Farewell and Godspeed

This week's song of the summer [the ultimate offering from Vicar Andrew's playlist this summer] is perhaps the greatest song about leave-taking ever written. "To Live is to Fly" by Townes Van Zandt is suffused with melancholy and gratitude. 

Melancholy and gratitude...that pretty much sums up my feelings this week as I prepare to end my time at St. Paul. At first, it seems hard to believe that it's already been a year since I arrived. Then I start to I think back on all of the joys and challenges of this last year, on opportunities both grasped and unfulfilled, on what I was able to do and what I left undone...and suddenly it feels like I've been here a lifetime. This is such a testament to this community; I immediately felt welcomed and affirmed and empowered upon my arrival.  You all have high expectations of your interns, and you have enough compassion and grace to allow us to flourish. 

I've been told by numerous members of this congregation that "we mark the time we've been here by vicars," and then they'll count out the previous interns that they've spent time with over the years. I'm here to tell you this works both ways: I have been marked by my time here, in deep, formative, life-changing ways. So when Townes sings "Days, up and down they come/like rain on a conga drum/forget most, remember some/but don't throw none away," I feel it in my bones. This year has been so full of memories that I can't even begin to list them. I'm so thankful for all of the days I've gotten this year, and I will carry what I learned here long after I leave. 

I thank God for my time here and what the Spirit has called us to together. What a blessing it has been to serve here, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

In Christ,
Vicar Andrew

Adult Education Lenten Series

Lent Adult Ed

What are we doing in worship? What's central to our liturgy? How do we balance the ancient ritual tradition of the church with our current context? We'll be reflecting on and exploring these and other questions in an Adult Forum Lenten series. Vicar Andrew will be leading these discussions as part of his internship project; please join us Sundays during Lent at 9:30am!

February 18 -- What are the Essentials of Christian Worship?
February 25 -- "The Fruit and the Leaves of the Tree of Life": The Bible and the Central Things of Worship
March 4 -- The Word and the Prayers
March 11 -- The Table and the Sending
March 25 -- The Bath and the Assembly

All Saints Reflection

The saints are awesome. With such a great cloud of witnesses, it is humbling for me as an up-and-coming pastor to live up to their legacy. Whether dead or alive, whether they’re famous saints or every day saints, I revere their persistence to follow the gospel, sometimes even unto death. Paul, Ambrose, Augustine, and Peter for crying out loud! Are you kidding me? Don’t forget those every-day saints, either. Grandpas, uncles, aunts, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers are all among us, too. Who are the saints in your life?

With all of these feelings that come with the saints: humility, gratitude, awe, I need to catch my breath and reflect on the importance of All Saints Sunday. Looking to this week, I realize that I have much to learn about the saints and their importance in my life from an unexpected source, the Catholic Church. On this All Saints Sunday, we build on the celebration we felt last week on Reformation Sunday, to opening our minds and hearts to that same wider Church from which we broke 499 years ago.

This is a time when we can embrace our Catholic sisters and brothers, so that we can learn from their ability to cherish the deep wisdom and gift that the saints offer each and every day. All Saints Sunday is a celebration and a reminder of those people who, despite their brokenness, were chosen by God to do great things in the world. All Saints Sunday is also a time for us to uplift those saints in our everyday lives who impacted us and continue to impact us in deep and meaningful ways through small, regular acts of love.

A story comes to mind when I think of commemorating and celebrating the saints every day, as the Catholics do. Once when I visited Saint Paul, Minnesota, a group of friends and I decided to take a walk through the gargantuan Cathedral of Saint Paul. As we entered through the large oak doors, I noticed that there were statues and shrines around the sanctuary. Later, I found out that these shrines were for the national patron saints of the many immigrants who settled Minnesota. To name a few: Saint Anthony of Padua (Italy), John the Baptist (French Canadians), Saint Patrick (Ireland), Saint Boniface (Germany), Saints Cyril and Methodius (Slavic Nations), and Saint Therese (protector of all missions). I was in awe of these memorials to the saints that protected those peoples on their journey to America. What a cool way to give thanks to those saints that came before us and who still watch over us!

Luther believed that all baptized people are saints. This All Saints Sunday, we get the chance to remember, celebrate, and commemorate the witness of those saints who have gone before us and who are among us here and now. We invite you to bring a picture, token, memorial of a saint in your life to church this Sunday, so that we can be reminded of the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us. There will be a table at the front of the sanctuary for you to place those items and, if you chose, sign a card in their memory. The cards and writing utensils will be provided in the Narthex as you walk in. You can place the cards and tokens on the table at the front of the sanctuary before the service. Please join us on Sunday to remember, honor, and commemorate all those saints in the great cloud of witnesses. Thanks be to God!

To conclude, a quote from professor and theologian Mary Luti, "Faced with intractable fears and exhausting complexities, the world whips out the sensation, the quick fix, and the magic of celebrity. The church's ancient wisdom offers instead 'mystic sweet communion with those whose race is won.' We have the saints, and if we look carefully, we find that they are us—extraordinary signs that ordinary vulnerability, love and repentance, courage and perseverance still count. For a lot. For everything."

Happy All Saints Sunday, saints of God!

Autumn Reflection

Harvest season is my favorite time of year. Entering into autumn, our complacency is shaken. That old, stale summer air turns fresh and crisp, a cue that we are entering newness. Schools are now in session, the kids have gone back to college, and the programs have started up at St. Paul. Every year, this season reminds me that life is not stale. We may follow new opportunities to grow, to help others, and to see God differently in the world.

Now in October, the dynamic colors of this world are in drastic change. The autumn season reminds me that we too, such as our faith and understanding of God, undergo constant development. But this change isn’t always easy or as obvious as we would like. Sometimes we may feel stuck or as stale as the late summer air. Autumn, despite its appeal for some, may be saddening and challenging for others. Luckily, such as the cold fall air, we have each other to freshen our perspective on God’s presence in our lives. We have each other to learn from, to walk with and support as we go through the joys and challenges that change may bring.

The ambivalence of change, whether joyful or sad, may be stabilized by our faith of God in our midst. Although we may not know what lies ahead, God is active in our lives through the people around us. We are guided and supported by Christ so that we may see each other more clearly, and love one another more fully. Paul’s verse in 2 Corinthians 5:17 says just this, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”. I enjoy autumn because I am reminded of the changes we undergo in life with Christ in our midst.

In May, I traveled to Nebraska with a seminary class to learn about rural Lutheran communities. During that short week, I learned the importance of a supportive community throughout uncertain times. One particular farmer told us a story about a man who passed away at the beginning of harvest season. Without his ability and knowledge to harvest the crop, his family was left helpless as the corn ripened in the field. Within three days, the family’s neighbors used their combines, large harvesting machines, to clear the field of grain. Amidst this loss and despair, both at the loss of the man’s life and the value of family’s crop, God’s presence and love became known.
Like the combines that harvested the neighbor’s field, God shows us that we are supported and loved through uncertain changes. Amidst a shifting season, I am reminded of God’s never-ceasing presence in this world. Thanks be to God.

-Vicar Alex
In Our Prayers
We pray for Cathy Venkatesh and her family upon the death of her father, Joe Richardson, who died from a stroke last weekend during a family visit. We will make an obituary available next week.

Greetings!


A few summers ago I was a counselor at a Lutheran Bible camp in Montana. We were tenting in the wilderness and one morning before dawn, I was awakened by an unpleasant noise. An obnoxious reverberation, almost deafening, forced my eyes wide open. Was it a bear outside of my tent? No, it was Mike, my tent mate. Now I was fully awake!  I emerged from the warm refuge of our tent, thanks to Mike, and into the cool morning of late June, I felt particularly refreshed. The sun had not yet risen and the mist still hovered over the nearby river. This was a delicate scene, which was soon broken by the sun’s rays.   

Although I was roused at an unintended time, I was glad to be greeted by the breeze, the flowing river, a view of these peaks, and to be embraced by God’s creation on that chilly morning. A rude awakening soon led to a moment of grace and gratitude.

We may not always be certain, but God’s presence is always with us.  Going around life’s corners may be tricky and we may feel unsure of what’s to come. Despite our fear, we may be reassured that God is always active, creating new things in our life, and taking us to new places.  God is there to ensure that we are met with new challenges, new relationships, and new ways of seeing Christ in the world.

Each week, we come together to hear and to learn more about where God is active in our lives.  Especially for me as the new Vicar, I will often need your thoughts and prayers as I grow into a pastor.

God’s presence will guide us to learn new things about one another, how we live out our faith, and, most certainly, in worship. All of your faces and names are new for me, as well as your stories.  In light of all this newness, I am eagerly anticipating getting to know each and every one of you.

Whether we plan for it or not, God is with us each and every day. From day to day and from week to week, God will reveal new things in this sacred space we call Saint Paul Lutheran Church. Thanks be to God.

Worship

We invite you to Rally Sunday September 9th

  9:30 AM Worship with Holy Communion followed by Fellowship Brunch

Sunday services beginning September 16th

  8:15 AM Worship 9:15am Education Hour 10:30AM Worship with Holy Communion

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