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from Pastor's desK

June 14, 2024

 

Dear Friends,

Next week we’ll be enjoying (cough, cough) a heat dome, which as far as I can tell is a hellish and horrible stretch of weeks or months when a giant, well, dome of heat settles in on a place and takes root. It’s going to be super hot, so please make sure you have your air conditioners installed and serviced, and that you know where you can go if you need to cool down. Drink lots of water, and put on sunscreen, wear a hat, and maybe catch up on some movies. It’s going to be hot!

As always, we will have church. But when it gets super hot, I always tell folks to bring water, fans, whatever they need to make it through the service. We’re still doing the Zoom services, so you can avail yourself of that, too.

I hope you were able to peruse the [HERE] survey I sent out a few days ago for our BBQ Book Club. It’s a wide range of books, but I think they’ll all be worth discussing. If we finish the book early, we’ll just move on into Shakespeare—I’ve been wanting to read Twelfth Night recently, and I think that would be a great thing to do over the summer. BBQ Book Club starts July 10th at 6:30 pm.

Before the BBQ Book Club this year, at 6 pm, we’ll be having our Communion in the Garden, a short communion service. They’re fun, and the best part is that if you stick around, you’ll get a burger.

Lots of things are happening, so come on over and find something to do. Peter Holsberg just dropped off some congas and bongos—if you can play them, I’m sure we’ll find a place for you on a Sunday morning.


Talk to you soon,

Pastor John

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June 7, 2024

Dear Friends,

The weather has been beautiful, and I hope it means you are spending time outside. This week’s reading includes the penalty for Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the garden. Sometimes we concentrate too much on the disobedience of Adam and Eve we forget the consequences, one of which is the alienation of humankind from creation. In both creation stories (remember there are two and they are different in many respects), human beings were embedded in the created order, and fashioned in God’s image to love and care for the earth. One way of reading the story of the fall is to see that Adam and Eve wanted to find power over creation, to overcome their embeddedness, to transcend it as God did. And that breaks the relationship humans have with their creation and they find themselves now in opposition to it. It’s important also to understand the break of disobedience as something humans cannot fix: we can’t, having eaten the tree, go back to Eden. Instead, like a piece of pottery that has shattered, we must be remade somehow.

So part of our redemption and sanctification is to return to our holy communion as creatures with the rest of creation. If we seek to dominate creation, we will perish. But God’s vision is for us to discover our place among his other creatures, the plants and animals, the rocks and minerals, and discover what it means to live together. Harmony is a word often employed here, with good reason—every note in harmony strengthens the other notes and together makes something more beautiful than all the notes could make alone. If we do indeed work our salvation in fear and trembling, as Paul says, then we carefully examine our relationship with the rest of the created order, and how we can both subsist on it and serve it.

It pays to pay to attention, to the stories we hold sacred, to the way we use our language, to the world outside of us. So spend some time outside. Consider what you see. Think of what it means when Jesus, after his temptation, was with the wild beasts, how the Bible’s vision of complete redemption includes all of creation, red as it is in tooth and claw. Consider your own place in it, how you can grow to connect with it.

Oh, and if you come to church this Sunday, you’ll learn from Jesus how to rob a house. Don’t miss it.


See you soon,


Pastor John
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May 31, 2024

 

Dear Friends,

As you have no doubt heard, a jury found former President Donald Trump 34 times guilty of falsifying business records. He is now a convicted felon running for president, which does not seem to matter much to his party. It is a matter of justice in our nation that people who have committed felonies often have a hard time finding good work after they’ve done their time—but we will see if Donald Trump ever serves his time.

I am less disturbed by the crimes than by the reaction to them. Pundits immediately have pivoted from “will the jury find him guilty” to “what does this mean for his election chances.” But this is the wrong question. Donald Trump is a liar. He commits crimes. His campaign put out an official statement calling for a “Reich” in America (something that was deleted later, but we ought to remain flabbergasted that such a thing was released at all). He has vowed to deport every migrant and set up concentration camps. The real question we ought to ask is: why does an entire political party support this horror? What’s wrong with us?

I wish I knew how people fell into this trap. I’ve read a lot of analyses. It seems like a lot of people who support Trump live in a changing community. Perhaps that’s why his xenophobic comments resonate so much—some people feel their community changing, they don’t like it, and they’ve found someone who speaks to them about it.

I also know that people are so tired of “politics”—by this I think they mean the lurid preening that passes for politics these days. Ted Cruz, for instance, seems to have discovered that being a senator means he can make a lot of money on a podcast, which means he needs soundbites and soundbites. The thralldom of social media hits and big money donors, commixed with gerrymandering that reinforces the power of the most extreme elements of political parties, together with real problems like inflation, climate change, migration, lack of housing, lead us here. The buffoonery of men and women playing to soundbites while the people suffer, amplified by a media culture with incentives not to tell the truth but to get viewers—that’s where we are.

We come this Sunday to some passages in Scripture about Sabbath. Sabbath means rest, coming from the verb meaning to cease or stop. One wise counsel the Rabbis give is to turn off your phone for the Sabbath—spend 25 hours disconnected. But Sabbath has many meanings. In the Torah, Sabbath also means forgiving debts, for instance. Ceasing owing money, you might say. And it all comes from the moment in creation when God simply rested from creating and enjoyed the beautiful world he made.

The Christian Sabbath is time set aside for us to hear the Word of God—a Word that is above the politics of our day and our era, a Word that opens our hearts to the world that God has made. Perhaps the worst thing that Donald Trump has done, in my mind, is further associate Christians with the xenophobic and homophobic comments he makes. It seems to me that it is increasingly the case that when people say “Christian” they mean straight white people who hate other kinds of people, and people who long for a dictatorship instead of the messy world of democracy.

But in the Gospel of Luke, we hear Jesus choose this text for his first sermon: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And in case you thought that maybe “the oppressed” mean people with 34 felony convictions of falsifying business records, it doesn’t. Jesus shows the people he means: he means the poor, the sick, the suffering, the hopeless, the forgotten. He gathers them in his harms. The Sabbath, he shows, is for doing good. It’s for healing, helping, restoring. It’s for kindness.

It’s good to take a break and appreciate the joyful love of God for all things—for all people and all the creatures God has made. Sometimes when you take a break and hear the true and good Word of God, it becomes easier to sort through the firehouse of [garbage] that comes from the mouthpieces of the world. Be still, know that only God is God, and rejoice in the day God has made. Turn from the noise and make your way toward the music. That’s where the truth is, and the healing.

All are welcome here. See you soon.

Pastor John
 

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May 22, 2024

 

Dear Friends,


It’s Trinity Sunday this week—the last big holiday before we move into what we call Ordinary Time, a hilariously bad name that really just means ongoing time, rather than Nothing-special-about-the-time Time. For some reason that I have yet to figure out, all the Sundays until All Saints are called ___________ Sunday after Pentecost, or __________ Sunday in Ordinary Time. (Again, not in the ordinary sense of ordinary, but in the church nerd sense, because as all real church nerds know, nothing is ordinary ((in the ordinary sense, not the counting things down and watching the process of time unfold sense) about God!))

You might notice that I, personally, prefer an older method, which counts the Sundays after Trinity, as in _____ Sunday after Trinity. Whether this makes me a greater or lesser church nerd than those that prefer to use Ordinary Time, I will leave to the great church nerd adjudicatory, wherever it may be, probably on the internet somewhere. I’m just happy to be here, honestly.

In particular, I like that counting the Sundays after Trinity emphasizes something important about the Christian faith, namely, our understanding of God, who is one God in three Persons. For some reason this doctrine scares people, possibly because it sounds like something that should be an engineering or math problem but ends up really being a delicate attempt at describing a mystery, which isn’t a problem to be solved at all. 

The way into the Trinity is really through Jesus, I think, the one who says, “I’m the way!” A way of understanding The Way are some things our forebears Iraneus and Athanasius wrote. Iraneus said, “Because of his measureless love, he became what we are in order to enable us to become what he is,” or as Athanasius put it, “He became human that we might become divine.” The Sundays after Trinity tell us of what he did as human, and the invitation Christ shares with us to become as he is. How can a human being bring God into flesh and time? Why do we worship Christ as a god? The answers to these questions lead us to the Trinity. As Frances Young, a great scholar once wrote, “Creeds have their genesis in doxology (that is praise and worship).” Who is this god we were worshipping; a visitor might ask. Well, it’s kind of a mystery, you might reply, but we do affirm that it is one infinite God, becoming human in Jesus, present everywhere through the Spirit. And since it’s a mystery, we’ll disagree about a lot of things, but we can agree on that.

And I think that’s what makes the Trinity so special. It gives a lot of room for us to evolve and reform. We can disagree on a lot of things, and wait for their revealing in…well, ordinary time, or the time when all time ceases. But because there’s so much room in the mystery we don’t have to worry too much so long as we disagree in good faith and keep trying to find points of unity. None of us are God—we are not as he is, yet. But we are on our way, if we share in Christ’s sufferings, partake in his body, trust in his guidance.

We sing sometimes a hymn on Trinity Sunday, Come Join the Dance of Trinity. To my ear it’s a little bit cheesy, a bit of a galumph. But the invitation is perfect: come and join this dance we call the Holy Trinity. It’s a folk dance, a ball, a rave beyond the galaxies. And there’s plenty of space for you and your questions, doubts and fears, as well as your convictions. So come on—dance.

Pastor John

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May 17, 2024

Dear Friends,

There’s so much fun happening this Sunday—as it should, since it’s Pentecost, the celebration of the great fiery swoosh of the Holy Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit that finally gets the disciples up and out and into the marketplace to share the good news, the Spirit that acts like the universal translator so that every person can hear the gospel in the language closest to their heart, the Spirit that gives Peter the backbone to fearlessly defend his friends and the good news they have to share when the authorities show up and say, “What’s all this?”

It is my true and sincere hope that someone may come to OSA on Sunday and look around and say, “What’s all this?" I hope that’s how much fun we are having. I hope that when we show up at the resurrection, we will all be so filled with joy that we won’t just ask, “What’s all this?” but we’ll answer, “The greatest party ever.” The party where everyone feels comfortable and happy, without shame, no chance of awkward conversation, but only free and full of joy. Whatever life is supposed to be—life meaning as the thing that makes us surge with happiness—it’s a gift of the Spirit.

We’re doing a few things to celebrate the Spirit, to welcome the force of life. We’re celebrating the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the presence of Jesus Christ through the Spirit in the foretaste of the greatest party ever. We’re having a barbecue using our new electric grill (no more smoking out the neighbors!), and we’re making new communion cups!

This last thing is especially wonderful (and many thanks to Anna Campbell). The Psalm and the Old Testament reading this week both feature dust and dirt that brings life. And if my sermon is super boring, you can hold the communion cups we’ve made and contemplate the Spirit that breathes life into dust and makes it live. And a beautiful sign of that is the work of our hands, the dirt and clay, that holds the living God.

Pentecost is a beautiful thing—if you’ve never come to worship with us, consider coming this Sunday!

Pastor John

*, our city needs action. And the ones entrusted with the ability to ask might need to be given the courage to do it.

And if you want to know how all this connects to our faith, come to church on Sunday!

See you soon,

 

Pastor John

 

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