by Pastor Bernt
It’s a good opportunity to look back on what’s happened since Advent, and to look forward to the forty days of Lent leading to Easter. Maybe “happy” doesn’t seem to be the right word for Lent, but (thinking of our forums on happiness this Fall) I find myself looking forward to the simple joy of drawing closer to God and one another, even if the way of Lent leads through the wilderness and the cross.
But first: December and January! They whirl by fast. I want to pause, to notice and appreciate some of what we’ve seen:
A full house at the St Lucia Festival. Angela, Margaret and so many others make it fun (dancing!) and beautiful. This is one event that seems to be drawing neighborhood kids and families (and not just Swedes …). A few visitors also came drawn to what they felt to be timely theme of “Peace” at Lessons and Carols. One of you appreciated that this wasn’t a “cookie cutter Lessons & Carols service.” I enjoyed hearing how Luçik had the saxophone quartet accompany the choir.
Most of you do experience one of our beautiful Christmas Eve services. But some of you may not have noticed that at 8:30 recently, there were two services where not just most of the liturgy but all the music was led by youth. Angela and Todd’s son Sam did an inspiring job improvising bluesy gospel on guitar!
I am grateful for what Rich Schwerin and Julie Weiss have done to lead us outdoors, and more recently in leading us in assembling relief kits for Lutheran World Relief. John Allured has taken up new roles with the synod, and works hard to help us find ways to be a welcoming congregation in this new era of immigration policy. Don and Jill Knuth, for his birthday, shared the entire book of Revelation with engaging music and original art to an assembly of scholars and engineers from around the world. Kate and I were inspired to witness this Christian witness.
We could go on. I know folks don’t always like the attention. I also know there’s so much excellent and steadfast work that goes unseen. Just one of many possible examples: Joyce and Vince have committed great time and energy wading through complicated new responsibilities as Financial Secretary and Treasurer, as we transition to new software, managing another rental house, new forms of giving and so on.
Transition: that’s a word I associate with Lent. The forty days of Lent recall the forty years Israel spent in the wilderness, a transition between the thrill of deliverance from Egypt and courageous steps forward into the Promised Land. I try to remind myself that we as a congregation are just several years into a major transition, from a long pastorate to a clergy couple, to changes in the Silicon Valley, and lots of smaller transitions that can be … big! Recently, Julia Ball moved out of state. I’m appreciating what she did here, and working on ways to keep the kids involved at the Easter Vigil in her absence.
And then there’s also all the changes in our personal lives, those your pastors know about and those we don’t. And, in our country! In the between-state of the wilderness, Israel was “tested,” learning to trust God in all things. They found joy even before the reached their destination. “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,” we hear in Psalm 25 (the first Sunday of Lent).
I appreciate your faith in God’s love and in this community. From the numbers I’ve seen so far, it appears we have met our goal of increased giving for 2017. We are finding our way forward in compassion for people in need, witness to the gospel of Christ, inspiring music and worship. God goes ahead of us, leading the way.
FLC’s concern for migrants (especially minors) through AMMPARO, our history with sanctuary and commitment to being a welcoming congregation has led us to connect with the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. An opportunity is opening up for us to unite our efforts with another Palo Alto congregation and accompany a migrant family in need in our area.
Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity’s Nueva Esparanza program is a collaborative initiative of individuals, faith communities, and partner organizations seeking to respond to the needs of recently arrived minors and families, and individuals released from detention who require support, housing, and resources. Their hope is to offer the resources, passion, and presence of faith communities in direct accompaniment with our migrant neighbors.
Whether you’re just curious to know more or think you might want to get involved, please join us to learn more! We have begun to form a small accompaniment team, and would be open to more participation. Contact Pastor Bernt for more info.
Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity is a faith-rooted, state-wide organization working at the intersection of immigrant justice and criminal justice reform. Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity upholds the belief that every person is sacred across all borders and that everyone has the right to a life with opportunities.
First Lutheran Church assembled two dozen aid kits for Lutheran World Relief. Each kit includes a towel, two bars of soap, a comb, nail clippers, and a toothbrush. LWR will alert us so we can track exactly where the kits are shipped.