Intern Greetings – Christina Forsythe 2015-2016

Christina Forsythe

I am so excited to join your congregation this coming year. I will be the next intern pastor at St. Peter’s beginning in August. A quick introduction; my name is Christina Forsythe I grew up in central Minnesota but call Northern Minnesota my home. I apologize before-hand for my accent. If you have ever watched the movie “Fargo,” you know what I am talking about.

I have been lucky to see a lot of the world through my previous job/career as a backcountry dogsled guide. I started out in Northern Minnesota which is one of my favorite places in the world and also was able to work in Churchill Manitoba and Longyearbyen Svalbard/Norway. I started out life as a Catholic and decided I wanted to be a pastor fairly young. I started seminary in 2011. I did my first two years at Luther Seminary in St. Paul MN. I moved back to Northern Minnesota for my final year and worked as a guide again while finishing online. That was a really great experience. There is something special about taking classes and then talking about them with clients from all over. I will never forget sharing what I was learning in my Roman’s class with two clients from Saudi Arabia around a campfire in the Boundary Waters Wilderness one night. Guiding and the wilderness have shaped me greatly. I have been reminded daily to be humble and have met so many people with so many stories. It’s funny how God works. I would have never imagined that guiding would have helped prepare me for pastoring.

When I read your site profile I felt immediately called to St. Peter. I know little about Spokane and look forward to learning. I also look forward to learning from all of you and getting to know you, your interests, passions, what makes you tick as they say.

I guess that’s all. I wish all of you an excellent summer and I will see you at the end of it.

-Christina

August 2015 – Intern’s Desk

St. Peter Luther Rose

To the beloved of God at St. Peter,

This may be the last time I write those words to you, but I can assure you that it is not the last time I will think of you – the beloved of God at St. Peter. I give thanks to God for the past year in this place. I can hardly believe it has already come to an end.

Four years ago, you decided to take on a student each year to be your pastor, to encourage and nourish in the faith and to train in the ministry. I know that this hasn’t been the easiest thing you have ever done, but I hope that you have also experienced in it joy and growth. I know I have. I consider it a great joy and blessing to have lived among you this year, to have learned and served, to have worshiped and shared in this life of faith with you. I so appreciate your patience with me and your encouragement as I have learned and grown and learned some more, and as I have made mistakes and fumbled and succeeded and discovered how to be your pastor.

I cannot say “thank you” enough – for your support and encouragement, for your patience and grace, for your love and kindness. Thank you for welcoming me into your pulpit, to stand behind the table, to teach in your classrooms, to stand by your bedsides, to enjoy your fellowship. Thank you for welcoming me into your sanctuary, into your homes and into your hearts.

And more than that, I thank you for your partnership in the gospel. I give thanks to God that by the Spirit you have been gathered into this community of faith. As you receive a new pastor into this community, I pray that you will continue to worship and pray and trust in the faithfulness of God. I pray that you will continue to grow into lives that reflect who we are in Christ – loved and cherished children of God; and reflections of God’s love in and for the world.

As I move to Luther Seminary for a short while and then into a first call, I take with me blessed memories of you and a piece of this place. St. Peter will always remain a part of me and a will be blessing to whatever ministry into which I am called by our good and gracious God. Thank you. Thank God for you.

“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”
-Philippians 1.3-6

Grace and peace to you,
Sierra

July 2015 – Intern’s Desk

Stewardship
“There comes a day when we understand it is all grace: the whole world is a gift of God – a wonderfully generous and completely unmerited gift. We see every flower, every drop of water, every minute of our life as a gift.”
-Paul Tournier

To the beloved of God at St. Peter,

We have arrived at July. I’ve been with you for almost a year now. Our time together has been precious to me. We still have five weeks together, so I will save the good-byes and words of overwhelming gratitude for when we reach the end. But this will be my last installment of “seemingly random things on the pastor’s mind.” And I’ve saved the best for last. Stewardship! Okay, maybe I’ve saved the most awkward for last. Stewardship is an awkward topic because it involves money. In this culture, money tends to fall into the “none of your business” category. We don’t like to talk about it in general. And then you add church to the equation and pretty soon images of millionaire televangelists, exploiting the bible and religion for personal gain, pop into mind and we just want nothing to do with it. Or maybe we don’t want to talk about it because we feel embarrassed or guilty because maybe we are not as faithful in our giving or generous as we think we ought to be. But don’t worry. I’m not here to guilt you into giving or even to talk about money really. What I want to talk about is much bigger than that. Stewardship.

Here is the thing. When we hear the word stewardship, we think fundraising. But I am here to tell you, stewardship is not just about fundraising. It is about mission and the practice of faith. It is about life. The most basic biblical message of stewardship is this: We belong to God. Everything we are and everything we have belongs to God. We say as much when we confess the creed on Sunday morning. “I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. What does this mean? According to Martin Luther, this means “I believe that God has made me and all creatures, that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them; in addition, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house, family, and all things” (Small Catechism).

Everything we are and everything we have belong to God. The message that we belong to God is good news. You belong to God. You are not in charge. You are not in charge of your own body, time, talents, personality, intellect and your money. You are not in charge of any of these things. Because they are not yours. They belong to God and you’ve just got them on loan. That pretty face – on loan. That brilliant mind – on loan. The hours and days that make up your life – on loan. Everything, even life itself is on loan. Like it or not, we did not create ourselves. We have a creator to whom we belong. But belonging to God is good news. It is good news because God is very good at being in charge. God is better at managing our lives than we are. God is very good to us. God is gracious.

Mark Allan Powell thinks about stewardship, about being a steward in terms of being a house sitter. “Steward” is not a word that we use very much anymore. We hear it frequently in scripture, but we don’t exactly know what it means. So Powell talks about it like this. He says, imagine that you are going out of town for a while but you have plants that need to be watered and animals that need to be fed and played with. What do you do? You get a house sitter. Maybe it is a college student. It is a pretty good deal for that person. They get to live in your house instead of in a cramped dorm room, watch your TV, eat your food, etc. and water some plants and feed some animals. And then you come home, and you are glad to find that plants and animals are alive and they have taken good care of your house. That is what it is to be a steward – a house sitter – they live in a place that they do not own, using things that do not belong to them and taking care of those things on behalf of the owner. Humans are stewards of all God has made. God lets us live in this world and enjoy all the good things that creation has to offer and God also expects us to take care of those things.

But, says Powell, that is not exactly how we tend to live. Imagine now that you come home to find that your house sitter has changed all the locks on the doors and has taken up permanent residence in the house. They don’t let you in because they claim, “It is my house.” That is how we tend to function in this world. We move in, take up residence and declare ourselves owners. We don’t realize that God is only letting us use what still belongs to God.

Everything we are and everything we have belong to God. “Every day we stand in the shade of trees we did not plant. We live in houses we did not build. We eat food we did not produce. We ponder ideas that are not original to us. And we live in bodies with hearts and souls and minds that we did not create” (Donald Hinze). All of it is a gift. When we find that life is a gift, we experience profound gratitude and trust in God, the giver of all good things.

I wonder, what difference would it make in the way we live and experience life if we understood ourselves as house sitters? What would life look like if we really believed the truth that all that we are and all that we have belongs to God? That the good and gracious God of creation holds it all in His hands? Imagine it. Would life look exactly as it does now? Or might there be some difference, small or large? You are God’s own, God’s beloved. We will all spend a lifetime learning to live into the truth of that grace.

Grace to you and peace.
Sierra

June 2015 – Intern’s Desk

Every Wednesday afternoon, as the bells chime two from the tower of Central Lutheran Church, a group of pastors sits down in the library to pray, to read together, to discuss the scripture texts for Sunday. A couple of weeks ago, something really great happened. How it was related to that Sunday’s texts, I cannot remember. But something in the conversation spurred one pastor to speak the beginning lines of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s famous poem, Who Am I? As one person after another chimed in with lines from the recesses of their memories, like corn popping around the room, we roughly recited this stunning poem in its entirety. I was struck by two things in that moment. One was the richness of this Lutheran history that we share. The other was the deep resonance of questions about identity across humanity. Something in that poem, Who Am I?, resonated in such a way that eight pastors sitting in a room, eight people of different ages from different places, had committed lines from that work to their memories. I think this question – who am I? – resonates with us perhaps now more than ever. In a world where we are creating and recreating ourselves with more frequency and greater ease than ever before, where teenagers and young adults especially can feel more like personal brand managers than real, genuine people, Bonhoeffer’s question strikes right at the heart. I know that I talk about identity a lot. That’s because I think it is important. But rather than harp on it here, I want to leave you with Bonhoeffer’s own poem.

*Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and anti-Nazi dissident who was executed near the end of the Second World War for his participation in a plot to assassinate Hitler. He wrote this poem from prison.

Who Am I?

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a Squire from his country-house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
equally, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.
Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?
Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person to-day and to-morrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!

Whatever our lives may be, at the root of who we are is the truth of whose we are – God’s own beloved children. Grace and peace to you this June.

Sierra

May 2015 – Intern’s Desk

Like a Watered Garden
Holy God, mighty Lord, gracious Father: We give you thanks, for in the beginning your Spirit moved over the waters and you created heaven and earth. By the gift of water you nourish and sustain us and all living things… Through the baptism of your dear Child, our Lord Jesus Christ, you consecrated and set apart the Jordan and all waters as a blessed flood and a full washing away of sins.
-from Martin Luther’s “Flood Prayer”

To the beloved of God at St. Peter,

I feel like I have been traveling for ages. From Luther Seminary in Minnesota to an Intern/Supervisor retreat in North Bend to Synod Assembly in Pasco and back again. It is good to be back with you here in Spokane. April was a busy month for me and it was a busy month in the life of St. Peter as well. We began the month with the culmination of our Lenten journey in fellowship and worship together, in prayer and song, during Holy Week and celebrated the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday and throughout these past weeks of the Easter season. We celebrated this new resurrection life with the baptisms of Margaret, David, James and Erza Rail as we poured out the waters of God’s love and promise upon their heads.

Maybe it was the flowing of these baptismal waters that caused the theme of this year’s Synod Assembly to strike me with such conviction. The theme was “Like a Watered Garden.” We heard lectures, sermons and prayers that gave thanks for all the waters of the world. When we baptize, we use ordinary water. That ordinary water is put to holy use. Precisely because it is ordinary water that fills our font, we can understand all the world’s ordinary waters as holy. In his “flood prayer,” Martin Luther proclaims that God has set apart all waters as a blessed flood of mercy.

Baptism doesn’t set us apart to fly through the heavens with the angels, but joins us to this earth, to the waters and the dirt, all of creation and the creatures within it. Not to be gods but to be more fully human creatures. Beloved creatures of our creator God. I wonder how that kind of understanding, that kind of solidarity with creation, might influence the way we engage and interact with the world around us. Will we join together with the flowers of the fields praising God? Sing songs of God’s glory with the meadowlark? Work for the purification and preservation of our water and sky and earth? I pray that we will take time to give thanks for the beauty of the earth as life unfolds this spring. And when you touch that ordinary stuff of water – in the rain that falls, in the sprinklers that water our lawns, in the showers that cleanse our bodies, remember your baptism which joins you to Christ and in Christ to all creation.

Grace and peace to you,
Sierra

Photo: Spokane River

April 2015 – Intern’s Desk

Now all the vault of heav’n resounds
in praise of love that still abounds:
“Christ has triumphed! He is living!”
Sing, choirs of angels, loud and clear!
Repeat their song of glory here:
“Christ has triumphed! He is living!”
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Eternal is the gift he brings,
therefore our heart with rapture sings:
“Christ has triumphed! He is living!”
Now still he comes to give us life
and by his presence stills all strife.
“Christ has triumphed! He is living!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Oh, fill us, Lord with dauntless love;
set heart and will on things above
that we conquer through your triumph;
grant grace sufficient for life’s day
that by our lives we truly say:
“Christ has triumphed! He is living!”
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Adoring praises now we bring
and with the heav’nly blessed sing:
“Christ has triumphed! Alleluia!
Be to the Father, and our Lord,
to Spirit blest, most holy God,
all the glory, never ending!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our crucified and risen Lord Jesus the Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! For six somber weeks we contemplated the depth of our brokenness, the breadth of our sin, the extent of our need. And we affixed our gaze on the cross – the place where God is literally dying to love us, where we come to know that God’s love is deeper still.

This Easter season we come to the cross once more, standing empty to the heavens. We celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. Jesus Christ crucified and raised for us. Life has conquered death. “Christ has triumphed! He is living! Alleluia!” And so, with him we too have life. Life abundant. Life everlasting.

May the scriptures and hymns of this Easter season speak to you words of resurrection life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Grace and peace to you,
Sierra