Monday, June 29, 2009

Reminder: 50 days of prayer

In a post from the end of May, I mentioned that the ELCA Churchwide Assembly is coming, and there has been a request for prayer in the days leading up to it. Starting today!

Voting members will have a lot of hard work and difficult discernment ahead of them, and as our brothers and sisters in Christ, they can always use our prayers!

Some people are concerned about one or another of the issues that will be discussed. Some people aren't all that interested, or hardly even know that there is a church beyond their local congregation. But no matter where we stand, I believe that praying for one another is one of the most faithful and helpful things we can do. When we talk to God, God listens! And when God gets involved, anything is possible. (I think there's something in the Bible about that, even.)
~Pastor Sarah

Saturday, June 27, 2009

More resources for summer Bible study

So, maybe a women's Bible study group isn't your thing. (Or maybe you just can't get enough.) Here are some other resources, from a quick scout around the Internet:

~Pastor Sarah

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Prayers: Women's Bible studies

One of the first things I noticed about this parish is how strong the women's groups are. There are Bible study groups meeting from all four congregations. That's pretty impressive! So this is mostly a prayer of thanksgiving!

Summer is an especially fun time because some of the groups meet together at Berries & Marigolds (muffins and cinnamon rolls, yum), while others will meet in members' homes. This is a great time to get involved if you haven't been attending--you do not have to be a regular member in order to come. (It does help to let the ladies know ahead of time, though.) College students who are home for the summer (or women who are usually working but might have some vacation) would be especially welcome! (Call your church office for dates and times.)

What's really cool is that the entire Bible study for this summer is available online. So if you don't get the magazine or you missed a session, you can jump right in! This summer's study seems like it would even be great for individual devotional reading, if that's more your style or if you can't make it in person.

You can also check out the Lutheran Woman Today blog. They have good taste in blog hosts, don't they?
~Pastor Sarah

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How to blog while on vacation

  1. Write a few posts before going on vacation.

  2. Schedule them to post while you are gone, because blogger can do that.

  3. Go on vacation.
(How many will there be? When will they be posted? There's only one way to find out!)
~Pastor Sarah

Monday, June 22, 2009

Random highlights from Sunday

The following are some random highlights from our "outdoor" service yesterday afternoon.
  1. The baby sparrow with cute, stubby wings that was lurking in the rafters.

  2. The leak in the ceiling, which happened to fall in the perfect location. I've always wondered what it would be like to have a running water baptismal font!

  3. The rain, which we really needed.

  4. That thing where you throw a hula hoop so that it comes back to you.

  5. The men who sang a capella. (With rain accompaniment, of course.)

  6. Singing "How Great Thou Art" in harmony. With really noisy rain, and birds chirping in the background (it goes with the lyrics, get it?).
~Pastor Sarah

Friday, June 19, 2009

This is my 80th post!

It is also, perhaps, a good time to ask: how frequently should I be posting? I seem to be a bit ahead this month, compared to previous months, although this may change in the next couple of weeks if I manage to actually take actual vacation.

I know that there are at least a few people out there who do occasionally visit (other than my sister). If you are just stopping by, what would it take to get you to comment? Do you like shorter posts, or would you prefer longer posts, with more content? (Is there anybody out there from Starbuck reading this? This could be your chance to let me know!)
~Pastor Sarah

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Still no rain

In a last-ditch effort to get some rain, I will now sing (virtually) the Johnny Appleseed grace:
Oh, the Lord is good to me,
and so I thank the Lord,
for giving me the things I need:
the sun and the rain and the appleseed!
The Lord is good to me!
At camp, we used to shout "the sun and the SUN" to drown out "rain" in case anybody forgot and said it. (If you say "the rain", that's supposed to mean it's going to rain, never a desirable thing at camp.) It never actually worked, but it made us feel better.

(Is that random enough for you, Erin?)
~Pastor Sarah

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mission trip update update

Photo by Daniel G DeBlock
- Leiturgia Communications Inc
Within minutes of the last post, the sixth registration walked right into my office. Yay!

Also, just released: photos from synod assembly. (For the doubters, yes, you can see quite a few good shots of Bishop Hanson's stole about which I posted from assembly.) There are a very few pictures of worship services where you can find me if you know exactly where I was sitting, and there are a couple of others where you can see everyone at my table except me, sometimes quite close up. This, in my opinion, makes this the very definition of a good photo gallery from an event I attended.
~Pastor Sarah

Mission trip update

As of now, we have five official registrations and at least one that is about 99% sure. And a couple to a few more that are a strong possibility. So it looks like our summer mission trip is a "go"! (If you're not sure what I'm talking about, I posted about it last week.)

And, of course, anything can happen between now and the end of June, when the late registration period ends. (We just can't be changing the numbers in July. The nice folks who are providing meals need to know what to plan!) So if you or someone you know is interested in participating (or might be talked into being interested), it's not too late! There is even room for college students and other adults who might be willing to donate just a few days of their time.
~Pastor Sarah

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Praying for rain

It seems like every conversation these days comes around to "and we really need some rain" sooner or later. As for myself, I don't much mind that my yard is dry (my neighbors might feel differently), but it's a much bigger deal for farmers. (My basil seems to need something, but I'm not sure if lack of rain would make the leaves turn purplish.)

So it's interesting that this coming Sunday's gospel reading is the story from Mark 4 where Jesus calms the waves during a big storm. It seems a bit ironic, since around here, most folks seem to be hoping for a bit of a storm! It's an interesting twist on the old metaphors--usually we think of storms as times of trial, things to be avoided--but sometimes a good storm is what you need.

I'm not sure if any of this will affect my preaching this week. We'll see.
~Pastor Sarah

Monday, June 15, 2009

Brief report on Synod Assembly

There are lots of things I could say about this year's synod assembly. The worship, as usual, was magnificent and well thought-out. The workshops were good. The dorm rooms have not gotten any better since I left college (although the food was good). And being on the election committee... was probably an honor or something, but it was mostly pretty tedious.

Instead, I think I'll describe one image that I want to take with me. Most people would not be surprised to learn that most of the debate was around the upcoming proposed social statement on human sexuality and related documents. (If you haven't read it, by the way, I recommend that you do. Not just the resolutions, either. The whole thing. There are some helpful FAQs as well.) Not surprisingly, there was a lot of sincere emotion on both "sides" of the debate.

However, at the banquet on Saturday night, I saw people who spoke strongly for certain hotly-debated resolutions and people who spoke strongly against those resolutions--and they were sitting at the same table. If that can still happen, then maybe God is still working here, after all!

(P.S. If you're interested in the other business that happened at the assembly, another synod pastor made a post about the bishop election, and why it matters.)
~Pastor Sarah

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Random commentary from assembly

By a strange coincidence, the fringe on the green stole worn by presiding bishop Mark Hanson at opening worship exactly matches the color of our mission trip registration forms. Coincidence...or perhaps a sign? (As in, "a sign that I have mission trip registration on the brain".)
~Pastor Sarah

Friday, June 12, 2009

Assembly bound

By the time this post automatically publishes (coolest invention ever), I will be on my way to synod assembly at Gustavus Adolphus. I have fond memories of Gustavus, which was my second choice (after Kenyon, which won out), and probably would've been my first choice if I had known I was going to go into physics. I got a fantastic education in the Kenyon physics department, but I can't help but wonder what it would have been like!

Aside from having to get up way too early to get there, I am looking forward to synod assembly. It's a great opportunity to meet up with old friends, and maybe make some new ones. Maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll have internet access, even. (I'm not making any promises.)
~Pastor Sarah

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Blog improvement

I've been experimenting lately us ways of finding images to add to posts. This makes the blog look more appealing (I hope) and also pleases my sense of aesthetics.

The best is probably to use my own photographs; maybe I'll spend some time taking "stock" photos of various church-related things to use as illustrations? My digital camera is...well, it is a digital camera, and that's about all you can say about it. So getting quality photos is mostly a matter of persistence and sheer luck. I have, for example, no actual zoom.

(My current stock of photographs consists almost entirely of pictures of yarn and knitting.)

There are lots of photos and images out there on the Internet. I'm trying to figure out the best way to find and use them. It's important to me that I respect copyrights and give proper credit--it's way too easy out here to steal someone else's intellectual property, and I don't want to be doing that. "Everyone does it" is not sufficient excuse in my book--as Christians, and as people of integrity, we have a responsibility to respect the rights of artists and photographers! (And I can't exactly get up on Sunday and preach a sermon on "Thou shalt not steal" if I'm stealing images to use on my blog! Not that I was planning to preach on the ten commandments. Unless they happen to come up in the lectionary, or the Spirit so moves me.)

So I guess this post is something of a disclaimer: I will always try to be above-board in my use of other people's images. But if there are ever any concerns, please let me know, so I can correct the situation.
~Pastor Sarah

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Possibly a sign of the apocalypse

This may possibly be a sign that I have completely lost my mind, but today I actually visited facebook (just the front page, okay?). I have always resisted facebook, and related sites, for two reasons:
  1. The whole idea is that you are supposed to use your real name, and connect your online life with your offline life in every conceivable way. So people who know you in real life can find you online...and people who know you online can find you in real life. Yerrgh. The whole idea makes my skin crawl.

  2. I don't need anything else to get sucked into, and then forget for a while, and then feel guilty about.
But sometimes the idea of being able to connect with youth and young adults in the parish seems awfully appealing. Otherwise...we have rather a long calling list, and not everyone ever even gets phone messages, these days.

Any thoughts? Advice? Are there any veterans out there who might be willing to hold my hand? (Or possibly bring me back to my senses?)
~Pastor Sarah

Summer mission trip news!

Have you heard about our parish's Summer Mission Trip? Now is the time to be signing up, volunteering to help, and encouraging the youth in your life to sign up. All youth who will have finished grades 7 through 12 are invited to participate (you may also invite your friends). The dates for the trip are Sunday, July 12 through Wednesday, July 15.

This year’s mission site is right here in Starbuck! We’ll be staying in parish churches and doing service projects here in our own community as we explore what God is doing, not just in far-away places, but also right here in our neighborhood. Yes, this saves money and makes transportation a whole lot easier--but that's not why we are doing it. We are staying local this year because this really is one of the most exciting mission fields in the world. This is a great opportunity for us to grow in our faith, strengthen our relationships, and learn to see our own community with new eyes.

(The regular registration deadline is this Sunday, June 14. It only costs $25! If you register after that, the cost will be slightly higher.)
~Pastor Sarah

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Prayers: Synod assembly

As I mentioned the other week, it's assembly season--as in, synod assemblies, leading up to Churchwide Assembly in August.

Our Southwestern Minnesota Synod's assembly is this coming weekend. Since we have a rather large synod (in terms of number of congregations), we also have rather a large group gathered for assembly! Prayers are much appreciated as we prepare to go about some of the business of being the church.

This will be my first year as a voting member instead of a visitor. I liked being a visitor--all the fun and none of the work! But this year I will have to follow the proceedings a little more closely. At past assemblies I have always been impressed by the faithfulness of the group that is gathered--not everyone is an expert on things church-related, but everyone is striving, with much prayer, to be faithful in carrying out and discerning God's work.

If you've never been to a synod assembly, I highly encourage going! You will likely come away with a new appreciation for and understanding of this big, crazy church we are part of. If you happen to live near where the assembly is taking place, they are usually looking for local volunteers to help out. Otherwise, you can go as a visitor, although most churches are always looking for someone new to go as a voting member.
~Pastor Sarah

Friday, June 5, 2009

Prayers: Graduation

Commencement is tonight for the local high school. Congratulations to all the new graduates! I remember that time in my strange it felt, not quite real. And how I was standing in the very front (on the stage, no less), and my cap went flying right off my head, and I had to go and have it pinned on, but fortunately nobody noticed because they were watching the rest of the procession.

Graduation is a crazy and exciting and confusing time, filled with events to attend and all these different things you are supposed to be feeling--happiness? relief? nerves? pride? panic? Someone's mom will probably cry, and probably someone will feel the need to goof off while walking across the stage (although they have been sternly warned not to), and when it's over, no one will be quite sure what to do with the cap and gown (it's not like you ever wear it again).

So, for everyone who is graduating tonight, or who will be graduating soon, or who has just recently graduated...lots and lots of prayers! May you look back, sometime--maybe not right away, but eventually--and see what an amazing thing God was doing (and is doing) in your life.
~Pastor Sarah

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Happy June!

Wow! June has just begun, and it feels like we're already off to a running start! How quickly things seem to run at this time of year--the school year and the Easter season are wrapping up, but summer activities and new directions are just getting started.

psalm 23
Originally uploaded by khrawlings
This morning I was doing a Hebrew word-study (of all things) and I thought I would share one of the tools I was using, because it is so cool! The NET Bible is a free online Bible using a new English translation that is generally pretty solid. But what I really like about it is that it has tons and tons of translators' notes, even making such exotic topics as text criticism accessible to someone who hasn't studied the original languages. And now, if you click on a verse number, you get a BibleWorks-like comparison of translations, including Greek and Hebrew and links to concordances.

I happen to think that exploring biblical languages and translations is The Coolest Thing Ever, but even if you aren't as interested in languages as I am, this is a useful tool for devotional study, or for whiling away those extra hours that come up when you're, say, transitioning between being at college and being back home in the summer.

(It even tells you how to pronounce the Hebrew. How cool is that?)
~Pastor Sarah

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More prayers for Pentecost

In my sermon for the Day of Pentecost, I referenced the practice of praying the Lord's Prayer in different languages. Simultaneously. I first experienced this when I spent a semester at a church in Montreal, where it was customary, in the student group, to pray the Lord's Prayer in whatever language you knew best. This is a beautiful practice, although also a bit confusing when you do it for the first time! It is a wonderful thing to be able to pray in your own language, while also praying with others who prefer a different language.

This reminded me of a great web resource. The Convent of the Pater Noster has this fantastic site where you can look up the Lord's Prayer in, as of now, 1,449 languages and dialects. Many (not all) of these languages are presented with a photo from the Convent, located on the Mount of Olives, which has plaques showing the prayer in many different languages. It even has a few in constructed languages (Esperanto is the only one with its own plaque).

So, if you know another language, you can look it up, and perhaps gain a little more insight into speakers of that language who are also our brothers and sisters in Christ. And when you are done with serious studying...there's always Elvish or Klingon.
~Pastor Sarah