Today was my final worship service with you here at St. Peter Lutheran Church. Thank you for opening your hearts and homes to me during this past year. Thank you for your commitment to helping so many intern pastors grow over the past ten years. Thank you for challenging me and encouraging me and surprising me!
Next for me is a little vacation, a family reunion, and I will be seeking my first call as a pastor in the ELCA in western North Dakota.
Thank you, and may God’s peace remain with you today and always.
Welcome to Holy Week, the week when Christians remember, celebrate, mourn, and marvel at Jesus Christ and his saving work among and for us.
We began this morning with Palm Sunday, telling the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11:1-11). “Hosanna” means “save us”. It is a plea to that one who is coming in the Lord’s name, that son of David. We often believe the crowds around Jesus are calling for salvation from the oppressive Roman empire. What do you need saving from? What empires and forces oppress you; what keeps you in bondage; what separates you from God, from other people, from God’s good creation? On the other hand, what do you need saving for? With God’s liberation, what possibilities, hopes, and new life may come to you?
We then moved to tell the story of Jesus’ Passion (Mark 14-15), from Jesus’ anointing with a jar of costly ointment by a woman, to the meal he shared with his disciples, his prayer and arrest in Gethsemane, trial before the council and then Pilate, and his crucifixion, death, and burial. Such a huge story, with such varied emotions! Joy, bewilderment, comfort, terror, pain, fear. I invite you to hear us read this story – go to “Current Worship”, scroll down to “Palm Sunday / Passion Sunday”, and click on the “worship service link”. The passion reading begins at about 13 minutes.
We delve deeper into this story throughout this week. On Maundy Thursday we consider Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, where he took a slave’s role and washed their feet, then commanded them to love one another just as he has loved them. Whenever we celebrate Holy Communion, we remember that meal and celebrate that Jesus Christ still invites us to his table, nourishing us with his body and blood for continued service in the world (John 13, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). I invite you to consider who is difficult for you to love, and who might especially need nourishing at God’s table this year, at this particular time.
On Good Friday, life and death stand side by side. The power and glory of God is revealed not in military or political power or another triumphal event, but in the mystery of Jesus’ crucifixion, a torturous death by the powers that be, the powers of his world and ours (John 18-19). Where do you see suffering today? How do you suffer? Where does it seem that God’s new life is absent?
Holy Saturday is a day of waiting. We know what is coming on Sunday, but for Jesus’ followers the day was full of despair and bewilderment, confusion and terror. In some ways, this past year as we have lived in Covid-times, has been a long Holy Saturday. We long for ‘normal’ and a return to what is familiar, while we live – exist? – in a world where so much of what we usually do has changed or stopped. What parts of the old normal do you long for? What parts of our new ways do you appreciate? What still needs changing? In your dreams and imagination, what kind of new normal do you want to create?
In many cultures, including Jews of Jesus’ day and ours, the new day starts with sundown, when we gather at home, share a meal, and rest. Our celebration of Easter can also begin at sundown with the Easter Vigil. This service begins outdoors, when we light a new fire and a new Christ candle. Then worshippers process inside and tell the whole story of God’s saving acts in the world, beginning with creation, pausing with Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses and the Israelites at the Red Sea, then on to Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and others, before climaxing in our proclamation of Jesus Christ resurrected! This is the occasion, in the ancient church, when new Christians were baptized, and the service when they first would partake in Holy Communion. Now, how is God acting in your life, bringing new life in and around you?
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Finally, we arrive at Easter Sunday, the Feast of the Resurrection. For Jesus Christ, God incarnate, God-become-human, did not stay dead, but rose, ending the power of death. After moving through this week of joy and sorrow, we may share in the bewilderment of the women at the tomb, the first witnesses and preachers of the resurrection. An empty tomb is not what they expected. Where is God surprising you? Where is death absent and new life present in surprising ways?
Come, join us in the journey of this week, this Holy Week, the climax of our Christian story. Come and see!
Remember – St. Peter Lutheran Church will be holding our Semi-Annual Meeting today, Sunday, January 17, at 11 a.m. (PST). If you need the Zoom link for this meeting, please email me at email@example.com. I’ll see you there!
On this 10th day of Christmas, I invite you to marvel with me that the Word became flesh – God became a human being, beginning as a baby – and dwelt (and still dwells) among us. God knows – God has experienced – all of what it means to be human, the best and the worst of life. God became human to transform the relationship between us and God, this precious relationship between you and me and all creation and the eternal Word, God-made-flesh.
You may be able to tell – we read John 1:1-18 in worship this morning. This marvelous scripture passage often sparks my imagination and inspires wonder and amazement about God for me. If you’d like to join our worship service for today (or other recent weeks), click “Worship in Advent & Christmas” in the menu tabs at the top or left side of this page.
We are the children of God, called and gathered by the Holy Spirit to be St. Peter Lutheran Church. But as St. Peter Lutheran Church in this time and place, we are also a legal organization – and so we have meetings! Thus our required announcement:
The Semi-Annual Meeting of St. Peter Lutheran Church (rescheduled from November 22) will be held on Sunday, January 17, 2021, at 11 a.m. (PST) via Zoom. A letter about this meeting will be mailed to all members this week. If you have questions about this meeting, please contact me, President Laura, or a member of the council.
Now, in these last few days of Christmas and the beginning of this new year of 2021, pray with me this New Year’s prayer:
Eternal God, you have placed us in a world of space and time, and through the events of our lives you bless us with your love. Grant that in this new year we may know your presence, see your love at work, and live in the light of the event that gives us joy forever – the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Join the St. Peter Lutheran Church for worship this Sunday at 10 a.m. (PST). The worship service will be livestreamed on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/st.peter.spokane.elca) – scroll down until you find the live video. You do not need your own Facebook account to get to our page and worship with us live – if you’re asked for a login, there should be a “not now” option in small print, probably near the bottom of the window.
If you want to worship later, you can find this service on our Facebook page or link directly there from “Worship in Advent” on our menu above. If these directions are confusing, contact me this week and I’ll try to get you connected.
Advent is a time when we wait and watch, wonder and welcome. We remember the coming of the Messiah at Christmas, seek God’s presence with us today, and yearn for the Lord’s coming that will fulfill all of God’s promises, that final coming in the fullness of time.
Worship continues to meet online. It will be live at 10 a.m. PST on each Sunday (click here) and will be posted on this website following the live service. As part of our care for our neighbor, we will be worshipping online until Covid-19 rates decline and the health department guidance changes.
Also this week, St. Peter members should get a call from Intern Pastor Beth Parks and a delivery of an Advent Kit, designed to enrich your practices during this season. If you consider yourself a member of St. Peter but don’t get a call or delivery, please call 509-795-0079 (the intern’s cell), and we’ll get our records updated and your kit delivered.
Seeking a bit of quiet, a time of worship, or a different experience of gathering this Thanksgiving? Join others from around our Northwest Intermountain Synod for this Thanksgiving Worship Service (click here).
May you and all your loved ones have a peaceful Thanksgiving. – Intern Pastor Beth
I have two announcements for all St. Peter Lutheran folks:
#1 – we are returning to only ONLINE worship beginning tomorrow, November 22. This will continue until Covid-19 rates drop and health department guidance changes. I plan to stream worship at 10 a.m. (PT) on Facebook Live (click here). This service will also be available for viewing later.
#2 – our Semi-Annual Meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, Sunday, November 22. This will be held fully online. The Zoom information was included in the letter sent out last week. However, we are planning to meet for only a few minutes; we will confirm a quorum and then postpone ALL BUSINESS until January.
If you have any questions, please contact either President Laura Forslof or Intern Pastor Beth Parks. (Note: if you need a prompt response, do not call the office number (ends -4843) as it is only checked a couple times each week.)
Our Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, has an interesting column in the October Living Lutheran, our ELCA monthly magazine (you can also get their weekly email updates). As we Lutherans often do in October, she reflects on Martin Luther. However, Bp. Eaton does not dwell on the glories of Reformation past or the need for continual reforming now or in the future. Rather, she reminds us of the freedom we have in Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of God’s promises – freedom from and freedom for. I encourage you to read her column here: From the Presiding Bishop.
Coming up, we have two festival Sundays in a row: Reformation Sunday and All Saints Sunday. You are invited to wear red on Reformation Sunday (October 25) and on Reformation Day (October 31). On All Saints Sunday (November 1), we will be remembering our loved ones who have died, especially those who have died in this past year. If you have particular people you want included in our All Saints Day Remembrance, please email or call and share their names.
I have two four updates for the St. Peter Lutheran community this week:
First, our sister in Christ, Helen Pierce, died last Friday. She was 101 years, 8 months YOUNG! Her funeral will be on Saturday, Sept. 26, at 2:30 pm, at Greenwood Memorial Terrace in Spokane. We will be outside, physically distanced, and masks are encouraged but not required since we’re outdoors. All are welcome to attend. Her obituary is here.
Second, I am beginning to hold regular office hours at church on Thursdays, 10 am – 12 noon. You are welcome to stop by during those hours. Please ring the bell by the south door. If you need or want a conversation at another time, please call or email the intern (see our Contact Us page) and we’ll get together – either in person or virtually! I’m looking forward to getting to know more of the St. Peter community.
Third, the Christ In Our Home daily devotional for October-November-December has arrived! Pick one up on Sunday, stop by during office hours on Thursday, or get in touch and we’ll bring it to you.
Finally, the Church honors St. Francis of Assisi on October 4, so that Sunday we will be holding a Blessing of the Animals. If you email or text me a picture of your pet, we will include them in this Blessing. Pictures are due by Thursday, October 1.