Beginning with the February, 2021, edition, all Pilgrim newsletters will be available via the Pilgrim blog.
January 2021 Newsletter
What does a pastor write about in their last newsletter article? After sharing about 250 pastoral musings in Pilgrim newsletters over the past 22 years, I will do here what I’ve done for years: reflect on some details of our shared ministry and about the ministry of the gospel in our context.
"There are many doorways in our lives. The season of Advent is one of those doorways, a time of beginning again, in the rhythms of the Christian calendar. This year, this holy season is so very different, as we journey even more deeply into what Covid and separation and longing mean for us and how they are re-shaping so many dimensions of this festival season. I am grateful that we are making this journey together. I pray that we will — each and together — discover new spiritual lessons in this season. And that we will receive the good news of the gospel, as if for the first time, that the light and grace of God made manifest in God Emmanuel — God with us — is greater than any unknowns ahead."
"I am once again, as if for the first time, aware of the ways we have, as a country, managed to deny the tragically destroyed lives of indigenous people who called our lands home long before Minnesota became a state or the United States a country. I had the privilege of participating in the Sacred Sites Tour in mid-October, as we visited sacred places in Native American local history and heard amazing and horrible stories associated with those places. And I wondered: how is that so many of us never knew these things?"
We look forward to continuing to gather together, at the same time, for worship via Zoom, which will enable us to see each other on the screen, share joys and concerns by typing in the chat section (in morning worship), and stay for “coffee” time following worship. For those unable to attend at 9:30 am, a worship recording will be available later.
We don’t know if we are at the beginning of the end of this COVID journey, or the end of the beginning of this COVID journey. But we DO know that Christ is always beckoning us toward new life, for ourselves in our present struggles, and for the whole world that God so loves. Following Jesus is about life made new, life resurrected, a journey toward glory now and everlastingly….
"The pandemic has scattered us from our communal rituals. But that isn’t where our journey should end.
….Jesus gathered people (especially around tables), but he also scattered them. Early in the Gospels, Jesus sent his newly recruited disciples out to heal and cast out demons. They didn’t have much in the way of supplies, and in two accounts, they’re sent not in pairs, but entirely alone."
Jesus was certainly a naturalist. He observed patterns in nature, and saw the interconnectedness between plants, trees, birds, ecology and brought these observations into his teachings and parables. Often Jesus taught in small, intimate times of field-trip-like experiences, using nature to teach about God and God's kingdom. Pilgrim seeks to emulate these experiences along with our study of four parables during the month of July.
This extraordinary journey continues, each step along the way carrying us on paths we never imagined, even as our liturgical season on this side of the Day of Pentecost is called “ordinary time.” Nothing ordinary about these days. So, we’re offering a special frame at the beginning of our journey through “ordinary time,” with a worship series focused on hope in this month of June, inviting us into the extraordinary nature of these days.
I know that our own losses and the needs of so many in our communities are of many kinds in these days. Together we are finding ways to talk and pray together about these things. I know also that it can be a challenge to claim the limitlessness of faith right now. We will seek to explore the good news of the risen Christ and our present faith journeys of sorrow and love in the Easter sermon series upcoming, with this frame: “Staying Home, Healing Widely.” Together, we will reflect on longing, wayfinding, connecting, and changing, in the context of some of the scripture texts of this Easter season. I agree with Pastor Everhart: “Our work is ever before us, the work of tending the body of Christ…. We will be surprised when that work turns out to be something different than what we prepared for, on a scope we have not yet conceived.”
Music is not cancelled. It will just sound a little different for a while. Church is not cancelled. Worship will just look a little different for a while. Relationships will not be cancelled. They will just feel a little different for a while. Faith will not be cancelled. It will just grow in different ways for a while. Love will not be cancelled. In fact, we will need more of it for a while. Grace and peace be with you all as we find our way in this new wilderness.
People are listening for our stories: about what happens in this faith community and the difference it makes, as well as our stories of why we are a part of a church, this church, and this ancient and boldly countercultural faith tradition — of meaning making and spiritual practice, of worshipping and praising God — a faith tradition called Christian, centered in the creating God, the life-giving Spirit, and the Word made flesh named Jesus, whom we are always meeting again, as if for the first time.
Before we get to Lent, there’s the cold month of February. It seems like a great time to bring the rich liturgical connections of the movie Frozen 2 into our worship life. As we did in 2014 with the movie Frozen in worship, Vacation Bible School, and more, we will draw upon Frozen 2 as inspiration for worship, in this case, for a new communion liturgy (in a similar way that we did with the musical Hamilton, not so long ago). I have been fascinated to learn about the ancient liturgical grounding of one of the musical themes in this movie. So, I’m calling this new communion setting: “From Ancient Grounding into the Unknown.” The movie song “Into the Unknown” is one of the places where this ancient connection is particularly evident.
Advent arrives with December’s calling card in her hand this year. We move from Thanksgiving right into Advent anticipation and awaiting, this holy season of reflection leading to the Christmas season.