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Thursday, August 21, 2014

August 17, 2014

Gospel: Matthew 15:10-28
1st Reading: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
2nd Reading: Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

As many of you know, Camp Odyssey is very close to my heart. I experienced this camp for myself as a teenager in 1991 and it changed my life. It was my first exposure hearing real stories and getting to know people of different races, to be able to share my story as a young woman, and to learn about the daily lives of people in same-gender relationships. Four years ago, I and a group of former campers restarted Camp Odyssey and have run it every summer since. That’s where I was week before last.

The campers are high schoolers from all over Oregon. We fundraise all year to make sure that camp is free to every camper, so that rich or poor, any teen can afford to come. We’re trying to learn from each other, so we need the most broad, diverse group we can get. When the campers first come, they are shy and quiet. They need a lot of encouragement. It reminds me of the gathering of the outcasts in the first reading, “Thus says the Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.”

The campers build trust with each other. The first day is team-building with a challenge course. The campers work together to complete fun tasks, learn to communicate, learn to work together, and build relationships. When we begin in the morning, we barely know each other. By the end of the day, we know who is a problem-solver, who is protective of the vulnerable, who is bossy and impatient, who is easy-going, and we have forgiven ourselves and each other for countless mistakes and moved on. We know we are capable of so much.

The second day we begin learning so many of the skills and vocabulary we’ll need for the rest of the week. We learn that we share so many things in common with each other. We learn there are many differences. We honor both the differences and similarities. We know each other’s lives aren’t easy. We learn about using “I” statements and how to express our feelings. We learn how to really share our story and listen to one another’s stories.

The third day we address race. We share our stereotypes with those of other racial groups. We deal with the prejudice that others have against us. In my group we reflected on our privilege and our responsibility and our guilt. And we see how these prejudices hurt other groups. Now, instead of a stereotype, we see a person, with feelings, and we know we have to work against all the ways society tries to tell us who these people are and dictate their worth.

The fourth day we address gender. The men and boys listen as the girls and women tell their stories of how they have been treated by fathers and uncles and boyfriends and the effect that has had on our lives. The boys share, too, what it is like to live in world where they are expected to hide their emotions, be tough, and participate in violence. We ask for and make commitments to each other to change ourselves and our communities.

The fifth day we confront homophobia. We share and hear stories of rejection, of teens being told it is just a phase, of girlfriends not being welcome at their sweet sixteen party, of violence and hatred, of parents breaking down in tears when they heard, of being thrown out of the house, of self-hatred, of cutting and suicide attempts,. It is heartbreaking and it makes us all want to stand up and create a better world that can value and accept each person.

Camp Odyssey, although not at all religiously affiliated, is a mini-version of the Kingdom of God, to me. And I think of church much the same way. The Kingdom of God is a mix of all kinds of people, all children of God. We all come from different backgrounds and experiences, and in sharing them, we get more of a whole picture.

We come together, at camp and at church, because we see our world and we know it isn’t the way it is supposed to be. This week I especially think of the racial tensions in our country and the focus on mental health and the disease of depression and the symptom of suicide. This world is messed up. We want to be a part of the solution, but we know that we are part of the problem, sometimes. We want to find a way to build a world of mercy and grace.

We come together, at camp and at church, and we get to know each other, sometimes through trust building exercises, or through working together on a project over years, or because of shared experiences. We may at first have preconceived ideas about each other, but we truly begin to see each other as human beings. We share our pain and hurt with each other. We are by each other’s side when we grieve a loss, when we endure our own shortfalls, when are disappointed in each other, when we are at our best, and so on. When church and camp are working right, we see each other not for our outward traits, or based on ideas of what one another is like, but as human beings. Therefore, when someone does something upsetting to us, we can go to them and try to find out the cause of the rift, we can try to understand and forgive. We can share our hurt feelings and be heard. We can know each other’s stories. We can change one another’s lives forever.

But we don’t stop here. Camp is a vision of what life can be like when we trust each other, share our stories, see each other as human, honor our differences and similarities, and truly live loving one another, not loving as a feeling, but as an action. Church is a vision of what this world can be like when we trust each other, welcome everyone, build relationships, share our stories, and truly see each other as human. And all this is to give us the vision and strength to transform our world.

Do we have trust in this world? Do we treat each other as human? Do we honor our differences and similarities? Do we share our stories? Not very often. But seeing how community can work well, can we use the skills we’ve learned to do just that? Yes. And we don’t start with the whole world. Maybe start with your neighbor next door. Maybe start with the person who just moved in down the block. Maybe start with your family or someone you’ve had an argument with.

I love this story of Jesus with the Canaanite woman. Jesus didn’t even see her. What would you do if you had a strange woman yelling after you, everywhere you went? You’d probably ignore her, just like Jesus. What an inconvenience! What would you do if you daughter was ill and no one could do anything for her? You would be persistent. She is in need. Her life is destroyed. All she wants is Jesus’ compassion. All she wants is to be treated like a human being. Jesus is focused on other things. He spouts so automatically the message he’s received from his culture. He’s there for the chosen people. She is nothing but a dog. Why should he have anything to do with her?

She doesn’t shame him. She doesn’t attack him. But she doesn’t give up either.
This woman knows that there is more than enough of God’s compassion to go around. She knows Jesus can help her, if he will only see her. She places herself directly in front of his face so that he will finally see her. He finally sees her and sees her value. He sees her faith is stronger than any of his disciples.

How many of our culture’s messages do we internalize each day that keep us from actually seeing a human being in need in front of us, that keep us from seeing Jesus Christ in our midst. We’ve got dirt on our windows that obscures our vision, messages of who has value and who doesn’t. Every once in a while we have the opportunity to have a light shone on the glass to show us what dirt has collected and that we aren’t seeing clearly anymore. This Canaanite woman is that light for Jesus today. The campers are that light for me every year and I am thankful for the opportunity to see the dirt that’s collected and make a commitment to clean that glass, to see people there instead of stereotypes, to ask people about themselves instead of assuming. And church is the same way. We’re here, admitting the dirt on our windshields in our confession and just by coming here, saying that we’re not complete. We shine a light for each other. We make a commitment to be with people who will shine that light for us, the poor, the imprisoned, the hungry. The scriptures shine a light. Jesus is our light. And we have the chance to wash our windows in the baptismal waters and see anew children of God all around us, even to see ourselves the way Jesus sees us, as precious children.

There is so much going on around us every day. We can’t help every person in need. We can’t stop to hear every story or look in every set of eyes. But are we willing to slowly dismantle the barriers we put up, brick by brick, examine our stereotypes of people and whether they have value or not, treat people like human beings, and give some of our time and compassion to them, as Jesus has for us? When we open ourselves to one another’s humanity, we become more fully human ourselves, we become more compassionate, and God creates through us in those moments the Kingdom of God. God has promised to transform our world ever more into the Kingdom of God through us, our stories, our connections, and our love. The Kingdom of God seems so far away sometimes, yet it is right here in our grasp, so close, so achievable when we take a moment to see a fellow child of God standing before us and to honor that person, to listen, to be affected, to love.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

August 10, 2014 Worship Explained

Worship: Why we do what we do

Sunday: We gather to worship God at least once a week. One of the 10 Commandments is “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it Holy.” Also, God rested on the seventh day. If God needed to, so do we. The seventh day, however is Saturday. We worship on Sunday because it is the day Christ was raised from the dead and because we give our first fruits to God, therefore we give the first day to God.

Liturgy means: “The work of the people” from “leos” meaning “people” and “ergon” meaning “work.” It came to be associated with services in the Church. Some use it to refer to the specific order of worship we follow on a particular day such as “Setting 8” or “Now the Feast.” That is also called the communion setting.

Once Martin Luther translated the Bible into the language of the common people, he was asked to translate and develop an order of worship for the church. He hesitated. He was concerned that once he did that, it would be set in stone and people wouldn’t keep adapting it to their times and places and it wouldn’t make sense anymore. That is the job we have today, to worship in a way that honors our traditions, but also makes sense in a changing world and in our present context.

This is called an “alb” meaning “white” as in the word “albino” to indicate the color of it. The use of traditional vestments by Lutheran pastors helps to draw attention onto their unique role in a service of worship rather than drawing attention to themselves as individuals. This is called a “stole.” It comes from the Bible verse from Matthew "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30"For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."


Prelude: The prelude prepares us to worship God. It is a time of transition from the outside world and pressures, to this Holy time in worship. During the prelude it is important to be respectful of those who are meditating. However, you don’t need to be rude and not introduce yourself to a visitor or say hello to someone nearby. Louder visiting can be done in the entryway or social hall. It is a matter of balance.

Welcome: God welcomes us and we welcome each other. Announcements can be made here that help people more easily participate in worship.

Confession and forgiveness: This grounds us in the reality that we are all in need of God’s love and forgiveness. We confess our sin and receive God’s promised forgiveness so that we can worship with clean slate, unburdened. This is optional.

The Sharing of the peace: As we have been reconciled with God, we are now reconciled with one another. The peace is a time where we share the peace we’ve received from God with one another.

Opening hymn: We sing this hymn to unite the congregation and to help transition us from the world into the mindset to worship God.

Greeting: Receive this greeting as if from God’s own lips. This greeting expresses God’s grace, love, and communion with all creation. It reminds us that we are truly in God’s presence. The greeting reminds of the greetings Paul used in his letters when he wrote to the various churches.

Kyrie: “Kyrie” means “mercy.” It’s use in the church dates back to the 4th century. “Kyrie eleison” means “Lord have mercy.” In the Kyrie, we greet our Lord as people of old greeted a king when he came to their city. One can also say, “Christe eleison,” or Christ have mercy. Part of the words come from Revelation 5:12-13, a vision of angels praising God in the heavens. This is about the way we approach God. I think of the prodigal son, approaching his father’s house, hoping his father would be merciful. Of course his father came out and embraced him and threw him a big party. Mercy also has the same meaning as compassion. We are appealing to God who is compassionate. The Kyrie is optional.

Hymn of Praise: We sing this hymn in thanksgiving to God and to praise God for all God’s gifts. "Glory to God in the highest'' is an ancient song which begins with the angels' Christmas carol (Luke 2:14) and swells into a profound adoration of the Holy Trinity. An alternative is "This is the feast,'' a modern song based on phrases from the Book of Revelation. This hymn is optional and is omitted during Advent and Lent.

Prayer of the Day: This prayer unites us with Christians all over the world, who gather on this day to pray the same or a similar prayer and worship the same God. The prayers are on a three year cycle that goes along with the scripture reading.


Scripture reading: These readings form the backbone of our weekly worship. They shape the selection of songs, prayers, and everything else. The lessons are recommended from a three-year lectionary cycle that seeks to present the breadth and depth of God in Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture. The cycle walks us faithfully through the many important scriptures and keeps us from just selecting the parts we like. That way we encounter not just the comforting passages, but also the ones that challenge us. Except for minor differences, we share a lectionary with Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Missouri Synod Lutherans, and Methodists, scripture readings are to be received as if coming from God’s own mouth which is why we say “Word of God, word of life.”

1st Reading: Usually from the Old Testament.

Psalm: It can be simply read, read responsively, sung, chanted or omitted. A choir anthem here is a modern day psalm.

2nd Reading: From the New Testament, other than the Gospels.

Alleluia verse or Gospel Acclamation: An expression of joy to get us ready to hear God’s word in Jesus Christ. We stand as a sign of respect for God’s word.

Gospel: A reading from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, the stories of Jesus.

Children’s message: This is a relatively late addition to worship and is optional. The Children’s Sermon can be another way for people to clearly hear and receive the good news of God’s love.

Sermon: This is the living address of the Word of God, the scriptures applied to our times. We trust that through the Holy Spirit, the word the preacher speaks will make God’s word come alive in our lives. Listen for the Law and the Gospel. The law reminds us of God’s standards and how we can’t live up to them. The Gospel reminds us that’s why Jesus came, to live up to them and unite us with him and God, giving us new life.

Hymn of the Day: This hymn is meant to reinforce the themes for the day, the lessons, and the message of the sermon.

Creeds: These words express a brief summary of our faith. They emerged in a time of immense conflict and sought to state clearly the beliefs that define the church. We live in the legacy of that early church movement today. It may or may not surprise you that not everyone believes every word of the creeds, but it is a matter of being part of something bigger than ourselves and a jumping off point for exploring and understanding our faith. Creedal statements of what we believe about God are found in Paul’s letters: Romans 1:2-6 and 1 Corinthians 3-8. The creeds are an optional part of worship and can appear in their current forms or in song, such as “I believe, I do believe.” Some congregations or individuals have written their own creeds about what they believe about God.
The ancient meaning of the word “believe” had nothing to do with accepting certain statements as truth or fact. It meant more what “belove” means. It means to treasure and hold close to the heart.
Apostles Creed: The shortest of the creeds. Covers God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. First appeared 390 ad but entered its present form in the early 8th century. When it says, “I believe in the holy catholic church” it has nothing to do with the Roman Catholic Church. Catholic with a big “C” refers to Roman Catholicism. Catholic with a small letter “c” means universal. When we say we believe in the holy catholic church, we mean that the church is bigger than any denomination and that Christ unites all Christians in one family.
Nicene Creed: Issued in 325 by the council of Nicea to defend the faith against controversies. It has been adjusted several times over the years.
Athanasian Creed: A lesser known, longer creed, meant to settle certain controversies about the Trinity and the Incarnation between 381 and 428 ad.

Prayers of the people: These can be responsive prayers or bidding prayers. The prayers start big and move into smaller areas of life and then extend out again. We begin with a petition for the Church, which is considered all-inclusive of everything in the universe. We pray for God’s creation. Then we pray for the nations of the world. Then we pray for those in need. Then we pray for our particular congregation. Finally we move to the world beyond and pray for all who have died.


Offering: We offer what God has first given us. These offerings come from gifts God has given us. We are invited to be cheerful givers, not begrudgingly giving. And we are invited to give of our first fruits, the best of what we have, rather than the excess. It is a chance to take a leap of faith and make a sacrifice, knowing that God will continue to provide. For giving to the general fund the congregation takes the first 10% and tithes it to the synod to benefit the church in Oregon which funds ministries here and they give about 50% to the ELCA who funds ministries around the world. Sometimes children bring an item of food. Once a year, you are asked to make an estimate of your giving for the upcoming year so the church can form a budget and figure out how to cover expenses. The Choir sometimes sings during the gathering of the offering or special music offered and these are considered offerings of the gifts of voice and music. We offer a prayer after the offering.

Offertory: We sing as the gifts are brought forward of the financial contributions and sometimes the offering of the wine and bread for communion. This gives time for the table to be set and to transition into communion.

Great Thanksgiving:

Sanctus: “Holy, holy, holy” are the words of the four living creatures, representing the 4 Gospel writers, in Revelation 4:8. It is a hymn of adoration and is optional.

Eucharistic prayer: Reminds us of our part in God’s story of love.

Words of Institution: From accounts of the last supper in the Gospels.

Lord’s Prayer: The way Jesus taught the Disciples to pray.

Lamb of God: A song to help us join the imagery of the sacrificial lamb with the meal we share and Christ’s sacrifice for us to take away our sin, also optional.

Communion: The combination of God’s promise to be present in this meal, Jesus having participated in it, and the earthly elements of bread and wine, make for a “sacrament.” We’ve got 2 sacraments in the Lutheran church, baptism and Holy Communion. We believe that Christ is truly present in the meal, “in, with, and under the elements.” We don’t believe that we’re sacrificing God or that there is a chemical change, but Jesus died once and for all and gave his body and blood as a sacrifice for us to share in remembrance of him in this meal. We are invited to remember and focus on God’s love for all of us and all the world. We have Holy Communion every Sunday because it is the chief act of worship and something Jesus asked us to do to continue to experience his love in a tangible way.
Occasionally bread or crumbs fall to the floor. In Martin Luther’s time there was a big controversy about only the bread being offered in communion because of fear of spilling God all over. Most Lutherans believe, “If God can get in, God can get out again,” and don’t worry if some spills or crumbs fall. You may just take the bread or wine/grape juice and still get all of God.
Some people cross themselves at Holy Communion. It is in remembrance of our baptism where we were adopted into God’s family when we were “Marked with the cross of Christ forever.” With the right hand, starting with the center of the forehead to the bellybutton, left shoulder to right and back to the center. It is used where there is a cross indicated the hymnal liturgy, for instance on the last page of “Now the Feast and Celebration” for the blessing “May God look on us with favor and + give us peace.” Martin Luther recommended the sign of the cross to begin one’s prayers on arising and retiring.

Post Communion Prayer: A prayer asks that we may carry out in our lives the implications of Holy Communion, that communion would affect us in our daily life.

Post Communion Canticle: Our response of jubilation at the gift of God’s presence in Holy Communion and all that God has done for us.


Blessing: From the Old Testament (Numbers 6:24-26), blessing of Aaron, so that we can then be a blessing to others.

Sending Hymn: To encourage us to go out to our everyday lives and live our faith and God’s love in relationship to others.

Announcements: To share news of the church and to keep people up on what is going on with each other.

Dismissal: A minister speaks words of Dismissal, telling us to "Go in peace. Serve the Lord." in daily life, which is also worshiping God. We respond: "Thanks be to God."

Postlude: Some consider this background music, while others stay and listen to the music being offered. Please be considerate of those listening as you leave.