“A world in need now summons us
To labor, love, and give;
To make our life an offering
To God, that all may live.
The church of Christ is calling us
To make the dream come true;
A world redeemed by Christ-like love;
All life in Christ made new.”
– Frank von Christierson
When we talk about a “calling,” we usually refer to a career decision, a volunteer activity or a hobby—something that stirs our passion. A calling often requires a leap of the heart.
One can only imagine 100 years ago when a group of Swedish immigrants began to hear a call—to care for each other by coming together in communion. Their call took form when First Evangelical Lutheran Church, Palo Alto, was founded in 1920.
Our founders answered this call and showed us the way to care:
• for each other
• for our home at Homer and Webster
• for refugees
• for our neighbors near and far
• for the earth
Now, on the threshold of First Lutheran’s centennial, we are embarking on our 2019 Stewardship Campaign and invite you to listen for your call to care—financially, and with your time, talent and prayers. Please mark your calendars for Commitment Sunday, November 4.
Your stewardship committee,
John Allured, chair
George Knudson, Judy Larsen, Stephanie Leong, Joyce Rice, Pastors Bernt Hillesland and Katherine Marshall
Who’s in and who’s out? That’s not just a question for US immigration policy, the refugee crisis in Europe or any number of other contemporary issues. “Outsiders and Insiders” is also a prominent theme in the lectionary scripture readings we’ll hear in worship this Fall.
The disciples see strangers – outsiders to their fellowship – casting out demons in Jesus’ name. “Should we stop them?” But Jesus sees them as insiders: “whoever is not against us is for us.”
The disciples attempt to keep children to the outside, away from Jesus as he carries out his important work. But Jesus brings kids to the center: “let them come to me, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God.”
Two disciples ask that Jesus make them privileged insiders who will sit at his right and left hand in this coming Kingdom. Jesus encourages his disciples to see the privilege in belonging to and serving the whole human family: “whoever would be great among you must be servant of all.”
One thinks of the privilege of being insiders to Palo Alto and the Silicon Valley. We get to live in such a beautiful and elite area. Who is on the outside?
And what about the church itself? I think of how all newcomers to FLC stretch us to become a more rich and interesting community. It can be challenging. In this past year I’ve gotten involved with a synod group that’s looking at ways to foster more diversity in race and ethnicity in our congregations and in church leadership.
So what’s the good news here? There’s a pattern in the stories: the disciples can’t always see ways people can be included. Jesus can, and we don’t always like it. We made of God’s Son an outsider. We pushed him out to a degrading death – and in doing so, pushed away our hope of being among the saved. But God raised Jesus up, to bring us in, despite what we’ve done. What will this experience of grace mean for the rest of our lives?
What now? In a recent conversation, one of you mentioned being intrigued with how, in the book of Acts, Christianity is known as “The Way.” The focus of our adult forums this Fall will be on ethics, our way. Whatever we might think we should do as a country about immigration and other issues of insiders / outsiders, what’s our role, here, as Christians and as a congregation?
For one thing, we have taken up accompaniment for a family seeking asylum in our country. It has been an adventure for us, raising big questions and involving people in everything from giving to childcare. It’s been interesting to hear people talk about our FLC’s history of helping refugees and welcoming LGBT people as we look forward to our Centennial. The theme our stewardship team has chosen for this Fall is about identifying our call to care for all neighbors in need.
A little later, maybe in the new year, I’d like to invite folks to explore Benedictine Spirituality. In the chaos of the dark ages, desperate or even scary people might look for shelter at monasteries. Benedict encouraged the Christian monks to welcome all guests as Christ himself. Even the important leaders would come to greet the guest, bowing or falling prostrate, washing the guests feet, and showing kindness in other ways. Maybe there’s something we can learn from this dark age wisdom?
It’s Fall – let’s “Rally” – gather together at God’s invitation and continue to learn God’s way of hospitality!