Sunday, May 31, 2009

Reflections for Pentecost

This year, as I was looking at the Pentecost reading from Acts 2, I was struck with the strangeness of it all. Far from the picture-perfect little scene I usually imagine, this time it struck me as rather chaotic and even a little frightening.

If you just take verses 2 and 3, you get:
And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
Sounds kind of scary, doesn't it? Can you imagine being there, and experiencing that? Today we might suppose a bomb had gone off. But of course we know what is happening:
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
But what if we didn't know what was happening?

How many times does the work of the Spirit in our lives look like this? At first, it seems disruptive and even frightening. Perhaps all we can see is the noise and confusion. Only later, or perhaps with someone else's help, can we tell that God was doing something amazing.

If you ignore the snow, this photo of the sunset seen through Immanuel's windows looks a lot like Pentecost, don't you think?
~Pastor Sarah

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Top 3 Reasons for Celebrating the Vigil of Pentecost (49)

  1. The liturgical red.

  2. See #1.

  3. See #2.
There are lots of other terribly good reasons...but I keep being distracted by the color. Really, what other reason do we need? There aren't that many red festivals.
~Pastor Sarah

Thursday, May 28, 2009

June newsletter (47)

This year, the entire Easter season will have come to an end by June 1, with the Day of Pentecost falling on Sunday, May 31. This completes the first major segment of our church year, full of excitement and major festivals—Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter.

We now begin that other part of the church year, the “Sundays after Pentecost”, also known as “Ordinary Time”. (Remember, it’s called “ordinary”, not because it’s boring or average, but because it’s counted, as in “the 2nd Sunday”, “the 3rd Sunday”, and so on.) There are few major festivals to break the rhythm of week after week, Sunday after Sunday. And so, freed from exciting distractions, we are able to notice the work of the Spirit among us in quieter ways, as we go about the regular business of our lives.

At the same time, we are also moving into what I think of as “Assembly Season”. Across the country, synods have already begun to gather for yearly assemblies—our Southwestern Minnesota Synod will meet June 12-14. This year, all four of our congregations are planning to send voting members. Although it seems ordinary and commonplace to us, our presence all by itself is a sign of hope in our region, where many other congregations are considering entering into parish relationships, some for the first time.

This year is especially important because it’s also a Churchwide Assembly year. As the entire ELCA prepares to gather in Minneapolis in August, our Presiding Bishop has asked that we all spend some time in prayer for 50 days before the assembly, beginning June 29. Some sample prayers will follow in this newsletter; more suggestions are available at And I figure, why wait for June 29? Why not start now? Those of us who will be at synod assemblies will also appreciate prayers for wisdom and discernment.

Some of the business conducted will be routine—and, yes, even boring. Some of it will be more exciting, and will need extra prayer support—you may even hear about it on the news. All of it is about of how we try to live together as God’s people, called to be saints but also knowing that we are still sinners!

And may God’s love and peace be with us all, in this and every season.
~Pastor Sarah

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

And 46.

...which does sort of raise the question: what random thing am I going to ramble on about after the 50 days of Easter are over? Weeks after Pentecost? Doesn't have quite the same appeal, to me.

I suppose there are the "50 Days of Prayer" leading up to Churchwide Assembly. Of all the various suggestions I have heard and seen for getting reading for this year's assembly, this is probably the most helpful: that we pray.

Of course, then I would be setting a pattern, and then I'd have to keep track of 50 days of something else...
~Pastor Sarah

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Today is...

...well, it's still Easter. In fact, it's the 40th day of Easter, which means it is also the Ascension of Our Lord.

A lot of congregations don't celebrate the Ascension all that much, partly because it always falls on a Thursday, and who has church on Thursday? (Well, my seminary did, but that was on purpose, because no one had to be at church anywhere else on that day.) Some communities will choose to celebrate the ascension on the next Sunday (i.e. this coming Sunday), but it's not all that common, at least not in most Lutheran circles that I'm aware of. There isn't even an extra page for it in my "Pastor's Desk Diary" from Thrivent, although a search of reveals 64 congregations named "Ascension". There's even an island named after it.

So what is with this weird-seeming festival? Why don't we celebrate it more often? Or...why do we celebrate it at all? Isn't it a little hard to take seriously the image of Jesus literally rising up into the sky--like he's, what, up there in orbit somewhere? Or maybe on the other side of the moon? Our cosmology has changed a bit since the New Testament ascension accounts were written.

And yet. Without the ascension, the event that started with the crucifixion and the resurrection isn't complete. The Apostles' Creed still includes the line, "he ascended into heaven". And that's important, so important that we'll be celebrating it this Sunday. Why? Come and see!
~Pastor Sarah

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

By the way, Happy Easter!

No, I have not forgotten.
~Pastor Sarah

Monday, May 18, 2009

Prayers: Summer camps

Summer camps, particularly church camps (I don't really get non-church camps), have been near and dear to my heart since I first went to Lutheran Memorial Camp the summer after fifth grade. My sense of call to ordained ministry developed most clearly out of my three summers on camp staff. (Fortunately, the "memory" of any camp staff being what it is, the current website has almost no pictures of me whatsoever.) Which is not to say that every camp counselor becomes a pastor--but there are more of us than you might realize.

Most of the camps, if they are anything like my experience, have pretty much lined up their summer staffs right now, or they are in the process of making the last few hires. (That said, I seem to recall a couple of times when we were still looking at a spot or two to fill by the first week in June, so if this is what you want to do with your summer, you might just be a God-send for some camp.) They will be getting ready for the summer and especially for the critical days of staff training. This is an intense (and richly blessed) time, so many prayers are needed!

Our parish relates mostly to Luther Crest in Alexandria, which in my experience so far seems to be a great camp. We also sometimes do things through Mount Carmel, which is practically next door to Luther Crest, and focuses on different sorts of ministry. (They just started a new blog with daily Bible readings, which is supposed to get through the Bible in three years. With pictures and artwork and music selections. Nice. They seem to have the same problem I do with the comments, though.)
~Pastor Sarah

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Prayers: "First We Have Coffee"

I usually try not to post more than once in the same day (it's inefficient--why post twice when I can post once and then schedule the next post for tomorrow), but this is too good to wait. This one is purely a prayer of thanksgiving.

Over the past year, some of the men at Fron have started getting together about twice a month to help out with projects around the church. (Like, say, putting the air conditioners back in the offices for the summer, which they just did.) They always have coffee first, and then get to the work projects--hence the name, which may or may not be inspired by this book by the same title. They seem to be having a great time and they bring a delightful energy to the place whenever they are around.

When I first arrived here last summer, I noticed that while the women's groups were very active, there weren't a lot of men's group. Then this group came together, and they are making a big step towards filling that vacuum. They are a great bunch of guys and are even willing to share their coffee with their young female pastor, which is awfully generous of them. It seems like a little thing, but I give thanks for them in my prayers on a regular basis.
~Pastor Sarah

Prayers: K.I.C.K. (almost summer edition)

Last Wednesday was the last official week of K.I.C.K., our new after-school program. This afternoon, the kids are still coming to rehearse and perform a show about Jonah. I never get to see what they are doing in the music/drama portion of our afternoons, so I'm really looking forward to it. They are a great bunch of kids and I'm sure they will do a fantastic job.

At the same time, this is a great moment to stop and pray for each of the kids who have been coming. Many of them I will see over the summer at church or at Bible school or even just around town, but I will miss our weekly gatherings.

Prayers are also appreciated by our adult leadership, as we figure out what was good that we want to continue and what we want to work on, and generally focus on how God is calling us to move this ministry forward.
~Pastor Sarah

Monday, May 4, 2009

How to develop a favorite color

As I was walking to the office this morning, wearing my favorite red coat, I thought about how unfortunate it is that most adults no longer claim a favorite color (at least, not that makes any difference). It's a lot of fun having a favorite color, and it's a great way to improve your mood or sustain a good mood. But for some reason (probably because it seems frivolous and unnecessary), most adults don't really have a favorite color--or if they do, they don't admit it. This study on color preferences is kind of fun, but you have to consider the fact that people were actually asked to identify their favorite color, and apparently were not given an option for "uh, not really".

So, just for fun (and in the spirit of enjoyment of God's marvelous creation), here is my three-step plan for developing a favorite color. For this to work, you just have to pick a color that you don't actually dislike. It helps if it's not too terribly rare and if you have at least some clothes that match it (even better if it's a color that actually looks good on you, as that will always make you smile). I have never never found color preference quizzes or personality tests to be particularly helpful, but if you like that kind of thing, go for it. Or, if you like to be contrary, pick one that you absolutely disagree with.

Then, this is what you do:
  1. First, practice noticing your favorite color. Whenever you see it and happen to think of it, say to yourself, "hey, that's my favorite color!" It helps if you can smile a little at the same time (maybe you will be smiling at the sheer silliness of this exercise, but that's a start).

  2. Then, start making small decisions based on your favorite color. If it doesn't make much difference one way or the other, but one of the options happens to involve your favorite get the point. This works well for things like what color binder to put your report in or which coffee mug to choose.

  3. As you get more confident, mention your favorite color in conversation, just once in a while, as it happens to come up. "Oh, you like my earrings? They're my favorite color!" By the time other people start to know what your favorite color is, it will be pretty well established.
By the time you have made your way through all three phases, you will likely have developed a genuine attachment for your new favorite color, and you will have one more reason to smile every day. :)

*Results not guaranteed. I am making this up as I go along.
~Pastor Sarah