Wednesday, December 31, 2008

See you next year!

We used to get a big kick of of saying that on the last day of school before Christmas break. "See you next year!" Like it was going to be a long, long time. I even remember, it must've been 1989, when we said "see you next decade!" (In 1989, nobody was asking, "does the new decade begin in 90 or 91?" Only people who graduated in 2001 ask this kind of question, it seems. The class of 2000 was way cooler.)

So, in the absence of anything more useful to say today, see you next year! (Oh, and Merry Christmas!)
~Pastor Sarah

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

January newsletter

This is a season for surprises. (The first surprise might be that, if you are reading this in the very beginning of January, Christmas is not yet over! It lasts for twelve days, remember?) Hopefully, for you, they have been mostly good surprises, like a free day off from school, rather than bad surprises, like getting your car stuck in the snow.

This is also a season for making plans. There are parties to prepare, family visits to schedule, and all the the business and busy-ness of Christmas and New Year’s. Now, as we begin a new calendar year, it is only natural to consider what might happen in the year to come, and to try to plan accordingly.

But because this is winter and we live in Minnesota (as I am learning), sometimes these two elements (plans and surprises) work together. Our plans are interrupted. Sometimes there is a snow storm, and we have to try to reschedule the Christmas program (again). Sometimes the storms are less literal, but just as real—a death in the family (either recent or remembered), or even just a little touch of a cold that keeps us from enjoying the holidays as fully as we had hoped.

In the midst of all that, in both the celebrations and the chaos, this is also the season when we remember that God often works in surprising ways. God often interrupts our plans and surprises our expectations. So instead of a mighty king, God comes to us as a tiny, vulnerable baby. Instead of a palace, he is born in a stable. His parents are nobody important, and his first visitors are poor, disreputable shepherds.

But the biggest surprises are yet to come. No, not the wise men, although their visit is surprising, since it demonstrates that this child is for everyone, even foreigners (even us).

The biggest surprise of this season, and of every season, is that God becomes human for us—and this will lead, surprise of surprises, to the cross, where the same Jesus Christ who was born in Bethlehem will die for our sake. And from the cross comes yet another surprise: the empty tomb!

This greatest of all surprises interrupts our plans just as surely as winter’s first big snow storm. Everything is changed. Glory to God in the highest heaven!

May God's love and peace be with you—and a Merry Christmas and Blessed Epiphany, too!

~Pastor Sarah

Monday, December 29, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Yes, it is still Christmas. Yes, there really are twelve days. And yes, I intend to celebrate all of them.

My New Year's resolution is to actually post on this blog more regularly. I don't remember ever having had a New Year's resolution, unless you count the kind of things one always promises at the start of a new semester ("I will keep up with the readings for ethics class", "I will not write every paper at the last possible minute", etc.). So I don't know how it will go. However, for a start, I have decided to be less hard on myself with respect to what I actually write about. Sometimes, a brief chatty note (like this one) will have to do.

~Pastor Sarah

Monday, November 24, 2008

Almost December

As we move into the season of Advent, we will be hearing the familiar Christmas story again and again and again, told in many different ways. If you’re like me, different parts of that story stand out for you at different times.

For me, right now, the thing I keep coming back to is this: Mary was probably about fourteen years old. She was “only” a teenager! She wouldn’t be considered a particularly responsible or trustworthy person by ancient or modern standards. Yet she was chosen to bear God’s only Son. So Mary could only praise the God who chose to work through her (see Luke 1:46-55).

I just spent part of a busy weekend with some of our youth who are about the same age as Mary. There were four brave youth from our parish who traveled with me to our Synod’s Junior High Youth Gathering in Willmar. This is an enormous event, one of the biggest in the entire ELCA, so big that it has to be divided into two separate nights. With about eight hundred other youth and adult leaders, we danced to the music of the band, laughed along with the speaker, shared worship and prayers, and even maybe learned a few things about Jesus. Most of all, though, we saw that the God who chose Mary two thousand years ago is still working in the lives of young people today—both on a large scale (did I mention there were over eight hundred of us?) and in each individual voice giving praise to God.

Of course, you don’t have to go to Willmar to see God working in the lives of youth in our parish. On just a typical, ordinary week, you will find youth and adults together in Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, Wednesday night Confirmation classes, and our new after school program, K.I.C.K. In the coming months, there will be many more opportunities specifically for youth, including a retreat at Luther Crest for our senior high youth in January and the 30 Hour Famine at the end of February.

This Advent, as we await Christ’s return and remember the miracle of his incarnation, we also witness his transforming power at work right in our own community. To me, right now, that is especially evident in our youth, as they participate in our shared ministry. Maybe you see Christ at work most obviously in a different place. Maybe you're having trouble seeing him at all right now. But Christ is also working in each of us, by the gift of his Spirit in our baptisms, even when we seem unlikely choices to be God’s servants.
~Pastor Sarah

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Reflections on Reformation red

I thoroughly enjoyed Reformation Sunday, which is always one of my favorite occasions in our church year. I love the opportunity to be really, completely, totally Lutheran, to sing “A Mighty Fortress is our God” and talk about Martin Luther. Lutheran history, especially around the time of the Reformation, is fascinating.

But mostly, on Reformation Sunday, it makes me smile to see a church full of people wearing red. It’s bright, it’s cheerful—and yes, it happens to be my favorite color. Maybe you enjoyed wearing Reformation red, too—or maybe you were just wondering what on earth was going on (or maybe you were at a church that hasn't picked up this particular tradition).

I used to always ask, “why red for Reformation?” Red is often used to represent the blood of the martyrs, but that doesn’t quite seem to fit. But eventually, I realized that red is the liturgical color for another occasion, as well—it’s the color for Pentecost, the day when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit in the form of wind and tongues of flame. (Red is also the liturgical color for ordinations, which turns out to be another Holy Spirit reference.)

On Pentecost, the color red reminds us of the fire of the Spirit—and that’s what it does on Reformation Sunday, as well. We take this opportunity to reflect on the many ways that the Holy Spirit has worked in the church. We celebrate the activity of the Spirit during the Reformation, working through Reformers like Martin Luther to call God’s people to renewed faithfulness. We also celebrate the activity of the Spirit today, calling Lutheran congregations in Starbuck to form CrossWind Parish in order to better serve God’s mission in our community--and working in many other ways, too many to count, sometimes even when we least expect it.

So when I see red on Reformation Sunday, I always smile, and it’s not just because I’m seeing my favorite color! It’s also because I am reminded that the Holy Spirit is still at work. Even as the season turns colder and the snow starts to fall (yes, that happened this week as well!), the fire of the Spirit comes to us again and again, calling us to renewed faithfulness and new life.
~Pastor Sarah

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hey, it's Thursday!

How quickly this week has gone! It's Thursday already! Where does the time go?

Pastor Paul and I were able to spend the first part of this week at our synod's Fall Theological Conference in St. Cloud. I always enjoy synod events because they give us a chance to connect with friends and colleagues from across our region--but also because they remind me that we are part of a church that is much larger than just our little community. I am loving Starbuck, and God is doing some exciting things through the congregations in our town and parish--but through our ties to the synod, the ELCA, and beyond, we are part of something much, much bigger. I love that about the church--there is always more to it than meets the eye.

One of the things I learned this week is that there are a number of pastors in our area who have figured out this whole blogging thing (and they've been at it for a while). So, if you are interested in more reflections and news from Southwestern Minnesota, check out some of these:

~Pastor Sarah

Friday, October 17, 2008

Give to God the things that are God's

This week, I've been reading about hunting. This coming Sunday will be Hunters' Sunday in our parish, and we are encouraging everyone to come to church in their best camouflage and orange gear. I am not a hunter, and I don't know a whole lot about hunting, so...I've been reading.

One of the things that I've noticed is that there seems to be a certain unexpected kinship between hunting and my favorite leisure activities (knitting and spinning). There is a lot of time for quiet reflection--for some that sounds hopelessly boring, while others will cherish those moments. There are exciting moments (okay, I admit that turning a heel on a sock does not sound nearly as exciting as sighting your first deer), but if that excitement is the only part you enjoy, you are going to be bored most of the time.

Our gospel reading for this week includes the great line, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:20). The point is not so much about whether or not we should pay taxes. It has more to do with recognizing God as the true source of all that we are and all that we have. "The things that are God's" include much more than just our coins--they include literally everything. Our whole lives are formed according to God's gracious gifts to us. Even our leisure time.

So what does this look like? For a hunter, perhaps it comes during those moments of quiet reflection. That time can be a prayer, in appreciation for the beauties of God's creation. It doesn't have to be a constant internal monologue, either--sometimes the most profound prayer is the one you pray by simply sitting still, listening.

For you, maybe it's not hunting. Maybe it's not knitting, either. But whatever it is that you do this week--hanging out with friends, singing in a choir, sports or other physical activities, even simply studying--that can be an opportunity to think of God, who makes all these things possible.

~Pastor Sarah

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hello and welcome!

Hi there! I'm Pastor Sarah, the new pastor at CrossWind Lutheran Parish in Starbuck.

Pastor Paul has been communicating by email with students in our parish. Since I'm new, I thought I would try something new. This blog is another way for us to stay in touch with our members and friends who have moved away from our area--especially for those of you who are students.

If you like, you are welcome to subscribe to this blog (there's a link at the bottom of the page), but at the least I encourage you to bookmark this page so that you can check in from time to time. You are also welcome to leave comments (it's a blog, after all), and I currently have it set up so you can comment without needing to register. I would love to hear from you! Please share the news with your friends and family members from our area (or even those who aren't from our area).

What would you like to see here? Please let me know if you have any suggestions or insights. (Here's a start: Any really good ideas for a name for this blog?)
~Pastor Sarah