Way to Catch a Snake.  This sutra teaches something valuable that has more bearing on my spiritual life. At this moment I want to learn about how to prepare to accept, or let go of, spiritual teachings.

Pastor Steve preached about how the "gatekeeper" language does not fit with the inclusive language we like to use now in the church. Pastor Steve stressed the promise of abundant life. He also stressed Jesus walking along side of us, 

Pastor Steve preached on the 23rd Psalm, which we chanted together today. He particularly addressed Shirley, a beloved member who is on all of our minds since the announcement that her breast cancer has metastasized. He talked about her current walk through the valley of the shadow of death. He preached that goodness and mercy would follow her and, like a man Pastor Steve also referenced in his sermon, both goodness and mercy, at that critical moment, would together whisper the word "gotcha" and she would dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Many of us recognize the voice of Jesus in that word "gotcha". There may be others who recognize different words. A different voice may speak those different words. Yes, the protection at the gate may come from another, but we trust there is a "gotcha" for everyone as we all come to eventually dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

April 23, 2023 - Third Sunday of Easter - Looking for Daily Resurrection Stories and Recognizing Jesus

The Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus

This picture by Diego Valázquez, c.1620 came to my attention today. Powerful associations and links came with the Emmaus story, with our pastoral vote today to call Emillie Binja as Creator's next pastor, and the poem this painting to the right inspired.

Also Pastor Steve preached that his congregation's name, which he served for many years in Oregon, was named Emmaus, so it had a deep resonance for him. He often encouraged that congregation when they were asked what Emmaus means to just tell the story.

This gospel story extends beyond those who are normally populate it in our imagination. The Valázquez here comments on power and social class — and our ability — or inability — to see Jesus and the transformative possibilities of resurrection.Is it possible for us to miss Jesus out of fear, anxiety, or the rage we may experience in the news we may currently be consuming daily?  How does the addition of the Black maid reshape the meaning of the Emmaus story?

Denise Levertov wrote a poem about this that fills me with different emotions today

 She listens, listens, holding her breath.
Surely that voice
is his — the one
who had looked at her, once,
across the crowd, as no one ever had looked?
Had seen her?
Had spoken as if to her?
Surely those hands were his,
taking the platter of bread from hers just now?
Hands he’d laid on the dying and made them well?
Surely that face — ?
The man they’d crucified for sedition and blasphemy.
The man whose body disappeared from its tomb.
The man it was rumored now some women had seen this morning,
Those who had brought this stranger home to their table
don’t recognize yet with whom they sit.
But she in the kitchen,
absently touching the wine jug she’s to take in,
a young Black servant intently listening,
swings round and sees
the light around him
and is sure.

— Denise Levertov, “The Servant Girl at Emmaus”

Is it possible that Jesus often walks beside us and we simply mistake him as a random stranger?
How do we see - how can we see - Jesus in others?

Saturday, April 22, 2023

April 18, 2023 - Second Sunday of Easter - Who were the Doubting Disciples and What were they Doubting?

The second Sunday of Easter and right after Easter we are encounter doubt. Not just Thomas' doubt but the disciples' doubt and our doubt. For as Pastor Steve preached all the disciple's doubted. They were behind a locked door.  

We may want not to doubt but this defies what we experience in our daily lives to such an extent that it is hard to impossible never to doubt. Perhaps eliminating doubt is not the point. The mystery of the risen Christ turns and turns in our minds and resolves differently, at least for me, at different stages of our lives.

Today I examined many details in the story of Thomas. As I read this John text today I see Thomas did not really doubt the power or person of Jesus like we are lead to beleive. Rather he doubted the story his friends told him about the appearance. And who wouldn't? Certainly the moral of this story of Thomas should not be to trust and believe in everything anybody tells you.

The other detail I reflected on today is that Thomas is initially not in the locked room. He is on his own. He is showing courage, likely on some errand for the group. He would not be just out for a walk but is  out for a purpose. The purpose must have been imperative and important for him to be out with the fear that was obvious in the others. The details of his story are not be as simple as they appear on the surface. 

This second Sunday of Easter comes at interesting juncture of Creator's life as a congregation. The congregation met Emillie Binja for the first time yesterday. She is the candidate we will vote on next Sunday to become our pastor At the Meet and Greet yesterday she was honest about the doubts she has experienced leading up to this moment. Doubts about her call, about whether Creator's Call Committee felt the same way about her in our initial zoom meeting that she felt. about us.

Her honesty and willingness to be vulnerable about all this was in keeping with our previous conversations. She impressed the Call Committee with these qualities. Rather than trying to impress us with her faith, knowledge and experience, she uses every opportunity to know who she truly is. Last Saturday's gathering was a karios moment as a result.

 The more we understand the complexity of Biblical stories like these the more we understand our common humanity. I used to think of the ending as a reprimand of how Thomas behaved - that he should have believed. Now I see it as a reminder not to put anyone on a pedestal. Or belief who have not "seen" is as blessed as those who did.

May 21, 2023 - Seventh Sunday of Easter - A Reparations Road Trip - A Discussion with Juan Carlos

Bishop’s Associate, Juan Carlos La Puente preached the message in today's service. He was also part of a group discussion afterwards. Ma...