Give Them Something to Eat

Image result for elca world hunger appealLooking into the faces of thousands of hungry people, Jesus turned to the disciples and said, “You give them something to eat.” (Matt. 14:16; Mark 6:37; Luke 9:13) The disciples respond, in essence, saying, “Seriously?! Impossible.” So, Jesus feeds them all. Fast forward to today. The Church now, the body of the resurrected Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, stares into the face of millions who are hungry and suffering. Jesus again commands, “Give them something to eat.” I’m here to tell you that the response if quite different than those disciples.

I’m in Chicago as I write. I’m here at the invitation of the ELCA World Hunger Appeal to join with others from across the country to finalize recommendations for the Appeal’s Domestic Hunger Grants. I was not invited because I have some special gifts or influence. No, I’m here because the people of Holy Trinity are among the most generous congregations in the ELCA when it comes to giving to the World Hunger Appeal.

Over the last week, I have reviewed twenty of the 100 grants that have made it through the process thus far. Five teams review twenty grants each. I need to tell you that Jesus’ command to “give them something to eat” is being carried out by disciples all over the place. The miracle of the feedings of Jesus continues.

From small food pantries that are expanding to deliver food to people who can’t make it to the site to educational programs that teach young people about hunger, advocacy and grow tons of vegetables for local food pantries; from new programs to address root causes of hunger like affordable housing, health needs, and job training to a congregation that needs to redo a kitchen so it can expand its food pantry to provide hot meals and fresh food to the neighborhood; from urban centers that are food desserts (access to food is beyond workable transportation limits) to rural programs tending the folks left behind, Christ’s body is busy giving those in need something to eat – and a place to sleep, help with clothing, job training, education and training to speak out to the powers that be.

The grants I am reviewing address many aspects of hunger that accompany people in the struggle beyond simply giving out food. Theses dimensions include: Community Organizing; Education; Food Production; Food Security; Health; Housing; Peace, Justice, and Human Rights; Public Policy Advocacy; Sustainable Livelihoods; Water

Through our food pantry, Thrive Assistance Program, partnerships with Free Store, Family Promise, Mosaic, our God’s Work. Our Hands effort each year, and much more, we too respond to Jesus’ command: “Give them something to eat.” Through the nearly $60,000 we have given to the World Hunger Appeal in the last couple of years we are helping congregations, agencies and organizations all across the country do the same.

Even as we do respond, the command continues because the hungry still gather. I pray that we dig ever deeper to answer the call of the savior – Give them something to eat.

Pax Christi,  Pastor Tim Olson

The Installation of Garth Englund, Intern

There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)

washing machineThis weekend as we gather for worship, we will install our new intern Garth Englund.  Installations are important.  If you were to do a word search on “installation,” you would find listed; appliance installation, TV installation, followed by installation of a pastor, then installation of other church leaders.  Although this list contains quite a variety of installations, there is one thing all installations have in common.  An installation is the putting in place of something or someone.  But what does that mean when we are referring to a pastoral intern?

First, just knowing that an Installation is part of the worship service informs us that something significant is taking place and it involves a community.  It marks a new day and a new direction in the life of this congregation.  It tells us to look and see the work God is up to.  The people of Holy Trinity have a gift in nurturing pastoral interns in a way that gives them experience in pastoral care, preaching, teaching and administration.  You are encouragers. The Intern Committee provides constructive feedback and assists the intern in recognizing goals and working toward achievement of those goals.  You are a blessing to the Intern who is walking a new path in a new setting.  So, the Installation informs us, the people of Holy Trinity that we are charged with something very important, that of nurturing and uplifting Pastoral Intern Garth Englund for the next year, as he learns about being a pastor.

Secondly, Intern Garth will be charged with the duties of his new role;

  • To learn and serve among the people of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
  • To carry out his ministry in accordance with the Holy Scriptures and the confessions of the Lutheran Church in harmony with the ELCA.
  • To be diligent in his study of the Holy Scriptures and faithful in his use of the Means of Grace and prayer.
  • To grow in love for those he serves, strive for excellence in his skills and adorn the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a godly life.

This charge is taken seriously, and so deserves the witness and support of the people of faith as we aid Intern Garth in living out these duties.

Next, the Installation reminds everyone that each person has a vital role to play as the church moves forward for the glory of Christ.  We open ourselves to receive Intern Garth as one sent to serve in this church.  We open ourselves to pray for him, to help and honor him for the work he is about to do, and we will strive to live together in the peace and unity that Christ gives.

Yes, God is at work!  Some of you have been able to spend time with Garth during the short time he has been with our congregation but many of you are just beginning to get to know him.  His life has been a journey that did not take him directly to a calling towards ordained ministry, but a journey of twists and turns that eventually led him to this congregation.  I encourage you to ask him about his call story.  Let him hear yours.  Let him get to know you.  One of the greatest joys of ministry for myself and any pastor is the love we experience in sharing God’s love together and reach out to others.  I am confident Intern Garth will experience your love and care for him, as you have shared it with our interns in the past.

garth-1

At the end of the Installation, Intern Garth will be declared “installed as pastoral intern” and a blessing will be given.  Everything will be put in place.  A relationship is formed and blessed by God.  God will work through our relationship together as a community serving Intern Garth, Luther Seminary, and the whole church of God.  We give thanks that God has equipped us for the ministry of Internship, and welcome Intern Garth to Holy Trinity.

In Christ, Pastor Pam Schroeder

The Song in My Backyard

psalm 66Early this morning, with hot, black tea in hand, I looked upon my backyard damp with rain and shadowed by clouds. It was serene, but not quiet. There was singing. I saw the lemon-lime sweet potato vine sweeping down the side of a pot on the deck. Its vivid color stood out against the gray of the day. It was doing what it was created to do. Above that luminous song, a woodpecker was wiggling into the cage containing suet, enjoying a morning meal. It was doing what it was created to do. Creation sings when creatures, and even rocks, trees and babbling brooks,  do what they were made to do. “All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.” (Psalm 66:4)

I did not always notice the music of creation. Most of my life has been spent scurrying from one thing to the next, absorbed in the demands of self and others. I’ve been too busy to listen, to see, to notice. I’ve also been too busy to be what God created me to be, so my song has been silent. I had to learn to listen and to sing.

I learned about the singing of every creature from Augustine of Hippo. His 4th century song still sings:

“Does God proclaim Himself in the wonders of creation? No. All things proclaim Him, all things speak. Their beauty is the voice by which they announce God, by which they sing, “It is you who made me beautiful, not me myself but you.

I learned to sing from Francis of Assisi, the 13th century saint known for his radical st.francisembrace of living like Jesus. In his Canticle of Creation, Francis sings “Be praised my Lord for Mother Earth: abundant source, all life sustaining; she feeds us bread and fruit and gives us flowers.” The tree in my yard that will soon bury me in leaves and the noisy bird that wakes me too early are my neighbors, my siblings, to be loved.

I learned to sing from Martin Luther that God is “in, with, and under” the water, wine and bread of the sacraments. Which is also true of everything created. Luther said, “God’s entire divine nature is wholly and entirely in all creatures, more deeply, more inwardly, more present than the creature is to itself.”

I learned to sing from Joseph Sittler, a legendary theologian who started talking about sittlerthe care of creation long before anyone else. He called humanity to step away from its propensity for destroying the earth. For him, the destructive threat was centered on nuclear holocaust. He was also keenly aware of humanity’s appetites. Were he with us today, he would no sing a protest song of the threat that is less dramatic than World War III, but no less a threat.

Sittler’s song declared what happens when we move from rejoicing in our communion with the created order to simply using it for our own purposes. The result is a joyless and insatiable existence.

There is an economics of use only; it moves toward the destruction of both use and joy. And there is an economics of joy; it moves toward the intelligence of use and the enhancement of joy. That this vision involves a radical new understanding of the clean and fruitful earth is certainly so. But this vision, deeply religious in its genesis, is not so very absurd now that natural damnation is in orbit, and humanity’s befouling of their ancient home has spread their death and dirt among the stars.[i]

Elizabeth Johnson in her book Creation and the Cross, echoes Sittler and informs my lament over creation robbed of its purposes and life, points out:

Not content with harming our own species, human sin spills over into the natural world, ravaging habitats and destroying other species for personal and corporate gain. We profoundly need divine forgiveness. Out of the depths we cry for salvation.[ii]

When I have written in the past about our calling to care for creation, some have thought me to be an “alarmist,” shouting that the heavens are falling like some clerical Henny Penny – scaring the kids and preaching doom. Some have thought of me as a buzzkill, harshing everyone’s happy because there is: “Nothing we can do about it. The problem is too big.” A few have implied that maybe I am suddenly “woke” to the realities of evil corporations and the dangers of consumption, inflicting a new-found fervor on the unsuspecting and unwilling.

The truth is, I’m just trying to sing my song and hear the glorious chorus of creation in my backyard and beyond. I’m trying to love brother Blue Jay and sister Phlox. I’m just trying to help you do the same. For when creations sings, all is as it should be; joy and life are once again sustainable.

Pax Christi – Tim Olson

 

Copyright  2019 Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, all rights reserved.

 

 

[i] James M. Childs Jr., Richard Lischer. The Eloquence of Grace: Joseph Sittler and the Preaching Life (Lloyd John Ogilvie Institute of Preaching Series Book 1) (pp. 208-209). Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

[ii] Johnson, Elizabeth A. Creation and the Cross: The Mercy of God for a Planet in Peril (Kindle Locations 88-89). Orbis Books. Kindle Edition.

 

Born Again?

baptism windowHave you ever been asked, “Are you born again?” or “Are you saved?” If you say “Yes” to the question, the interrogation may continue with “When?” If you say “No,” the conversation may end because you are judged to be a heathen. It may however continue with efforts to get you to come to a church that has the answers to your “problem.”  If you struggle to know just how to answer these questions, you are not alone.

The notion of being “born again” is rooted in scripture. In the Gospel according to John, we are introduced to a man named Nicodemus (John 3:1 ff). He is a wise teacher of the Jewish people who comes to Jesus under cover of darkness to ask questions. Jesus engages him in a conversation that leaves Nicodemus confused and scratching his head. Jesus tells him that all must be “born from above” (John 3:3). The Greek word used is deliberately ambiguous. It can be also translated born “anew” or, born “from the beginning, or in an interesting turn, born “for a long time.” And yes, some choose to say born “again” – though I’m not a fan of that choice, because to me it lacks the God-driven, long-term sense of John’s usage. If forced, I’d propose maybe, born “again, and again, and again….”

The other scriptural mention of “new birth,” is, for me, much more helpful.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Peter 1:3 NRSV)

Notice how it clarifies who does the “birthing.” It is not us, but God’s action.

For a certain Christian folks, being “born again” means making a decision to follow Jesus. It is often draped with emotional or spiritual experiences of conviction, repentance or spiritual ecstasy. For many (maybe most) Christians, this notion of establishing a relationship with Our Lord is precisely backwards. The “decision” that establishes my relationship with God is not mine. It is God’s. The cross saves; the cross tells me that I am, in fact, born again. The only action I take is in my response, every day, to that fact.

Baptism is, for most Christians across time and space, the event that proclaims God’s action to initiate a rebirth “from above.” We are most certainly called to respond to the grace of God’s action by taking up the way of discipleship. I think it is that second part of the “new birth” that folks who ask this question are really getting at when they ask questions about being “born again.” Does your relationship with God create a new life? A new person? That’s always a good question.

Today, September 25th, is the anniversary of my re-birth. On that date decades ago, I was washed in the water and the Church announced that I was a child of God; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God decided to raise me up. For a while, my parents rose each day faced with what that glorious announcement meant for me. When I was confirmed, I took the responsibility from my parents and heard again of God’s decision to claim me. As Luther taught, from that day forward, every day was an occasion to respond to God’s grace and mercy. I’m still doing that every day as I make the sign of the cross and begin the day with a prayer. I do it as I read the scriptures and find myself called and convicted; as I serve my neighbor because the world is not about me; as I repent of the stupidity I commit each day and am honest about my life as (Luther again) sinner and saint all in one package that God has decided to love.

This weekend, we will celebrate with a whole bunch of 9th graders as they affirm their baptisms and take up the task of that daily walk with Jesus. As they are confirmed, they will hear the announcement of God’s decision to raise them up and be given every new day as an opportunity to respond to God’s love and grace and God’s children.

No doubt, they will get asked questions. I thought I’d end by giving them answers I use.

“Are you saved?” Absolutely!

“When?” On a cross, outside Jerusalem, in the early first century.

“Are you born again?” Yes. Every single day.

“How do you know?” God sent and surrounded me with holy messengers (the Church) to tell me, over and over and over again.

 Pax Christi – Pastor Tim

 

Copyright  2019 Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

It Is Your Call

This week a teenager from Sweden arrived in the United States – by boat. Her name is Greta Thunberg. She came by boat because it left a smaller carbon footprint than a plane. Greta has been busy. Her visit included a visit to Congress where she spoke to our leaders with passion and force. She said:

greta 2“Please save your praise. We don’t want it,” she said. “Don’t invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it because it doesn’t lead to anything.

“If you want advice for what you should do, invite scientists, ask scientists for their expertise. We don’t want to be heard. We want the science to be heard.”

“I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry.”

Listen to the science. Yes! PLEASE listen to the science and not the political posturing and denial that so deeply infects our nation. Nearly 100% of credible scientists agree that climate change is a threat that is a result of human action. Even though some politicians tried to block its release, the Climate Change Report, mandated by congress, and compiled by 13 federal agencies concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. The Iowa DNR tracks the reality of how climate change is impacting the state. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the UN has mountains of science accesible to all. There is no credible debate about the reality of climate change. There is only a debate about whether we should act. Greta Thunberg is calling for action. So should we.

Yet, without diminshing the importance of the science to understand the nature of the challenge, nor the courageous advocacy for the planet expressed by people like Greta, as Christians, it is not about the science. The care of the planet and future generations is a calling from God that is to be taken up whether we are in trouble environmentally or not.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. – (Genesis 2:15). 

And there it is; right there in the beginning. Humanity’s relationship to creation is a call to “till and keep,” not to own and consume. That calling (a vocation) to live in a loving relationship with all creation echoes throughout scripture (Psalm 8; Psalm 104; Psalm 148; Romans 8).

Faith begins with recognition. We recognize that we did not create, earn, or gain ownership of all that we have and all that we are. We recognize that it is by God’s grace alone that we exist, breathe, eat, live and, yes, die.

The second movement of faith is to respond to God’s love and grace by answering the call to be what God made us to be. We are the caretakers of God’s creation. We are not owners, for title never transfers from divine to human hands. We are accountable to God for how we love each other; and how we love all creation. Loving all creation and every creature, human and otherwise, is the path to loving God. We are called to leave the planet better than we found it.

To ignore our call is not just a choice we are allowed to make without consequence. In psalm 148 windowDeuteronomy 30:15 ff, Moses sets before the people a clear calling to follow God’s path, which leads to life, or to choose another path, which leads to death. If you listen to the science, failing to address climate change does not lead to abstractions. It leads to death, disease, refugees. It leads to the collapse of agricultural and economic systems. These will be the consequences (judgment) of choosing to ignore our call to “till and keep” the earth. 

Here is what is NOT our call: To choose to ignore the “groaning of creation” and continue to violate the earth and cause suffering of our nighbors with our addiction to life as we blithely live it. Here is our call: to choose life and love of every neighbor; every creature and created thing so that we might be God’s “tillers and keepers of the grace we’ve been given in holy trust.

Pax Christi, Pastor Tim Olson

 

copyright © 2019, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

The Creature and the Cross

htlc cross 2This coming weekend we will observe a festival day that has been observed for centuries. Since perhaps the early Fourth Century, the Church has observed Holy Cross Day. The cross is important because Christ hangs upon it. This is enough of a reason for us to make everyday, Holy Cross Day. On top of that, however, is what we believe Christ accomplished; what he was doing as he suffered and died in such a grotesque and painful way.

The answer to the “why?” of the cross that most of us learned has something to do with how the death of Jesus paid a debt for us. That he died to pay for our sins to satisfy some cosmic, divine debt that had to be paid. If that is what you were taught and believe, you can thank a man named Anselm (1033-1109) who was Bishop of Canterbury and one of the most influential theologians the Church has produced. His theory about what Christ did on the cross came to be known as the “satisfaction” theory of the atonement.

Oddly enough, his thought on this subject remains a theory. The Church has never adopted his teaching as a doctrine. It sits beside other theories about “atonement” (what Jesus accomplished on the cross). But, this is the one people seem to know best. So, here’s the news flash in all this: I don’t think Anselm really got this thing right. That is not to say his thought has no merit. It does. The cross does indeed address the sin of the world and mine in particular. But that is a small sliver of the story and not entirely helpful in our age.

To say that, on the cross, Jesus died to pay for my sins alone restricts the power of the death and resurrection to, well, just the death part and to forgiveness alone. It fails to unite death with the resurrection, and so, leaves much unaddressed. It also only speaks to one form of suffering – my guilt; and it addresses only the sinner. What about the victims of sin? Those who suffer at the hands of others? Does not a crucified Messiah have something to say about being a victim of the powers and principalities in his cry, “My God! My God. Why have you forsaken me?” 

When Jesus is raised from the dead, does that not change deeply what happened on the cross? The world said a very loud, “NO!” to Jesus and his whole life, ministry, and message. Those in power smugly thought they had put things “right” by killing the troublemaker. Resurrection, however, was God’s “YES!” proclaiming the world guilty and Jesus right; revealing the sin and evil of the powers that be. On the cross Jesus still reveals the arrogance and pride of those who would cut off helping the poor and needy; who would abandon the widow a refugee; who fail to tend to the least and lost of the world. If you are for that which creates victims and counts winners and losers, you are on the wrong side of the cross.

Then there is all of creation. Jesus is a creature nailed to the cross by evil. Jesus, the dali st john crossChrist, is also “the Word” that spoke creation into being; “the Word” that sustains life and light; “the Word” that became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1). In the mystery of  the Incarnation, both creature and Creator are hung to suffer and die. On that cross is not only Jesus of Nazareth. carpenter, healer and all around “good guy.” On that cross hangs the creator of the world and so, all that is created. When Paul says, “the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains…” (Romans 8:22), the agonized cries of Christ on the cross give voice to the suffering of every creature, rock, tree that face the suffering brought by sin.

These are but the beginning of what the cross represents to people of faith. The cross is the lens through which we “live, move, and have our being.” It is right to honor who dies there, who overcame it, and what God did upon that lonely tree.

Pax Christi, Pastor Tim Olson

 

copyright © 2019, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

 

 

You’ve Got the Rhythm!

I usually have a playlist to listen to when I am exercising on the elliptical machine.  The rhythm of the music keeps me moving in the right direction of accomplishing my task of burning those calories and strengthening those muscles.  Oh sure, I could do the exercise without the music, but it’s the rhythm of the music that motivates me to get exercising and to keep it up.

There is a new rhythm to life that occurs when the school year starts, when the air begins to cool, when summer wanes, and our evenings darken earlier.  Fall brings football, music and band lessons.  Clubs that haven’t met for the summer are starting to pick up momentum again.  This week church school, adult learning, and affirmation of baptism classes begin.  It’s the time of the year for making choices and setting priorities for the fall and winter months.  It’s the time to set the rhythm for the next nine months.

Luke shares wisdom that is helpful to all of us as we set our priorities and select the rhythm for our lives by sharing Jesus’ frank words about discipleship.  In Luke 14:25-33 Jesus urges us to count the cost of following Jesus.  It’s a path that involves giving up what’s not important, it’s about sacrifice, and it’s about serving others.  It’s the road less traveled when the norm is not to be involved in a faith community.  Count the cost when meetings interrupt your sabbath time, when commitments take you away from worship.  Count the cost.  Following Jesus is following a God who is love and humility.  We learn about loving Jesus and each other in worship.  We learn about God’s love and humility in church school and adult learning.  We learn how  people of faith can make a difference in the world. None of us have discipleship all figured out.  We learn about serving others in a variety of ministries with which we have a relationship with others.

We all struggle with priorities. This fall I urge you to consider making Jesus a priority.  Let Jesus set the rhythm in your life, and your family’s life and see how that rhythm works for you.  Granted there will be a cost, but it will bring real life.  We can say “yes” or “no” to being disciples.  Moses urges the Israelites who are about to enter the promised land to choose life by loving the Lord, obeying God and holding fast to God.  Those who choose life, choose God.  Those who choose to follow Idols, as Moses claims are destined to “A life of death and adversity”.  We have an abundance of idols in this world.  Idols are really anything that we place above God.

I commend you to pray about the rhythm that brings life to you and your family and live life accordingly.  Count the cost of what will bring life.

Grace and Peace to you my sisters and brothers as you discern the rhythm of your life and the cost of whatever you follow.

In Christ, Pastor Pam Schroeder

No Time Left

I spied him in the grocery aisle on a Sunday evening as I stopped to pick up orange juice and paper towels. “You look tired,” I said. He nodded, rubbing his eyes, making them redder than they already were. “I am,” he responded. “The weekend wore us out. I was with two of the kids as we packed in a tournament, two practices, and a dance recital.” He pointed with his head toward the parking lot, “They are asleep out in the van. The wife is somewhere west of here coming home from a contest with the oldest. I haven’t seen them since yesterday.”

“Do you get to take a day to rest?” I asked, feeling suddenly tired with him. “Nope,” he sighed. “Back to the job in the morning. Oh yeah, and a concert tomorrow night” as he scrolled his phone. He said, “We’ll get back to church one of these Sundays,” with an uncomfortable note in his voice. “No worries,” I said. “Just get some rest.”

calendarI have had a version of this conversation dozens of times, with dozens of people whose calendars are full, bodies and minds are exhausted, and spirits are running on empty. The big question, of course, is “What do we do about it?”  The Scoutmaster says your kid has to make Scouting a priority. The baseball coach and the soccer coach say that unless the sport comes first, the kids will lose, and nobody can be a loser. Homework should come first, but the recital is just a week away. Then the Church asks, “Did you want your child to be confirmed?” I understand. I really do. I’ve been there. I am there. And I am worried about you.

The result of this kind of life is, as The Guess Who sang when I was a kid, “No time left for you.” – or anybody else. (And yes, I realize how I have dated myself as a dinosaur with that reference – you can find the song here.) No time left for you. No time left for your family. No time left for God. And in the end, with life carefully cataloged in calendars of paper or digitized for eternity, filled with all the things we did (or missed) there is just no time left. That thought may make us think we should redouble our efforts to fill every moment with something – anything – so our lives matter.

“And (Jesus) said to them, “Take care! …one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15) I’m certain that this could also say that life does not consist of the abundance of events. Keeping up with the infamous Jones family next door does not only apply to cars, boats, and vacations. It means keeping up with the activities and achievements of others. And whether it is competition with you neighbors or giving in to the harping demands of coaches, teachers, directors, or whomever else may be jockeying to get a hold of your time, we end up being in bondage to time and the demands of others.

In the very first chapter of Genesis, God rests on the seventh day. This does not suggest sabbathGod was tired, or creation was finished. “Sabbath” most basically means “stop.” It is strongly associated with freedom. God stops. God quits working because God is free to do so. You are created in God’s image! So, you are free to say no too!

Barbara Brown Taylor says it this way: Stop for one whole day every week, and you will remember what it means to be created in the image of God, who rested on the seventh day not from weariness but from complete freedom. The clear promise is that those who rest like God find themselves free like God, no longer slaves to the thousand compulsions that send others rushing toward their graves.”

Eugene Peterson, prolific author and Christian pastor says, “If you don’t take a Sabbath, something is wrong. You’re doing too much, you’re being too much in charge. You’ve got to quit, one day a week, and just watch what God is doing when you’re not doing anything.” To have no time left for God, for being instead of doingis to give in to the tyranny of time and miss the most essential blessings of life.

You have been given the power to resist the constant demand for time; the constant rush to “do.” When you dare to buck the system by saying “No!” you will find blessing. You may draw a few insults, some shaking heads, and push back from some, even your own kids.  But you will be blessed and will teach them something deep and abiding that will still hold true when their “doing” days are done. I issue a challenge. Take your Sundays back, and reserve them for freedom and worship. “When practiced, Sabbath-keeping is an active protest against a culture that is always on, always available and always looking for something else to do.” (Stephen W. Smith, Inside Job)

Pax Christi – Pastor Tim Olson

We Already Love You.

loveThe mission of our congregation is quite simply stated: Share God’s Love. God, in and through Jesus Christ has, without doubt, loved us to death. Each breath, heartbeat, and our daily bread are given to us in love. Our reconciliation with God is a gift of love. Christ commands us to love others and the creation as we have been loved – without restraint or rules. That is pretty simply stated too. The difficulty is in the doing, isn’t it?

Loving others unconditionally is hard. First, it is hard to love others when I’m so busy loving myself and what is mine. I don’t have the time or the energy to focus on someone else, especially if I don’t even know them. Second, the songs on the radio and the latest Netflix production continue to teach me that love is a feeling; a heart-warming rush of emotion that will inevitably end with a “somebody-done-somebody-wrong” song.

The truth of the matter is that love is what we have been given and we are called, cajoled, commanded to share that love others – even before we get to know them. Think of Jesus. Before Jesus ever met the leper and healed; before he ever talked with Zacchaeus up in the tree; before he encountered any of the wayward people who became his disciples; before he announced in his dying, “Father forgive them…” he loved them. His disposition toward every bird, rock, loaf of bread and person he encountered was love. Even though he hadn’t met you, he already loved you.

For more than a year now, we have been working to meaningfully proclaim our love for any and all we meet, just like Jesus. The reason we do this is because the Church at large, and we in particular, have not always shared God’s love with people who desperately needed to be loved by God and God’s people. Instead of loving people before we met them, we all too often judged them before we met them – and then excluded them from the beautiful community God desires to build here in this community.

imagesBelow is a statement developed by a team of dedicated members, shaped by input from people who offered critique, discussed by members who came to forums, reviewed and revised by the Council that we will work to adopt as a clear and concise declaration that we plan to live out Christ’s command to love – even before we meet someone. It is a declaration for those who search for God’s love and it is a means of holding us accountable to be who we say we are.  If you have not already done so, please take the survey of support that was sent out this week.

Pax Christi, Pastor Tim Olson

STATEMENT OF INCLUSION & WELCOMEHOLY TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH

Grace, peace, and welcome to you in the name of the blessed, Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We are people simultaneously faithful and afraid; broken and redeemed; joyful and struggling to keep it together. Together, we strive to share God’s love by loving our neighbors and loving creation. Even though we don’t know you yet, we already love you. 

You are loved. We believe you are a beloved child of God created in God’s image.

You are loved. We believe Jesus loves you and taught us, “Love one another as I have loved you.” 

You are loved. Your race, gender identity, mental or physical ability, sexual orientation, marital status, financial situation, social standing, education, cultural background, immigration status, or any other category or label cannot separate you from the love of God, nor keep you from being what God called you to be.

You are loved. No matter where you are on your faith journey, no matter the questions you bring, no matter the doubts or struggles you bear, there is a place for you here to ask, seek, and share.

You are invited. We strive to create a safe, inclusive, and affirming environment where all are invited, and each is accepted and embraced. We invite you to receive and share God’s love as you are, for who you are.  – The People of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church

Neighborly Love

Have  you ever walked through your neighborhood and met someone from church who you didn’t even know lived nearby? Perhaps you recognize them but don’t know their name.  You share a casual greeting and then go on.  It’s times like this when the size of our congregation becomes apparent.  It is next to impossible to know everyone who worships at Holy Trinity. Yet, wouldn’t it be nice to connect with those from the congregation who live in our own neighborhoods?  To be neighborly, to care for each other, to share a cup of coffee or just some time?  It is our oneness in Christ that is the core of our relationship with each other and it is the Spirit who brings us together.  We are a gift to each other by being the image of God to each other.

In a world where loneliness challenges the emotional health of many people, the church community can bring a breath of life.  Jesus’ words enrich our life when we  follow his command.  After washing the disciple’s feet, he gave them a new command saying, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34b). The Gospel of love that Jesus lived and commended to his followers, then and now, is a gift for us to live and share with all people.  It brings life, to us and to others.  We can be life-givers to each other in our neighborhoods.  

You are invited to get to know your neighbors from Holy Trinity by joining a neighborhood small group.  This group would be composed of about four households or so, who are members of Holy Trinity and live in your neighborhood.  One household will be the  facilitator household.  The facilitator will contact the group members at least four times a year.  Perhaps it’s to gather for a meal, Saturday coffee, or Sunday brunch after church; whatever seems to be of interest to your group.  Maybe it’s as simple as an email in the dead of winter to check on each other and see how each person is doing.  Maybe it’s to prepare a meal for the couple that just had a new baby in your neighborhood group.  Perhaps it’s a card or contact after a hospitalization.  The purpose of the group is to share God’s love with each other through care and compassion and may be expressed differently depending on your groups desire.

The facilitators will meet with Pastor Pam to identify potential group members and discuss how to get started.  Would you be interested in being a facilitator for your neighborhood group?  If so, go to the website to sign-up.  We plan to start with about a dozen small groups this fall. 

CS Lewis said, “(F)riendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out.  It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”  Discover the blessings of a neighborhood group. In Christ, Pastor Pam Schroeder