Voices of the Community
The Reverend Brian Lennstrom – June 17, 2021
One of the most glorious things about meeting together in the building is the ability to partake together of Holy Communion. May it come quickly that all of us can gather and share the common loaf!
In my curious reading ways, I came across some words from St. Augustine, as quoted by Martin Luther: “The Word is added to the element, and a sacrament results.” (This is as true of baptism as it is of Holy Communion.) The element of Communion is the cracker lying on a table, but no ordinary cracker is this!
The Word of God, as invoked by the presider during the Eucharist, is added to that cracker and changes it into something much more powerful, much more spiritual, and much more beneficial: a sacrament. Through it we obey Christ’s command to “do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19). Through it we receive food for the journey. Through it we remember “Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life…” (BCP). In other words, something happens when we eat this cracker. Something important. Something spiritual.
I came to Christ in high school at a Southern Baptist church in Longview, Washington. I believe they celebrated the Lord’s Supper four times a year, and for whatever reason, I was always absent those Sundays in which they celebrated it! Baptists, naturally, champion baptism (full immersion, of course!) and so celebrate the beginnings of faith. Like the eucharist, baptism is a rite of beauty and power, and we are right to be encouraged on several occasions through the year to “remember our baptism.” My son, a Foursquare minister in Lincoln City, Oregon, baptizes in a river under a bridge just before the river enters the ocean. The congregation stands on the bridge—along with interested passers-by—and shouts with excitement.
But it was when I moved from my Baptist period through my Presbyterian period to my Episcopal period that God helped me better understand the power of the experience of the eucharist. To be sure, (as Augustine says) it is the Word and the element which produce the sacrament, and not the Word, the element and my experience of it. I receive the sacrament even on days when my mind or my heart are elsewhere as I am at the altar. But our rite is crafted in a way to highlight the experience to those whose minds are not elsewhere, and to gently pull on those whose minds are elsewhere. Through the Word of God, Jesus pulls is in like one who fishes.
As I’m sure each of you knows, the Spirit works mightily in the sacrament. Thanks be to God that we can celebrate it together again, after an absence of so many months. May God hurry the day when our house can be full and we can all partake of this blessed sacrament!
Becky Lennstrom – June 10, 2021
“This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118)
I spent my summers on Lake Pend Oreille in Hope, Idaho, where my father worked for the local U.S. Forest Service as an aerial fire spotter and a dispatcher for smokejumpers during wildfire season. I remember waking to my father’s voice as he said goodbye to my mother on the porch, “This is the day the Lord has made!” His enthusiasm over the beauty of the lake with the Green Monarchs shimmering in the background never ceased to amaze him, and his hearty declaration became my wake-up call, whether I wanted it or not. How I miss that voice now–fifty years later in the summer of 2021–and how I wish I could echo back through time the rejoinder, “We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Still, as I enter this season of sun and wildfire, I’ll bear in mind the psalmist’s imperative–rejoice!
Sol Kohlhaas – June 3, 2021
“WE HONOR THE SALISH PEOPLE ON WHOSE ANCESTERAL LAND CHRIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH WAS BUILT”
Memorial Day is a truly American holiday; a quick Google search reveals that it was first celebrated on the 6th of May 1866 in Waterloo NY to remember those that gave their lives fighting in the Civil War. Later it was called Decoration Day and celebrated on May 30th; the tradition was to decorate memorials in honor of those that made the ultimate sacrifice in war. It wasn’t officially celebrated as Memorial Day on the last Monday in May until 1971.
Today it sometimes seems that it is more appreciated for the long weekend it provides than used as a time to reflect on the sacrifices that were made over generations so that we can live the lives we do today. Those sacrifices were not only made in named wars. Sacrifices were made by people that cared for the lands since time immemorial where we live, work, worship and play today.
This year the Hospitality Committee purchased a plaque to decorate our church grounds with an acknowledgment that Christ Church sits on land that was once home to the Coast Salish People. Thank you to the Hospitality Committee for giving us such an important memorial to reflect on throughout the year.
Betty Anne McCoy – May 27, 2021
“ I wake to sleep and take my waking slow.” (“The Waking” by Theodore Roethke)
I was struck by this line from a poem that we reflected on in our Mindful Poetry gathering this week. My experience during this long period of Covid 19 could be described this way. Life slowed down, there was time for more introspection. There was a chance to take part in offerings in Zoom like Contemplative Creativity, Centering Prayer, services, meetings and just family conversations from afar. This virtual presence was a gift in so many ways, but the contrast by actually being together in person for me was palpable. The Outdoor service on the lawn, indoors for Pentecost Sunday, and the first few family visits, filled me with joy. There was a spiritual presence in the togetherness and yet unexplainable. Being in community was the answer. This spiritual presence must have been what the disciples felt when they left their daily work and activity to follow Jesus. It is unexplainable but, we want to be there, in body, in person. If we want to be present with others and to be present to God and the Holy Spirit we can choose to “take our waking slow.”
The Reverend Deacon Eric Johnson – May 20, 2021
Saturday Morning at the Park
We have all heard the fears expressed over the years about Causland Memorial Park —the city park next to Christ Church—and how the homeless are littering the park and turning it into a dangerous place to visit. At the same time, there are six churches in Old Town that have a mission to the homeless. These churches provide everything from money for temporary shelter to meals on Sunday afternoons.
It would be wonderful if these churches were to take part in an Adopt-a-Park program to help clean up the park where some homeless folk like to visit. And why couldn’t Christ Church take the lead in that? Cleaning up the park grounds would complement the Fidalgo Island Morning Rotary’s weed & seed gardening program, and the City of Anacortes will happily supply trash bags and grabbers for us. I plan to be at Causland Memorial Park this Saturday, 22 May, at 10:00 AM and search for trash. Others from Christ Church have also volunteered to help and, as of Monday at Noon, at least one other church will have members there.
Pentecost Eve is an opportune time to start a project like this. Pentecost is the day when our story of the Kingdom of God really begins. It is the day when the Holy Spirit drove out all the disciples fears and sent them out to bring the Kingdom that Jesus talked about into full and tangible reality. Being good stewards of the earth is part of that tangible reality, and picking up trash is certainly one of the many duties required in sustaining the Kingdom of God.
The Reverend Diane Ramerman – May 13, 2021
This Sunday’s readings are about our Lord handing over his ministry to those who will follow him. We can only guess what might have been in the minds of the disciples during these last hours before Jesus’ ascension. Almost seven weeks since his dying and rising, and now their commitment of discipleship is to change again. Jesus is the same, and yet not the same. They must have had a thousand questions, because the responsibility for carrying on his eternal work would now be theirs – as it is now ours. He has given us the words of scripture– have we received them, do we know these words? Do we know in truth that Jesus came from God and believe that God sent Jesus to us? We take on the responsibility of discipleship with the assurance that our Lord is with us every step of the way.
Dale Ramerman – May 6, 2021
Mother’s Day occurs every year. As I get older, my insights about motherhood and my mother deepen. It’s too easy to take one’s mother for granted. And then with the perspective of age and time for reflection, there comes to mind a seemingly unending stream of memories of things I did not appreciate and say thanks for, when my mother was still with us.
Motherhood is not just a human phenomena. The experience of mothers unites us with much of the animal world: the lioness purring as she licks her cub’s belly, the fox carrying her kit to safety by the scruff of its neck, the giant hawk carefully nudging her curious chick back beneath of safety of her breast. Even animals we would not associate with nurture: the wolf spider carrying her spiderlings on her back, the alligator carrying her infant in her mouth. Or, in our Salish sea, the mother orca carrying her dead calf for 17 days as she could not bear to let the infant go. (There’s a happy sequel to this story: the mother orca gave birth to a healthy calf the next year.)
But motherhood by giving birth is too narrow a view of motherhood. Motherhood by adoption and motherhood by marriage are equally significant and often unappreciated. And, having been rendered virtually useless in my 80th year by a broken leg, I’ve found my spouse Diane’s mothering to be an unending blessing (and for her, I’m sure, burden).
Margo Huth – April 29, 2021
Sun smiles on eyelashes,
eyes gaze at glorious azure sky. Look below,
see butter-yellow flowers,
dandelions in new grown grass.
Morning rays laugh,
they twinkle over violet-rose petals,
while dampen, the newly planted rhododendron.
Cluster of crows click, squawk, and caw.
A nest is built in long, green needles
of Ponderosa Pine.
It was watered so carefully last summer,
seeped into dark soil, ropes of roots.
The tree swallowed deep drinks
of clean liquid.
God spilled water down mountains and high hills.
It cascaded along swift rivers
and clear streams.
We need protection for the blessed moisture.
Stop ravenous mining companies,
who tend to rape, pollute and poison
the Lord’s holy Creation.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)
Mark Perschbacher – April 22, 2021
“He is Risen, He is Risen, let the whole wide earth rejoice…”
So go the words of that jubilant hymn. Easter is certainly a time for celebration in our faith tradition. The death and resurrection of Jesus is a central point in our belief system. The warm weather we’ve been enjoying and abundance of bright flowers blooming add to the feeling of renewal.
The passing of two of my longtime neighbors this month, though, has prompted me to reflect on how fleeting life really is. Clay, my crabbing buddy, passed on April 1 after a long illness. He is probably best known to people here in town for taking on the role of Santa in the Christmas parade in years past. Hans, our beloved next door neighbor, passed on April 14. Although an amazingly spry 94 years, he too is free of some ongoing health issues. Marcy and I, as well as our dog Jackson, who had a special relationship with Hans, are dealing with the reality of not seeing him day to day. Our whole family feels blessed to have known him, and to have experienced his generous and wonderful spirit. I will miss both of these people greatly, and am feeling grateful for the short, precious time we have here on Earth.
Diane Canington – April 15, 2021
Then he said to them (the disciples), “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures and he said to them, “Thus written that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised, so stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-53)
These were the final words Jesus spoke to the disciples before he was carried up into heaven, telling them to remain in Jerusalem until they were confident in the power granted to them by God to go into the greater world to proclaim his message. Imagine the thrill of being reunited with Jesus after witnessing the horror of his crucifixion and now having the company and blessing of the risen Christ.
We have inherited that charge and blessing and are directed to live out our lives and spread Christ’s message of love and forgiveness. That Christian love can be demonstrated in so many different ways: simple things like inviting someone to go ahead of you in line at the grocery store, bringing meals to a person who’s under the weather, or praying with someone who’s going through tough times. It can take the form of seeing that people’s needs are met when they’re struggling to keep their heads above water. It can also be expressed as joyful love in the birth of a baby or a marriage in the congregation, celebrating these beautiful occasions and giving praise and thanks to God. In other words, there are countless ways to demonstrate Christian love.
What a relief to know that our sins will be forgiven if we go to God and ask his forgiveness, pledging to not fall into the same trap again. He knows we will continue to sin but that by being mindful of our transgressions creates a pathway of turning to God in order to live a better and more meaningful life.
June Cook – April 8, 2021
The strife is o’er, the battle done
the victory of life is won;
the song of triumph has begun.
-Hymn 208, The Hymnal 1982
The lyrics and music of Hymn 208 have their origins early in the sixteenth century. According to our 1982 Hymnal, the words were originally written in Latin and translated into English by Francis Pott in the late 1800’s. The musical arrangement, originally called Victory, was by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina in the mid-1500’s, later adapted and arranged by William Monk in the mid-1800’s.
Our hymnal is a rich blend of past and present traditions in church music. Pick a quiet time to page through the hymnal, taking note of those involved in writing lyrics and composing music – Charles Wesley, F J Hayden, J S Bach, Martin Luther, Felix Mendelssohn, John Donne, G F Handel. Traveling back farther in time – Peter Abelard, Gregory the Great, The Venerable Bede, Ambrose of Milan, Greek compositions back to the third century, Latin back to the fifth. And, of course, African-American spirituals from more recent times. Our hymnal is built on the work, over the millennia, of giants in the worlds of music, theology, and early Christianity. Like The Book of Common Prayer, The Hymnal 1982 adds immeasurably to the depth and breadth of our spirituality if we simply make the time to explore its offerings.
While some hymns seem to have lost relevance for us today and are rarely sung, many, such as hymn 208, still resonate powerfully. Just look at the robust, militant words used – battle, victory, triumph! These days we tend to think of the “battle” in softer terms – redemption, sacrifice, resurrection, words that tie us, personally, to the Easter story. “Battle, victory, and triumph” have a corporate feel – we’re all in this together, we all fight the battle, we all win the victory, we all triumph.
As we travel through this Easter season, let us remember that the battle is done . . . the victory is won . . . and the triumph has begun! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Shirley Barrett – April 1, 2021
This is Passion Week and we usually create a mental image of Jesus’ pain , along with His family, friends and us. Undeniably, it is a week of sorrow and deep reflection into our own lives as to how we come into this pain. Are we living up to our commitment and faith in our everyday lives? And this should be our mindset…to a degree.
But this week is more than that, it is a culmination of Jesus’ life on earth, his willingness to sacrifice Himself for us so that someday we will be with Him in His Heavenly Kingdom. It is a time of forgiveness that he so selflessly came here to give. And it is a time of Hope and Joy-This hope is what permeates the entire Lenten season. Hope that we are forgiven for our sins, hope that Jesus’ purpose will be received and completed and hope that God’s kingdom will come “on earth as it is Heaven.”
It is our faith that seals this hope within us during this season, this week, and through our really tough times. The knowledge that God’s promise will be upheld, brings that joy. We know in our heart and soul what will come. In a way, we can see the other side of pain. That is what our faith is…belief in God’s promises. And it is Joy that awaits us this coming Sunday, Easter, the Resurrection of Our Lord, the hope and faith confirmed.
Is not the absence of pain
But the belief
In the possibility of
The pain of grief
With Hope and Joy
One does not leave
To make room
For the other
-Tanya Lord, Copyright 2014, www.thegrieftoolbox.com
Reverend Brian Lennstrom – March 25, 2021
In 2021, I’ve been reading Martin Luther, at the rate of about two pages per day. It’s slow going, in part because the times are so different (1521 versus 2021); in part because the things Luther cares about are so different from the things most people in our age care about (he returns again and again to the fact that the Catholic hierarchy was comprised of what we moderns might term a “swarm of Darth Vaders”); and in part because he is so much more earnest about Christ than I am.
There is the 16th century polemic in his writings: in one paper (“Concerning the Letter and the Spirit”) he is responding to an attack by the German theologian Jerome Emser, whose coat of arms featured a goat. This caused Luther frequently to refer to Emser in his writing as “Goat Emser.” (In fairness, Emser had already termed Luther the “Bull of Wittenberg.”) In addition, there is the 16th century style and color; for example, here (to shift metaphors), Luther writes, “Where are you now, Goliath Emser, with your spear and sword? You have buckled on this sword and let your own head be cut off with it.” Finally, one occasionally finds in Luther a sweet, self-deprecating humor, as in “It was necessary for me to undertake the translation of the Bible; otherwise I would have died under the mistaken impression that I was a learned man.”
But most magnificently, I am moved by how regularly and deeply he draws his readers to Christ. Look at this passage: “The preaching of the gospel is nothing else than Christ coming to us, or we being brought to him…. If you pause here and let him do you good, that is, if you believe that he benefits and helps you, then you really have it. Then Christ yours, presented to you as a gift.”
Come, Lord God and present Jesus Christ to me as a gift; and also give him as a gift and example to my neighbor; and finally, say to the heart of this land, and cry to her, that her sin is forgiven. We thank you for the rich life and witness of your servant, Martin Luther. Amen.
Mark Perschbacher – March 18, 2021
Along with other members of Christ Church, I attended the Better Together faith formation conference hosted by the diocese last Saturday. The day included speakers, workshops, and a brief service that included prayers composed at one of the workshops. It was nice to see some familiar faces, and many unfamiliar ones from around the diocese. I took part in three workshops:
- Maximizing Your Virtual Presence: Ideas and Resources for Children’s and Families Ministries
This workshop detailed how several congregations are using Youtube videos, Facebook groups, and podcasts to reach out young people and their families. Offerings included examples of children’s sermons, Godly Play presentations, and short family videos.
- The Practice of Authentic Allyship with Reverend Terry Kyllo
The second workshop was a presentation by Reverend Terry Kyllo about his ongoing efforts to connect our region’s Muslim communities with their neighbors, and to help foster understanding.
- Musicians’ Jam Session – Plan for the Closing Service in Real-Time
The last workshop was a really enjoyable session where our group prepared a hymn that we sang at the closing service.
Even though this year’s conference was conducted via Zoom, I came away with a feeling of togetherness with my fellow Episcopalians. We are truly blessed to be part of such a creative and dedicated body of faith.
Betty Anne McCoy – March 4, 2021
As we are looking at gifts for our Total Common Ministry team , I think about the stunning poem that Amanda Gorman gave at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. She spoke so eloquently about herself and these times, about the challenges we all face in our divided country. We are divided in so many ways by politics, race, religion, gender, and vaccine choice, to name some, but Amanda honed in on how we can be healed. “There is always light. If only we are brave enough to see it, if only we are brave enough to be it. ” God’s light is always there for us, Jesus’ light can be seen in his life and stories and from Him we can be the the light to ourselves and those around us. We must be brave to affirm, see, and be light in these difficult times. There are so many gifts among us, inspiration, communication, caring, leadership, support.
See the light in others, see the gifts in others and ourselves. They are there.
…the commandment of the Lord is clear and gives light to the eyes. (Psalm 19:8)
The Reverend Deacon Eric Johnson – February 25, 2021
On their way to the villages of Caesarea, Simon declares to Jesus, “You are the Messiah.” Then immediately afterwards, Jesus explains that the Messiah must undergo suffering, rejection and death. This is not what Peter wants to hear, so he drags Jesus aside to protest.
Thousands of years of Christian history demonstrate that, with the exception of Mary and a few other sainted persons, the example of Peter is the standard trajectory of faith. Discipleship, for most of us, seems to be a series of starts, stops and temporizing. Like Peter, we would rather have the Messiah act on our terms, while Jesus assures Peter—and us—that this is nothing less than satanic.
The season of Lent gives me the opportunity to consider how the call of Jesus is similar (or not) to my own needs and desires. The first (and most difficult) step in that consideration is to let go of the need to control events and outcomes.
The Reverend Diane Ramerman – February 18, 2021
The Gospel of Mark uses a scant two verses to tell how Jesus moved through the liminal time from the anointing of his baptism through the forty days in the wilderness to the beginning of his three years of ministry. It is as if Mark tells us, ‘and now it begins.’ Just so, our own forty days of Lent are preparation for our ministry – the ministry that defines us as Easter people, as followers of the Christ. Our willingness to make the journey is infinitely more important to God than our skill. God can equip us for whatever God calls us to do. We offer our willingness to follow, and seek to grow in our abilities to be faithful. We discern who is willing in our ministry contexts, and we invest our time and attention in developing their skills for love and service. We can change skill, but not will. Only God’s spirit can work on a resistant will. As you prayerfully consider who to name in the 2021 Call to Ministry, consider also whether you are willing to serve.
Dale Ramerman – February 11, 2021
How many ah-ha moments have you had? My guess is that they are a common experience for most of us. Being lost in the fog on the water can be frightening experience. And then suddenly the fog clears and the sense of uncertainty and lostness evaporate: Ah-ha! Now I know where we are!
Seven years ago we visited the mountain in Palestine where the Transfiguration is believed to have taken place. But like the fog clearing when you’re on a boat, the place is not what is important. It is the fact that the fog clears and you see where you are.
Maybe this is the significance of the Transfiguration. Not a place, or some thing some of the apostles observed. Rather, a new way of seeing or understanding who Jesus is. Ah-ha, now I get it. There’s no going back; things will never be the same again.
Maggie Collinge – January 28, 2021
“The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman
The most inspiring words spoken during the Inaugural Ceremony was the poem by Amanda Gorman. I was grateful to see the poem printed in the Seattle Times last Thursday. The words flowed like music from her mouth; there was a wonderful, youthful, insistent rap beat that moved the words along. At 22, Amanda was the youngest poet to read at an inauguration. The tradition of inviting a poet to read at an inauguration started in 1961 with John Kennedy inviting Robert Frost.
Amanda takes us on a journey through both the good and destructive parts of our history as a country. She reflects on how we continue to be strong in the face of dark times. She encourages with her words that we might leave our country better than we find it. Amanda quotes a line from Micah “that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid”. The verse before this is the one we are more familiar with, all about beating swords into plowshares and not going to war. She goes on to say,
“The hill we climb
If only we dare
It’s because being American is more
than the pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it”
Amanda, like Micah, is filled with the spirit of the Lord. She is also recalling Martin Luther King and his words taken from this same scripture, about going up to the mountain of the Lord. As I write these words I can hear his voice. It is such a hopeful message; we have the power to right some of the wrongs that have been made in our name as a country. I want to read more of Amanda Gorman’s poetry and other young writers. I believe they have ideas that the rest of us need to hear. Amanda ends her poem where she began; with the light.
“The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
If only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it"
Diane Canington – January 21, 2021
O Lord you have searched me and know me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.(Psalm 139:1-5)
These reassuring words of scripture are available to all believers. We simply have to be willing to accept that God is there for us, moment to moment, in our lives. Our whole independent American upbringing seems contrary to the concept that we should submit to God’s will and listen for his guidance. We have been taught that we have the ability to make our own decisions and forge our own success. This may work, to a degree, if we’re looking at life in terms of dollars, social status, and possessions, but learning that God’s kingdom is not of this earth, changes the equation completely.
To stand vulnerable, in front of God, is that moment when we agree to totally trust. To realize that God knows us better than we know ourselves is not only humbling, but freeing. It enables us to let go of ego and to permit ourselves to be shaped and, yes, at times, to be hemmed in to accept necessary boundaries.
June Cook – January 14, 2021
What, by God’s Grace, Can We Become?
There’s so much to reflect on from the past week, I don’t know where to start. So much has already been said about the shameful, frightening events of January 6 that I won’t dwell on it other than to suggest this may have been a true Epiphany for many Americans. Realizing the depth and breadth of the challenge before us, to heal a seriously divided homeland, my fervent hope is that God’s hand will soften hearts and open minds.
The Gospel reading for next Sunday is from John 1. John had baptized Jesus in the Jordan River and the next day he was there again with two of his disciples, Andrew and another man. Jesus passed by, and John said, “Look, the Lamb of God.” Andrew and his companion asked to visit Jesus, and they spent the day with him. Now convinced that Jesus was the promised Messiah, Andrew found his brother Simon to share the good news. He brought Simon to Jesus who gave him a new name, Peter.
The reading for Sunday begins at verse 43 where Jesus calls Philip and Nathaniel to discipleship with Andrew and Peter. The story of Jesus’ calling His disciples is remarkable, to me, in two ways. First, that a simple invitation, “Follow me,” could be so powerful as to cause the new disciples to drop what they were doing and immediately turn away from their livelihoods, their families, their lives. Second, that Jesus chose average people with faults and failures and spiritual blemishes as the foundation for his great purpose.
A note in my NIV Study Bible reminds me that Peter “was anything but a rock; he was impulsive and unstable. In Acts, he was the pillar of the early church. Jesus named him not for what he was but for what, by God’s grace, he would become.” Do you suppose Jesus calls us to discipleship and ministry not for what we are but for what, by God’s grace, we can become? Can we, by God’s grace, become instruments of peace and reconciliation in our fractured country?
Shirley Barrett – January 7, 2021
Today I Choose Joy
“Today I Choose Joy” (James 1:2) This is the plaque I see each morning as I awake. After saying good morning to Jesus, this phase: “Today I choose joy,” is next in my thoughts as a goal for the day. Thankfully 2020 is behind us, but still worries, stresses, and roadblocks to peace and happiness at personal, community, and universal levels are ahead. This is the time we hold tight to our faith-to focus on the goal-today I choose joy; today I strive for peace.
Here we are in the thick of winter, the darkest days of the year, but even with these days with little sunlight, we know each day will give us less and less darkness. It is this knowledge that gives us hope that brighter times are ahead. Spring is coming.
The Shamash is the middle candle on a Menorah and is also called the ‘helper candle.’ It is the candle that lights the others. When we light candles in such services as All Souls Day, one candle is used to light another. Then that candle lights another and so on. We need to be a shamash in this time. Our faith, our joy, our peace brings faith, joy and peace to those around us from the personal to the community to the world.
Our faith tells us that God is in control. God is with us. God hears us. God loves us and blesses us each day with love. God helps us deal with the stresses and worries and is willing to guide us on roads needed to be taken. God teaches us the way to real joy. Not only is God with us in our joys, but also our sorrows and struggles. He wants to be with us in all we do and feel. That’s why in the Ignatian Examen that closes the night for those who choose this form of prayer, the prayer closing each night for me, I quieten myself to all my cares and responsibilities around me and I enter into a meditative conversation with God-just a ‘God and me time’ to let Him know how the day went. Starting with recalling all the happy, joyful events and blessings from the day and giving thanks.
Then I recall the times or events in the day where I have not followed my faith, where I should have done more or should have done differently. I then ask for forgiveness and help. Finally, using what I learned from today’s reflection, I look to the tasks and events in the upcoming day and ask myself where I can live my faith more. Where will I choose joy? Where will I look for or work for peace? How can I feel God’s light to be a light? I then ask for His help, His guidance, and the knowledge of His assurance and comfort of His presence.
May this new year bring continued faith, joy, hope and the light of God into your lives and those dear to you.
Reverend Brian Lennstrom – January 1, 2021
Good riddance, 2020. Go out through the back door, don’t let my neighbors see you, get in that car of yours–the one that sat in the garage all year–and get out of town. Honestly, you were a problem child from the beginning. Your being an election year, we knew that we were in for lies, mud everywhere, and a fistfight. Even before you were born, the virus got its start. And you broke our heart with that. It has been almost too much to bear, as we go from reading about someone with the virus, to knowing someone who knows someone, to an acquaintance, friend or family member. Go away, you heartbreaker.
The misery you pack is an unwelcome reminder that in this life, death always holds the winning hand. You made us work too hard trying to shake off this creeping malaise. You have been a severe mercy, 2020. 2021 will be better if only because we’re wiser now, ready for a rumble, ready with a jab. But to you, good riddance.
We may be against the ropes, but we can still hear the trainer in our corner: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (II Cor 1:20). So as you escape in one direction, we will escape in another: through the eternal “Yes” that is the Promise of Living.
Mark Perschbacher – December 25, 2020
As the Advent season and this tumultuous year come to a close, I have to admit I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. A contentious presidential election and a global pandemic in the same year have been a lot to process. Scripture is full of stories about people being confronted with tasks and situations for which they are not prepared. The gospel from last Sunday contains that marvelous scene of the visitation of Mary by the angel Gabriel. After being told that she would be giving birth to the Son of God, Mary basically replies that she’s okay with that. All things are possible with God.
I have found the following passages of scripture provide me with peace of mind. I hope they can offer you some too.
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)
Sol Kohlhaas – December 17, 2020
This Advent many of our fellow parishioners have participated in a reading of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. What a treat this has been! Each night we have been able to bring one of our friends to our home for a few minutes while we listen to each one reading a portion of this tale of awakening, this tale of change. Last Sunday we were able to virtually experience Communion in our church home. A home that we have not been able to enter for almost nine months, a home we have all missed greatly. Changes in the way that we connect are not always comfortable, they are not always what we want but they are what we have and sometimes they bring something wonderful. 2020 has forced change; if not directly then it has forced reflection and that typically leads to some kind of change. The thing about change is you can’t stop it. Change is a truth that cannot be denied. Change is life , change is death, all things change. One thing does not change, one thing springs eternal and that is Christ.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
Several people have worked very hard to keep us connected to our church home through all this change. I thank them for not changing how Christ works through them.
Betty Anne McCoy – December 10, 2020
The Rt. Rev. Brian Prior suggests in his recent blog that one approach to Advent is “establishing a posture of not simply waiting, but spending time wondering and imaging both what can I learn from this present time, and how might those learnings prepare me for the future. ”
I’ve come to realize that this period of Covid-19 is a period of waiting, like Advent. I started by thinking it would be over shortly, but it has stretched on and on and on. Everything ahead became indefinite- no plans for travel, gatherings, celebrations. I started to live for what I could do now to be safe. How to pare down to the essentials—minimal trips for shopping, no indoor group activities—but walking, cycling, painting. Soon I was drinking in and becoming aware of the beauty that surrounds me. Taking time just to appreciate God’s Creation, explore God’s world through reading and meditation; taking time to write to friends, video conferencing with family, with all of you at church, in coffee hour, individually. These are the precious gifts I can take with me going forward. A more contemplative life, being aware of God’s gifts that I have now. As in Advent, each day of waiting can be a gift.
Reverend Deacon Eric Johnson – December 3, 2020
The Christ Episcopal Church Red Kettle
The Salvation Army in Anacortes is small in numbers but great in deeds. Their mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination. They meet those human needs in many ways in Anacortes and La Conner: by assisting homeless and low-income families through community meals and the food bank, and by providing rent assistance, utility assistance, Christmas presents for kids, holiday meals for families, as well as spiritual formation and youth and senior programs. This assistance is supported by the generous donations of the Anacortes community, and the bulk of these donations come via the bellringers and red kettles that are usually found outside the doors of many stores in town.
Because of the pandemic, there are fewer bellringers and kettles this year. However, we still have the opportunity to support the good work that the Salvation Army does. We at Christ Episcopal Church have one of the three (as of today) virtual kettles in town. You can toss in a couple of dollars (or more) into our kettle here: https://give-nw.salvationarmy.org/fundraiser/2960262
For those who are connected to a social network, you can spread the word about our kettle on Facebook and the other links that magically appear when you make a donation. Christ Church has a long history of contributing to the work done by the Salvation Army in Anacortes, from providing funding from the Red Door Thrift Shop to volunteering at their cold weather shelter. You can continue that tradition of preaching the good news by meeting human needs when you make a contribution to our Red Kettle.
Reverend Diane Ramerman – November 27, 2020
“You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 1: 7-9)
We are companions across time with the early Christian community of Corinth. The Corinthians awaited Christ the judge, ‘the final day of the Lord’. We enter Advent, waiting once again for the seasonal coming of our Lord as a small, vulnerable child. Paul writes to the Corinthians with words of admonishment and encouragement. Much had gone amiss in the common life of the early Christian community. They were fighting among themselves, taking sides – Paul’s, or Peter’s, or “the Messiah group” (1 Cor. 1:11-12). Paul reminds them that all of God’s gifts are right in front of them, and God is among them.
The coming of the Christ Child will happen, as it does every year, and does not depend on the quality of our service to the Lord. We will be renewed in faith and spirit. The coming will happen because God is faithful. How we use our gifts – our response to God’s faithfulness – is up to us. As we enter Advent 2020, we also enter a period of discernment of our spiritual gifts individually and as a congregation, and a renewed call to Circle Ministry. How will we nourish and use our gifts?
Guy Davidson – November 19, 2020
I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing,
I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.
We are a people of plenty, of abundance; our cups runneth over and our tables are filled to overflowing. As I sit down this week with my family, I will give thanks for all I have, and I will discuss my response to the needs of others. It’s not enough to believe, it’s not enough to be a good person, it’s not enough to pray…we must act.
Prayer is the life-blood of a true disciple of Christ. Without a healthy relationship with our Savior, we can’t hope to know His perfect will or the depths of His love. Take time in daily prayer with God, giving thanks for all you have and ask Him how you can best serve others. As you discern how God is calling you, ask Him to transform your heart into that of a servant.
Margo Huth – November 12, 2020
Greta Thunberg speaks truth about climate.
Here, all endured days and days
of smoke-filled haze.
Fires ravaged forests, towns.
Autumn wind whispered, wailed,
cleared sight and smell of smoky skies.
Still, large heron gracefully fished,
along basalt shoreline.
Agile neck, preened purple-gray feathers,
under the light of our Lord.
In Spirit of God’s infinite forgiveness,
hours of rainfall.
Crimson leaves shone cheerfully,
on our Sacred home.
At night, saw fiery, orange-flamed full moon.
Mirror for weather peril?
Prayer and Science know,
we can slow harm to mother earth.
Revive our gifts for healthy life.
Love Magnificent Work
of the Almighty.
As the deer longs for water-brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God. (Psalm 42.1)
Maggie Collinge – November 5, 2020
Thoughts of Advent
The season of Advent is just a month or so away. We are preparing something special here at Christ Church, an Advent blog. One part of the blog will be a daily reading from Dickens “A Christmas Carol”. I just completed my reading, which introduces the reader to the very grumpy Mr. Scrooge in conversation with his nephew. Here is a bit of what the nephew says about Christmas,
“….. a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of , in the long calendar year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
Something to think about as Advent and the Christmas season approaches!
As Tiny Tim says, God Bless us everyone!
Diane Canington – October 29, 2020
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and this is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him. (John 3:1-3)
Over the past several weeks our Faith Formation class watched and discussed a video series about the renowned New Testament scholar, Marcus Borg (1942-2015), that dived deeply into how his life experiences, study and observations shaped his own Christian beliefs.
One of my main takeaways from the series was the transformative power of Christianity through the message of love for all who turn to Christ as their life’s foundation. This sincere commitment to act as a child of God changes our focus and helps us to begin to see through the lens of humility and gratitude for the all-encompassing spirit that God has sent to teach us to love like God.
The series finished with Borg making a few comments about the afterlife, saying how very little the Bible has to say on this subject. Borg says he really has no conception of the afterlife and is happy to leave it to God. I personally like the possibility of Sunday’s reading from 1 John 3:3: Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him.
June Cook – October 22, 2020
I usually compose original text for reflections, but this week I read an article in the latest issue of The Christian Century and feel compelled to share excerpts from this timely, compelling, relevant piece. -June Cook
A Judge Arose . . . by Serene Jones
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was invited to Union Theological Seminary to offer the annual Women of Spirit Lecture. It was one of her last public appearances.
There she was, a woman of such small stature, her hair pulled back tightly . . . her face serious – no cheery hand waving, no sparking smile of the kind women are usually forced to master. It was clear we had before us not a movie star or campaigning politician but a Supreme Court justice of singular moral clarity and authority . . .
During the interview, Bill Moyers asked about Ginsburg’s role models as a young Jewish girl growing up in Brooklyn. “One was real, one was made up, and one was biblical . . . Amelia Earhart. A hero. Nancy Drew – she didn’t wait for boys to solve problems . . . And Deborah, the judge from the Hebrew Bible. I didn’t know what judges did, but I wanted to be like her.” A religious role model for a Supreme Court justice?
In the Hebrew Bible, Deborah is one of just four female judges mentioned, among the hundreds of men . . . Deborah is unique. She sits under a palm tree to deliver her brilliant opinions . . . She is also a poet; the Song of Deborah is still recited today. It is clear that she loves her people and that they love her. I could see those same traits in Ginsburg. But there’s more. Deborah is also a mighty warrior, known for commanding great armies of men and for her strategic prowess in defeating her enemies. She is a prodigious military hero.
We aren’t told anything about Deborah’s height, her family, or where she grew up. As scripture sums it up, her job as a judge . . . is to do everything in her power to make sure the people are true to the covenant they made, the constitution that binds them, even when being true means battle. She is a mighty protector, referred to as the mother of her people. Seeing Ginsburg as a protector of the people, willing to go into battle, began to make a little more sense.
Margo Huth – October 15, 2020
No Want of Light
by Margo Huth, 2015
Blue-black night holds
such a thin crescent moon.
Spirit paints in gold light,
fishes near God’s gilded,
luminous mark of Venus.
Mysterious life on this world
surrounds our days,
wonder exists in numerous ways.
A luteous yellow laburnum glow,
its tiny petal with pure heart shape,
graces song and food for the bees.
Crows caw and peck under canopy
of thick pine needles in trees.
Hummingbirds zip all directions,
an aerial dance inside joy.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.
He revives my soul
and guides me along right pathways
for his Name’s sake.
Reverend Brian Lennstrom – October 8, 2020
Nothing Gold can Stay
by Robert Frost
Nature’s first green is gold.
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to stay.
Nothing gold can stay.
This poem by Robert Frost is timely for a number of reasons.
First, it is an autumnal poem—we may reflect on the poem, look at the window and see it illustrated in the changing leaves, the last of the roses and the beginning of a crispness in the air.
Second, it reminds us that all things beautiful—as well as all adversity—will come to end. This is as true for the world and nature as a whole, for our country, and for us for individuals. There are, as the saying goes, no luggage racks on hearses. Someone asked Albert Einstein, “Do you believe in immortality?” “No,” he replied, “and one life is enough for me.” One life will be enough for us, as well, because Jesus has told us that he came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly (Jn 10:10).
Thirdly—and in typical Frost fashion—we are reminded that nothing is as good as it could be. “So Eden sank to grief….” This has known in the church as “original sin” (the rabbis called it the “evil impulse”) and whether or not one believes in Adam and Eve, a quick glance at any news source reminds us that nothing is as good as we can imagine. Grieving is the accompaniment of our times. It is for this reason that Jesus reminds us that “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Mt 5:4).
Finally, the poem is a fine advertisement for our own Mindful Poetry Reading, on the last Tuesday of each month, beginning on October 27th at 7 pm. According to its organizers, “this new monthly offering will focus on the mindful reading of verse, concentrating on sensory experience and spiritual connection. Instead of using analysis and explanation, we will approach poems with a sense of curiosity and openness, a holistic approach to appreciating the beauty and wisdom of a poem.”
Mark Perschbacher – October 1, 2020
For me, one of the most difficult aspects of the current situation we all live in is not being able to socialize with the wide group of people with whom I’m acquainted. There are a few close friends that I do see and social distance with, and I am grateful for that. My older son and his family were up last weekend and that also provided some much-needed personal interaction. Both Marcy and I work from home, so it’s nice that we see much more of each other during the week than we did pre-Covid.
I often think about the people I know that don’t have someone living in the same dwelling or have family nearby. My 80+ year old neighbor that I used to go crabbing with lost his wife two years ago, so I check in on him periodically. A friend of mine who is single is really missing her social connections. Many people in our congregation live alone. It is true that not all people have the same need for personal connections, but it seems to me that there is a lot of isolation these days. The following scriptural passages seem to speak to our times.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. (John 16:32)
Sol Kohlhaas – September 24, 2020
What takes your mind away?
For me it’s my children’s laughter. Cooking. Understanding someone else’s perspective. Gardening. Reading Jim Harrison. Fixing things. Those times when Erin and I are really on the same page, dancing perfectly through our shared life. A good sermon. Fellowship.
Actually, now that I think of it, those are the things that bring my mind into focus. Everything else takes my mind away. What about you?
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
Betty Anne McCoy – September 17, 2020
Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:6 )
Stuck at home due to Covid-19 and the unhealthy smoke from the fires, we have been given the circumstances we need to really simplify our lives. Exercise is very important to me but, with the smoke, I am not even going for a walk. I like to entertain but, with Covid, that has gone away. At my busiest Iresolve to simplify, to reduce my obligations so I have time to just be, to reflect on what I am grateful for, to pray for those suffering challenging situations.
Now I have the time I always long for to organize, to sort through things that I can donate to others. I don’t need to shop; the things I really need can be delivered to the door and I can do without many others. I have time to do the cleaning, fix-up, and repair jobs I have on my “lists” and, finally, most of it is done. Now what? Jesus took time away to pray, to do nothing but focus on God, to be guided to the next step in His inevitable journey, but he needed the time and space without obligation, away from demands. Each time he emerged with a clearer picture. We can take this time to reflect, to absorb, to just be. To be with God and feel his presence to sense what he wants for us. It takes time to meditate and listen and now that is what we have – time. Thanks be to God.
Reverend Deacon Eric Johnson – September 10, 2020
1,000 Days of Love
The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are critical in setting a foundation for how that child will grow, learn and thrive over the rest of its life. Around the world, 155 million children under six are not reaching their full potential due to inadequate nutrition and health care. In response to this issue, Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) has opened a $3 million church-wide fundraising campaign—1,000 Days of Love— dedicated to programs that improve the lives of children up to age six.
ERD is not just throwing money at the problem. As part of the world-wide Anglican communion, Episcopal Relief and Development has people already in place around the globe who are working with communities to ensure that children have access to food, clean water and quality health care. You can make a donation to this effort, or to the many efforts—here in the USA and abroad—by which Episcopal Relief and Development is delivering results in three signature program areas: promoting the rights of women, supporting children under six, and helping families adapt to the effects of rapidly changing weather patterns.
Visit episcopalrelief.org to learn more about their programs, or visit episcopalrelief.org/1000daysoflove/ to find out how to join One Thousand Days of Love. A snail-mail donation is also welcome at Episcopal Relief & Development, P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield VA 22116-7058
Reverend Diane Ramerman – September 3, 2020
“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.” (Matthew 18:15)
Life in the community of believers. And in the world at large. Jesus instructs us to always talk first to the person with whom you disagree or who caused the offense and explain the hurt that has been received. Go to the source of your discomfort, don’t talk about the person to someone else. An important rule for life: avoid triangulation, when A talks to B disparagingly about C. If instead A simply talks directly to C, C has the opportunity to explain, modify behavior or apologize. Because both parties desire to end the quarrel, in Jesus words, ‘you have regained that one’ as friend or church member. Forgiveness and reconciliation.
Paul gives further instruction in Romans 13: ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ – even when you disagree. In the present time of isolation and heightened anxieties, and a national election season – loving your neighbor with whom you disagree, and addressing disagreements, and hurts, directly may be truly challenging. What do you see happening in Portland, or Kenosha, or any place where protesters are gathering to call attention to the deaths of Black people at the hands of police, or to proclaim Black Lives Matter? Are partisan political activists or anarchists co-opting the protest movement for their own purposes? How can we as church community love our neighbors when all around us, people are taking sides, violence is pandemic? Black Lives Matter is about our humanity, healing for all of us. Borrowing a metaphor from congregant Carleton Manning, we are all in the same storm together, just not in the same boat. How do we live out the vision of the kingdom in our day to day lives?
Guy Davidson – August 27, 2020
I just started reading a book called Life Is in the Transitions by Bruce Feiler. It caught my eye because we’re all living a life right now that is in transition. We’re having to rethink the way we do Church, the way we shop, the way we socialize, the way we go to school… The linear life that I thought I was going to lead, following a series of carefully calibrated progressions, from childhood to young adulthood, middle age to old age, dating to marriage to children to empty nest, entry level job to mid-level job to senior-level job to retirement; it’s not the life I’ve had. Instead it’s been quite unpredictable, filled with chaos and complexity, periods of order and disorder, linearity and nonlinearity. Instead of a steady progression, it’s been a tangle of highs and lows, ups and downs, oscillating through periods of wonderful successes and depressing failures. This year, the year of covid-19, has been very challenging, personally and professionally. We can’t ignore these transitions. They are life. We need to embrace them, and learn how to convert our troubles, our fears, the plot twists of our lives, into new fuel for writing our life story. Just know: you are not alone.
Shirley Barrett – August 20, 2020
A Timely Reminder to Strengthen Our Faith…
(In memory of Peyton Whitely)
The Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Maggie Collinge – August 13, 2020
Bounty of the Season
The gardens of Anacortes are bursting with produce. I did not plant as much in my garden this year due to hip surgery, but what I did plant is ready for harvest. At the moment, there are lots of zucchini and string beans, with tomatoes coming soon. Watching things grow in the garden is a reminder of God’s presence all around us.
Here we are in the midst of a pandemic. We have all had to adapt to a new way of living. There are so many details to remember, from wearing a mask to frequent hand washing and staying six feet from others. Is God present during this time or has God turned away? I believe God is always with us, through thick and thin. In our church I see God working through people; all those who participate in worship, those who knit prayer shawls and masks, those who work to keep the church property clean and safe, all those who contribute to the beautiful church website, and to our priests who continue to extend their hands and prayers to the community. We have heard God’s call, especially during these hard times.
Creator God, thank you for just being here with us as we seek out ways to share your love with those around us and to be your hands and feet to all, especially in this time of uncertainty.
Diane Canington – August 6, 2020
O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him,
tell of all his wonderful works.
Glory to his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually.
Remember the wonderful works he has done,
his miracles and the judgements he has uttered.
Covid-19 has challenged each of us, whether it be in finances, physical and mental wellness, or deep concern for others and our society. The good news is our bedrock beliefs are firmly anchored in God.
- I see his deeds through the thousands of people who are stepping up in preparing and donating food, volunteering their time and talents in hospitals, churches, and various organizations, and I give thanks to God for these people.
- I sing praises to God each day, being grateful for the beautiful sounds of musicians – amateur and professional, and the rhapsodic birdsong that floats on the outdoor air, glorifying his magnificent creation.
- I rejoice in the Lord; he counts us among his beloved children when we go all-in to give him our hearts.
- I call upon the Lord’s strength to sustain me through his Holy Spirit. That presence is a constant encouragement to follow his lead.
- God’s works are great, far beyond my feeble imagination. To bring his only perfect Son into the world to teach us and to cover our sins by going to the cross is an act that I would never have expected; it brings me to my knees.
June Cook – July 30, 2020
Becoming Beloved Community
Bishop Curry was the lead-off speaker on Tuesday for the first of a three-part national webinar, title as above. The objective is to move us, as a church and as a nation, to reconciliation of the damage done, damage that’s still so pervasive, by the American experience of slavery. The focus of day one was Truth, Wednesday’s will be Justice, and on Thursday we’ll address Healing.
There’s a natural progression in this order of discussion. To even begin the long, difficult process of reconciliation, the Truth must be told and acknowledged. This is no easy task. One speaker compared Truth-Telling to an archeology dig . . . No matter how many artifacts (pieces of the truth) are uncovered, analyzed, and integrated into the objective record of the dig site, there are always more pieces, yet undiscovered, that will add to the body of knowledge. So it is with Truth. Objective truth is a collection of mini-truths, some revealed and some yet undiscovered at various depths in the minds and hearts of good people. The long road ahead must not deter us from traveling the road toward Truth.
Truth-telling was the focus of Bishop Curry’s brief address. He spoke for only seven or eight minutes, but I could have listened to him speak for hours. Truth-telling is the core of the reconciliation process, and his exhortation to webinar participants made an impact on me. Everyone, regardless of proximity to or distance from the Black experience in America, has a personal Truth to dig down to, own, and share.
Four panelists discussed . . . The Anglican Church in Canada’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission . . . The Diocese of New York’s Reparations Committee . . . Richmond’s (Virginia) History & Reconciliation Initiative . . . and Sewanee’s Roberson Project on Slavery, Race & Reconciliation. Clearly the first baby steps are being made to help move us toward reconciliation, but the road is long. Are we prepared for the challenge?
Reverend Brian Lennstrom – July 23, 2020
Two Verses from Romans 8
This Sunday’s epistle reading is from Romans 8, which contains two verses often quoted to those who need encouragement—and this is certainly a time where we long for encouragement, and a time where the world is desperate for it.
- “We know all that all things work together for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28).
“The cycle of our existence must be completed by all of us, according to iron laws, mighty and eternal” (Goethe). The iron laws include suffering, pandemics, and political turmoil. We groan under these iron laws. But the person of this world (including us sometimes!) knows only the groaning of creation and their own groaning (R 8:22,23). In contrast, to those who love God, that love “can ring in our ears, only if we detect the groaning of creation; it can spring to our lips, only if we ourselves cry out. It can be in our prayers, but also in our inability to pray; it can inhabit the basement of our most violent passion, but it can also make its home in the drawing-room of our mature composure” (Barth). O Lord, hear our prayer!
- “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vs. 39).
And God will hear our prayer! Because Jesus is the firstborn and stands risen from the dead at the right hand of God, interceding for us. Because he knows our groaning to be real groaning despite our freedom in him; because he knows our anguish to be real anguish despite the abundant life he has given us; because so many things at all times threaten to separate us from the love God. The groaning, the anguish, the 143,000 American deaths (611,000 worldwide) from the pandemic—all these are monstrous contrasts as compared to the love of God. All this adds up to a cacophony like an iron wheels of a railroad car. All this makes, as the angel tells Elijah, “the journey too much for you” (I Kings 19:7). But Paul tells us that all these contrasts are dissolved in Christ: the sheer difficulty of “all things” working together for good; the temptation to ignore the groaning of creation; the cycle of our existence with its roses and its weeds, with its passions and with its composures; with its life and its death. For the love of God in Christ Jesus is the oneness of the love of God toward people and the love of people towards God.
Mark Perschbacher – June 17, 2020
I recently received a card from my cousin in Minnesota with this beautiful icon of Emmegahbowh, created by an Ojibwe Episcopal priest from Prairie Lake MN. Fascinated by the icon, I googled Emmegahbowh and found the following article, written by The Rev. Kate Hennessy-Keinig, a Priest Associate and integrative psychologist in Nebraska. It seems very relevant to today’s turbulence.
The image and following text are from https://www.episcopalcafe.com/?s=Emmegahbowh
In 1996 the Diocese of Minnesota commissioned the Rev. Johnson D. Loud, Jr. to create an American icon of Enmegahbowh. Enmegahbowh is pictured in a scene of a northern Minnesota lake at sunset. He carries a pipe, the symbol of Indian spiritual culture. The flame represents the Holy Spirit and Emmegahbowh’s zeal for the Gospel. The embroidery on the tippet is in traditional Ojibwe beadwork design. The halo incorporates the Medicine Wheel used by the Dakota. The combined decoration signifies the peaceful relations which Enmegahbowh helped to achieve among the Indigenous people of Minnesota.
Emmegahbowh, whose name means “the one who stands before his people” was born and raised in Canada in a Christian Anishinaabe village affiliated with the Methodist church. At a young age, Emmegahbowh’s grandfather, a medicine man of high rank, prepared and inducted him into the tribal religious organization Mdewiwin. As a young man, he came into the United States as a Methodist missionary throughout Northern Minnesota.
After the Methodists abandoned their mission efforts in Minnesota, Enmegahbowh, who had continued on alone for several years, decided to give up his efforts and return to Canada. During the trip, after encountering heavy storms, the story is told of Emmegahbowh having a visionary experience involving Jonah, which convinced him to return to his missionary post. Not long after this, Emmegahbowh met Episcopal priest Ezekiel Gear at Fort Snelling, and decided to join the Episcopal church. Gear introduced Enmegahbowh to the Rev. James Lloyd Breck, and together they founded St. Columba’s Mission at Gull Lake, MN. Enmegahbowh was ordained a deacon in 1859, and in 1867 he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Whipple at the Cathedral in Faribault, MN.
During his years as a priest, Emmegahbowh was a close advisor to Bishop Whipple on Episcopal Church relations with Native Americans, and traveled to Washington on more than one occasion in support of better and more just treatment for his people, meeting a total of nine presidents. He was a strong advocate for peace between the Indians and the white settlers and encouraged Chief White Cloud’s mission to establish peace between the Ojibwe and the Sioux. For a time, this made him unpopular among the Indigenous tribes and he was sheltered by white settlers. But Enmegahbowh also stood up for his people through his constant reminders to Bishop Whipple about the horrible living conditions they endured as the white settlers moved into their lands, and he encouraged the Bishop in his efforts to obtain justice for them. Emmegahbowh trained a generation of Native American clergy and helped translate many religious texts into the Ojibwe language. In his book, Lights and Shadows of a Long Episcopate, Bishop Whipple portrays him as a man of serious temper with a large streak of humanity and wit, who is steadfast in his devotion to God, his people, and his bishop. Whipple called him the most faithful of men in the face of faithless times and events.
The Rev. M. Lucie Thomas, who has studied the life and work of Emmegahbowh, says of him, “It was his truth-telling, always gentle but always steadfast, that I most notice about Enmegahbowh. He told the truth as he understood it to his fellow Indians. He told the truth as he understood it to his bishop and to other whites and to people in Washington and even to several U.S. Presidents. He was at times unpopular because of this, but he managed throughout his life to spread the Good News, to train new clergy, to help found missions.”
In these highly charged and divisive times in which we find ourselves, may we follow Emmegahbowh’s example, steadfastly telling the truth to one another and to those in power about the sins of our personal and systemic racism that lies in direct opposition to the Gospel message.
Almighty God, you led your pilgrim people of old with fire and cloud; grant that the ministers of your Church, following the example of blessed Enmegahbowh, may stand before your holy people, leading them with fiery zeal and gentle humility. This we ask through Jesus, the Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
(From the Collect for Enmegahbowh)
Margo Huth – June 30, 2020
Woke up with wet face,
so much injustice.
Breonna Taylor, George Floyd.
Latino, Native, and Asian peoples mistreated. Goes on and on…
People of color suffer wild racism,
O Lord, can we change this prejudice——
open our hearts?
Cruel officers, or cruel anyone
pass ———— down —— down —— down
the horrific pit of hatred.
Minority doctors, nurses save lives…
in this time of COVID-19.
Still, some want to kick them—
from this country, they serve so well.
Across the world, hear people’s hope,
as they march —— and bring tears of Joy for a kinder future.
May the weak be lifted from the dust?
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)
Betty Anne McCoy – July 6, 2020
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (I Corinthians 12:26-27)
Covid_19 has brought us together with the horror of the spread of the disease, the infections and death and with our call to help in some way. Even in isolation I have a sense of oneness in us. We have come together on Zoom or in very small numbers. I am communicating more regularly with my family and friends because we can’t see each other nor can we plan out into the future. I know I want to help. I want to do something and so many of you have by making masks and, in particular, in response to our request for financial donations for the FAE parent gifts.
As the contributions poured in I knew a button had been touched in each of us. This was one way that we could do something. We could help to support the struggling parents and to support the leaders and coordinators of the Summer Program. Our own Rev. Carol Rodin is out there meeting with others, planning for the children and parents in need. She is the frontline for us, as are the Medical Support workers, doctors and nurses who are doing their jobs and risking their health and safety. As in God’s Kingdom they work for all of us who are isolating. We are praying and donating to them where we can. But they are our hands and feet on the frontline and we are one body as Christ calls us to be. I give thanks for all these workers and I especially give thanks for my awareness of God’s work in all of this.
Reverend Deacon Eric Johnson – June 26, 2020
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. (Romans 6:12)
There are a lot of people who believe they have the final solution on how to rid the world of evil. Evil, they believe, lies “out there,” in a person or persons that must be cut out like a cancer and eliminated. If we can only get rid of immigrants, or the Klan, or the Jews, they believe, we can eliminate the cause of much evil in the world .
Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, who followed Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings on non-violence, understood that evil is not something outside oneself that could be identified; rather, it was part of the whole human condition. Merton saw that the root of all evil is in the human heart, and the first place to start converting or reversing the evil process is in one’s own heart.
Franciscan Friar Jack Wintz, writes that to follow the wisdom of Thomas Merton, therefore, we should not only make a big effort to exterminate the evil outside ourselves, but first of all to diminish the evil tendencies within us: selfishness, pride, vengeance, hatred, violence. These impulses we hold in common with all humanity. As Merton wrote in his New Seeds of Contemplation, instead of hating the people we think are the war-makers, hate the appetites and the disorders in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed, but hate these things in yourself, not in another.”
Reverend Diane Ramerman – June 18, 2020
‘What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.” (Matthew 10: 27)
It seems unthinkable that we are now in our fourth month of meeting virtually for church. And this will likely be the situation at least through July and possibly longer. This prolonged turn from public worship has taken many of us by surprise. Perhaps the biggest surprise is finding enjoyment and positive experience in what we (all) assumed would be lesser.
When we say, ‘the Lord be with you” we say it with new meaning. Still, saying the psalms and canticles “together”, when we tune into zoom, we hear only one or two voices in a gathering of 35 or more. It reminds me of a service I attended some years ago. The priest said, “The Lord be with you.” The congregation responded, ‘and also with you.’ The priest repeated more loudly, “THE LORD BE WITH YOU.” The congregation responded, ‘and also with you.’ The priest thundered, THE LORD BE WITH YOU. And finally, the congregation thundered back, AND ALSO WITH YOU.
We can and should join our (muted) voices at home, in praise to God, so that our voices collectively proclaim the gospel from the housetops. Diane Roth comments in Christian Century,
“…it’s not just me and three other people, and it’s not just the families in my congregation huddled in their homes—because what we are doing is being shouted from the rooftops. We
have no idea who is watching, no idea who is listening to our prayers and our songs and our shouts of faith. It takes courage, especially for churches that can’t achieve professional production values, to go this public with our proclamation.”
This Sunday, join in the prayers and scripture! You may be ‘muted’ so that the zoom recording will be clear for the recording and others to hear – but in your homes, proclaim for any and all to hear. THE LORD BE WITH YOU. Let us rejoice and be glad of it!
Guy Davidson – June 11, 2020
“…I delivered the poor who cried, and the orphan who had no helper. The blessing of the wretched came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy, and I championed the cause of the stranger.” (Job 29)
“I championed the cause of the stranger…” The Red Door has been an important outreach mission of Christ Church for many years. It supplies inexpensive goods to the community, job opportunities, volunteer opportunities, recycling gently used clothes, a meeting place… It’s absence during the past few months has been hard on everyone. As we start to think about how best to reopen, keeping our customers and volunteers safe, let us also start to rethink our mission.
Are there ways we can interact with new and different groups? How can we attract new volunteers? Are there needs in the community that we can fold into the fabric of life at the Red Door? Are there new causes we can champion? Put your thinking caps on as we explore new avenues ahead. (We have a committee for that!)
The Rt. Reverend Greg Rickel – June 4, 2020
Resources to Support Protesters and Racial Equity in Western Washington
These are trying times for everyone, but none more than the people of color of this country, who have never achieved equality or justice though a light has been shined on that disparity so many times, before our lifetimes, and in our lifetimes. The responsibility for changing this is on us all, but most especially the white person. We have the greatest responsibility to use our privilege to work toward a solution. I thank you all, so many of you literally on the front lines, and those who are finding other ways to “show up” during these times. It is very difficult trying to navigate this all during the pandemic already in progress, and hardly over. But this is indeed two pandemics now and they do need to be addressed. Below, we have gathered the most comprehensive list we could find about how to help in all those various ways, face to face, and in isolation, but still connected. It is critical now that we not judge our internal responses, but learn from them and one another. There is a lot on our hearts, minds, and souls, competing, compelling expectations. Try to be gentle with one another if at all possible. As a person reminded me about the Buddhist principle of looking up on other people and situations right now with “soft eyes” first. That is part of my daily prayer now. As are all of you.
Maggie Collinge – May 28, 2020 The Collect
I looked up the definition of ‘Collect’ the other day, not knowing what it meant. I found this definition online in the Anglican Compass. It is “a prayer meant to gather the intentions of the people and the focus of worship into a succinct prayer.”
The author of this article, Greg Goebel, went on to break down the parts of a Collect. 1) An address to God and to his character or actions in the world on our behalf. 2) A request. 3) An invocation and doxology. 4) The Amen.
This Sunday, at Saint Paul’s, there were several Collects read at the service, nine to be exact. The last one made me think of our current struggle with Covid 19.
“O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”.
Such good words to reflect upon when confronting that person at the market who is not wearing a mask or hearing some comment spoken without much thought. My husband, Larry, offered a man a mask at the market the other day and the man’s response was; “I don’t need to wear a mask, I am not a Democrat.” Larry’s response was that he was not a Democrat either but that we were all in this together, party affiliation aside.
We are truly bound together in a common life; even if we are not sick with this virus, we still have to live with it. The Sunday worship at Saint Paul’s also included a lovely Canticle, taken from Ezekiel 36.24-26, 28b. The lines that stayed with me are
“A new heart I will give you, and put a new spirit within you,
And I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
God is here with us through this hard time; God has not turned away from us.
Margo Huth – March 13, 2020
humans can love nature and all its honesty.
Winter rains fall.
Fast moving waters wash soul memories,
as they try to balance the Lord’s mystic light.
Last night, tangerine full moon,
slowly settled, between silver clouds.
Subtle glow spread calm.
Frozen day, we walked in the park,
rested on a bench,
saw chickadees peck the bushes for food.
Brought sunflower seeds,
and placed them on outstretched palms.
Little claws sent slight pricks into open hands.
We were enthralled, as they snatched seeds
with tiny beaks.
Farther out, dark-blue waves swirled in unknown sea,
as prayers sent hope for people to heal.
We adored time with the avian creatures,
what gifts of God’s Kingdom,
especially a gentle stretch……
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
The whole earth is full of his glory.”
Diane Canington – May 22, 2020
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11)
During the past several weeks I’ve felt a deep visceral need to read the Bible. It seems there are so many opinions, needs and hard truths surrounding the coronavirus that I come away feeling anxious and very uncertain about the future. I can look at the situation and know things will change, but how? Will some of my neighbors lose their homes; will there be wide-spread world famine; will there be a second or third coronavirus wave?
I was watching one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s news briefings last week where he was talking about the need for federal funding to fill needs in education, hospitals, firefighters and police. There were questions from the press regarding Republican senate resistance in funding state needs, particularly in blue states. Cuomo, who has been consistent in staying away from political finger-pointing, responded by saying that the virus is non-discriminating and to look to “the good book,” Mark 3:25, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Here is a truth that is simple and compelling, whether it be a marriage, friendship, country, or the world itself. It is critical that we care for one another and keep that steadfast faith that God will restore, support and strengthen us.
The Reverend Paul Moore – May 15, 2020
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Mount Vernon
The Holy Spirit Changes Everything
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them
and reveal myself to them.’ (John 14:15-21)
Teilhard de Chardin was a French priest, paleontologist, philosopher and theologian. His thinking laid the foundations for much of the creation theology of today—that in the very processes of nature the heart of God is not just revealed to us, but available, engaging, embracing. According to his thought, divine love is that great force that brings things together and makes them thrive in community. He
wrote, “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
Maybe this great thinker understood this passage in the Gospel of John more than we do. Jesus says, “know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” He talks about the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, that is with the disciples and will be in them. The radical intimacy is a bit intimidating to us who truly believe that we are bounded by our sense of self. We treasure the idea that the secrets of our hearts are ours alone.
But in such thinking, we have already missed the point. The Holy Spirit is not the divine interloper who throws open our most secret windows and leaps through to stand there brazenly in the center of our hearts. Chardin writes in another place, “By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, when in fact we live steeped in its burning layers.” We find that when we are brave and humble enough to peek through the windows of our hearts to see what is really there, we find God waiting for us. This is the result of Easter—that we know that God has forever already risen in our deepest selves, far deeper than our sense of our own self, at the very core of our existence, both spiritual and physical. God is only as far away from us as we are from ourselves.
And if that is true of us, then it is true of everyone else. If the same God is within me as is within you, then this quote of Chardin brings it all home: “We are one, after all, you and I, together we suffer, together exist, and forever will recreate each other.”
June Cook – May 8, 2020 Sacred Space
To reflect during this time of uncertainty, disruption, and isolation seems almost a given. So much of what I do every day is reflection – on where I’ve been in my life, where I am, and where I’m going.
Although the economy is crashing, people are suffering and dying, and isolation is traumatic for many, I’m an introvert, and this is a time for looking inward without the distractions of everyday life. In some ways it feels like a sabbatical, a retreat, a long vacation. I’m re-connecting with the joy of writing long letters to family and friends in lieu of instant messaging. I check my voice mail less frequently. My blood pressure is going down.
It’s in these tough times that we’re more likely to re-discover and explore our sacred places. Being unable to connect with the sacred in our sanctuary, other places of connection make themselves known. For me, it’s my garden. For some, it’s a special place in the forest or at the beach, or a quiet nook to read and think, or a cemetery where loved ones are buried. A sacred place is very personal. It’s where we go to still our worries and cares and offer them up to our God who is happy to carry them for us. It’s where we go to connect with the life force that sustains us. It’s where we go to experience a little taste of heaven that we know is always with us and in us.
My wish for you this week is that you’re able to spend time in your sacred space . . . to recharge your spiritual battery and renew your faith. In a moment I’ll be collecting my gardening tools and heading down to plant hostas and an early tomato plant. My sacred place never disappoints.
Shirley Barrett – April 30, 2020
Over the past few weeks our EFM group has been reading and discussing the importance and beauty of building our spiritual life and continuing developing our Christian maturity through the practice of prayer, worship and service. This commitment must involve the whole person including the intellect, the emotions, and one’s physical being as well. Combine these practices with study and theological reflection and we are not only professing our beliefs, but also connecting our hearts, our minds, our day to day lives more closely to God. As Brother James Dowd, a member of the Order of the Holy Cross, leads us to realize ‘The contemplative life makes way for God to have “custody of the heart,” and further . . .
“What God needs is people on the street and people in the parish and people in their homes and people in the workplace who are contemplatives. There’s all kinds of ways to do that in terms of your prayer life; there’s all kinds of prayer techniques. Whatever it is that you were to develop; it is a prayer life that helps you to love more deeply.” (episcopaldigitalnetwork.com)
During this time of social isolation, living in a world turned upside down, a “Twilight Zone” new reality, a ‘Groundhog Day” existence, prayer, worship , study and service seems so natural. It’s as if we have been able to stop the world from spinning, in a way, and time and opportunity has been handed to us. While ,of course, having a pandemic is definitely not a chosen way to celebrate this gift of time, nor do I believe God would ever sacrifice lives for such a purpose, God loves us too much, this is a time to make ‘lemonade out of lemons.”
Whatever prayer source, structure or style is used it must be meaningful to us, be it from The Book of Common Prayer (an immense source of liturgical prayer as well as collects and individual prayers for a variety of personal and communal purposes), meditation structures such as The Examen Prayer as developed by Ignatius Loyola( a new source to me and one I am using for my daily night prayer), various meditation forms such as the lectio divina, the rosary, the Centering prayer, or our own personal and private conversations with God. The latest Interlude book used in EFM , Life In Christ: Practicing Christian Spirituality by Julia Gatta, is an excellent reference in regards to our prayer and worship practices. (I’d be more than happy to share my copy or find one for those interested.) And of course the study through EFM (Education For Ministry) is also a wonderful source to develop one’s spirituality and Christian maturity journey.
So here we are on approximately the 5th week of the Corona Virus stay at home order here in Washington and we are still living in uncertainty as to what is around the corner, yet we definitely are certain about one thing and that is God is right here with us, along with Jesus and te Holy Spirit who bids us to “ask, seek, and knock” with perseverance.
The Reverend Brian Lennstrom – April 24, 2020
It was Calvin who taught that obeying the Ten Commandments meant not only obeying them as written, but also obeying what is called their “contrapositive”: namely, we obey the commandment “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God” not only by NOT being careless with God’s name (or reputation) but also by blessing God’s name, by promoting God’s name, by safeguarding God’s reputation. Each negative commandment has a positive way to obey it, and each positive commandment has a negative twin that leads us away from behavior.
So, the sixth commandment: “You shall not murder,” is fulfilled not only by not killing people, but also by promoting life. Luther’s pamphlet, “Whether One Should Flee a Deadly Plague,” written in 1527, when the bubonic plague devastated Wittenberg (claiming as one of its victims, Luther’s newborn daughter Elizabeth), reads as if it were written yesterday. “Now if a deadly epidemic strikes, we should stay where we are, make our preparations, and take courage from the fact that we are mutually bound together… so that we cannot desert one another or flee from one another…. We are bound to one another in such a way that no one may forsake the other in his distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.”
Friends, let us be bound to one another! In this time of fear, of danger, of anxiety—for who is not anxious?—let us remember that the Church has survived pandemics before (terrible plagues in the second and the third centuries led to the explosive growth of Christianity), as Christians “cared for the sick and offered an spiritual model whereby plagues were not the work of angry and capricious deities but the product of a broken Creation in revolt against a loving God” (Lyman Stone, “Christianity has been Handling Epidemics for 2000 Years”).
Friends, if we are physically separated, let us resolve to be even more spiritually inseparable! If we cannot shake one another’s hands, let us shake heaven with prayers of affection and care! If we cannot worship and pray in our beautiful sanctuary, let us intercede for one another while enjoying this beautiful spring! And let us give God no rest from hearing our intercessions for all who are afraid of this disease, for those afflicted by it, for those who are recovering from it, and for those who have perished from it. For this is how we would have others pray for us.
Luther concludes his pamphlet with thoughts that would serve us well as we pray for one another, and I encourage you to pray them daily until we are all out of danger: “May Christ our Lord and Savior preserve us all in pure faith and fervent love, unspotted and pure until his day. Amen. Pray for me, a poor sinner”