Evil Be Gone

“Say a prayer for my neighborhood tonight please. It’s under siege. They are finding hidden accelerants all through the neighborhood, at businesses, in yards, in alleys. We’re an hour away, but still terrified. Also maybe a prayer for some peace for me and my family.”

This was how the week started on Sunday evening with a text from my best friend from college. Her family lives in Minneapolis now, just blocks away from the corner where George Floyd was murdered. So I took a deep breath and thought of the Holy Spirit blowing on what was Pentecost Sunday and I prayed for my friend, for all the families in her neighborhood, for George Floyd and those that loved him, and for the breath of the Holy Spirit to sweep in when we can’t breathe.

For the last few days I have been looking at some of the upcoming lectionary texts and this one struck me for the time and place that we are living in today, the text is from Jeremiah the twentieth chapter, here is verse eleven:

“But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.”

In the verses beforehand Jeremiah feels the pain of rejection from those who do not want to hear what he has to say. It reminds me today of all the times and places when the people have spoken out and still haven’t been heard. Yet even in the midst of this rejection, persecution, injustice; the final verse of the passage tells us that glory belongs to the Lord and only to the Lord shall we sing praises, “For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers.” And so we pray today that evil be gone.

-Pastor Carrie

Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8

This has been a challenging week. I feel like that is an almost weekly lament in this pandemic life, but this week, it is the naked truth. While we put together two beautiful worship services, continued with the regular work of the church, and put in motion a plan for the summer, it also seemed like the world continued to move into deep despair. We passed the 100,000 mark in deaths related to the Coronavirus, we face deep divisions in how we as a nation or a locality handle the messy middle of a pandemic, and then we witness the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer. What is going on in this world. Come, Lord Jesus, come.

At the top of this blog I shared with you the verse from Micah. I wonder what it will take for us to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly. I’ll tell you I feel like I’ve seen just the opposite of these requirements of the Lord this week. My heart is heavy, which for me is a sign that I have work to do. It’s time to do more listening and learning, and to use my voice, (my voice of privilege) to bring justice, kindness, and humility to all the work I do as the Lord requires of us.

Last Monday we had 13 youth affirm their baptism. In the time leading up to that we had conversations with each of them and took the opportunity to remind them of the responsibilities that we are entrusted with in the gift of our baptism. Let me just share with you the final few lines of what those responsibilities are: “you are entrusted to…proclaim Christ through word and deed, care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace.”

It’s time for us to remember these promises and to live into them each day as we die and rise again in Christ through our baptism. Where are the places and what are the ways you remembered your baptism today? I hope that you can find ways to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly in this world as we cry out: “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

-Pastor Carrie

Prayer Practice Fridays – May 1, 2020

Exercise

Now that the weather seems to really be turning into Spring it seemed like a good time to share exercise as a prayer practice. Exercise might seem pretty pedestrian to some in terms of prayer and ideal to others. It can be a time to ourselves, where we get to choose what to focus on, what to think about, perhaps to rewire our minds a little bit and to take a break from all the things that we have to think about or do. Some exercise admittedly requires full attention on what you’re doing, but the aftereffects of having exercised can provide a good head space and sense of clarity for prayer. Other exercise offers time for thought and prayer while you are in the midst of it.

When using the time of exercising to also offer prayer it can take many forms. It might be pausing before you begin and being conscious of inviting God into that space with you. Perhaps if you’re at the gym or out pounding the pavement it’s the meditation that comes with regulating your breathing or listening to your steps. However you choose to listen to God in this time it’s important to be intentional in your awareness and invitation to God in that time.

If you find it difficult to be intentional in prayer and reflection while you exercise it could be a better option to engage following your exercise. You might find that you have more clarity or calm afterwards and it is a good moment to capture those thoughts on paper or in conversation with God. Take a moment to notice where your thoughts and your body are directing you; maybe into contemplation of a relationship, a specific part of your work or family life, new ideas for things that you want to accomplish or goals you want to set. This might not be a time for answers, but could be a part of the path to get you there. Vision can come in these moments of clarity and exercise is often a great way to get you there!

Pastor Carrie

Semper Gumby

From the Pastor

Now what? It seems we’ve passed the peak of the CoronaVirus in terms of hospitalizations and deaths in El Paso County. The conversation is now turning towards re-opening and what that might look like. I imagine it will look a lot like it did at the beginning of this crisis, only much slower. I remember that first week before we closed, and it seems a new recommendation was handed down every day. We adjusted our practices, stopped passing the peace and refrained from shaking hands. We planned to be open for GOLA and Worship as late as that Wednesday. We thought through a new way to do communion, and then new recommendations came and we made the difficult decision to close everything down.

As new recommendations come from state and church leadership, we will adapt and adjust and lean into a new reality. We can’t predict the future, so instead we will remain flexible and ready to change as needed to do ministry as our reality changes. I had a colleague who had served in the Marine Corps who was fond of the phrase “Semper Gumby” as one of the unofficial mottos of the corps. It means that you must always be as flexible as Gumby and adapt to changing circumstances. That’s not always easy for the church, a 2000-year-old institution used to doing things a certain way. But it is the way of our leader, the Holy Spirit whom Jesus compares to the wind saying, “the wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” I don’t know when we’ll gather together in the Sanctuary for worship again. I don’t know if we’ll need to limit the numbers in our Sanctuary or how we’ll celebrate and distribute Holy Communion. We may need to check temperatures at the door or require masks and hand-washing prior to entry. I don’t know right now exactly how we’ll come back or what it will look like. But I don’t need to know right now.I know that the Holy Spirit will lead us. I know that we’ll figure it out. I know that the gospel will be proclaimed, and we will be nourished by word and sacrament. I know that the church will survive and continue to follow our leader to be light to the world. I know that God will bring great things out of these terrible circumstances that will surprise and bless us and our neighbor. I know God will continue to teach us how to be church in an ever-changing world. These are the only things I need to know right now.

Thank you, church, for being faithful and being flexible. Thank you for trusting your leaders and being willing to try new things. Thank you for being filled with the Holy Spirit who holds us and keeps us on this roller coaster of life.

Semper Gumby!

-Pastor Travis

Family Reflection

The empty nest is full again…

During this time of stay at home orders most colleges and universities across the country have closed their doors and sent kids home to finish the academic year online. This also means that many parents who were just experiencing an empty nest are now finding ways to all come together again. I know this time can present challenges in everyone being together again, and all the time at that, but it can also bring joy.

I want to share with you an email exchange I had with Chris Lieber last week, after asking how they were adjusting to having two college kids at home again, I hope that you find the same joy in this that I did!

Chris writes:

“Once the kids left for college I never expected to have this kind of quality time with them ever again. It is as if we are a renewed family – fulfilling an empty void that I had unsuccessfully sought to fill over the past several years by working harder, volunteering harder, and playing harder.

Yes, we are wonderfully in each other’s way in the kitchen. We collectively use far more data and band width than our modem can handle. It seems the washing machine is always running. Our topics of conversation at the dinner table have now pivoted to hair color, fresh video game downloads and challenges with online classes. The dishes pile up much faster and the grocery bill has grown exponentially. I am convinced that the messiness and imperfections of family life are one of God’s greatest gifts – they can bind us together through laughter and sweat equity.

I love being a family again! Having “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” back in the nest is a tremendous blessing.”

May we all find the joy amidst the chaos!

Easter Blessings,
Pastor Carrie

Prayer Practice Fridays – April 17, 2020

Meditation

I will be the first to tell you that of all the prayer practices I have learned about, this one is still often the most difficult for this seldom quiet pastor to hold on to. That being said, we shouldn’t let the idea of meditation scare us either. There are many different practices that include meditation in different ways. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I don’t have wait for everything around me to align, for the perfect moment of quiet bliss to practice some form of meditation. I actually think that being able to take a moment in the midst of chaos to center ourselves can be a real gift if we allow ourselves the freedom to do it. I have a note on my phone that I open to every now and again that simply says, “If you’re reading this, release your shoulders from your ears, unclench your jaw, and remove your tongue from the roof of your mouth. We physically tend to hold onto stress in the least noticeable ways. Relax.” When I remind myself of those things it gives me a chance to catch my breath, to center myself and to reengage in the present moment. That act of bringing ourselves back to the present, having a sense of self-awareness and clarity in moment often brings me to a place of gratitude. It often doesn’t then come as a spoken prayer, but a recognition of something greater than myself who leads me to a place of centering, mindfulness and gratitude.

Of course there are many ways to practice mindfulness and meditation which are more focused too. One of the practices that I have experienced in many different settings is an exercise called Lectio Divina. I will share the most basic understanding of this practice and suggest a text to focus on this week.

Before you begin find yourself a comfortable space and bring your bible with the scripture marked. Take a moment to invite the Spirit into this time and space with you and to guide you. Read the passage once to get familiar with it and then reread the passage more slowly. As you are reading the second time listen for a word of phrase that stands out to you or lingers with you, you might want to mark that word or phrase. Then spend some time being quiet, listen for what it is that you think you’re hearing in that word or phrase. Does it call to mind anything particular about your life or life circumstances? Read the passage again and pay attention to how your word or phrase ties into it, notice if it leads you to any other words that stand out and how they might tie together. I like to ask myself the questions “I wonder…or I notice…” to help lead me in the passage. What other life experiences might tie into the words or phrases you’ve identified as meaningful? Images or pictures, specific people or places? Remember in this that you are not alone, that in all of those experiences God was with you. Read the passage for a last time, and let it guide you in conversation with the Lord. Tell God what you have noticed, listen for God to help you understand that which you might not. Ask what you should take away from this time together with God.

Finally, a book that I have been spending time with in the last week or so is titled “just this” by Father Richard Rohr. The book is labeled as “prompts and practices for contemplation.” This book is described as being “a collection of brief and evocative meditations and practices.” It

offers many opportunities to experience the ordinary around us in ways that can be eye-opening to beauty unseen and foist us into the mystical experiences of God and faith that we otherwise might not see. Some may find that Rohr is a bit too into the mysticism side of things (I know that I often do) but this book has many practices that allow for finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. You might give it a try. I hope you all can find some peace in your prayer life this week. I continue to hold you all in prayer.

Easter Blessings,
Pastor Carrie

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