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Today’s Lord’s Supper

A classic ordination question for ministers involves some scenario where a youth pastor wants to serve “potato chips and Mountain Dew” for the Lord’s Supper at a church retreat. Sitting at my computer, it is easy to laugh at such a scenario, but the question stays relevant because God truly works in the cracks and margins between what is acceptable or not.
These past few Pizza Wednesdays have brought out a higher number of families because of the government shutdown. Dads compared “furlough beards” and grandmas chased little ones as we supported one another over Cokes and pizza. We even had a non-Christian family come who were friends with some GPC members, and they’ll be back!
These may not be sacramental meals in the sanctuary, but they are faithful reminders that we are together members of one body, living as connected parts of a sacred whole. There are so many opportunities to share a meal at church right now, and I hope that when you do, you remember that “they will come from east and west, and north and south to sit at table in the Kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)
Peace,
Pastor Rachel

New Year, New Things

Every January, I lull myself into a false sense that, well, it’s January. It’s time for a moment to relax after the mad dash to the end of the year that is December. And every January, my illusions of course prove to be false. Something tells me I’m not alone in this feeling!

Instead, what I do find is a buzz of energy. Yes, some of that is from tasks pushed off into the new year, but much of it is in anticipation of following God, who is indeed “doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:19), into a new year. Already my schedule is packed with meetings and planning sessions on how to continue to serve our neighbors near and far, in this year and beyond. From shoes for our unhoused neighbors to reading poetry with incarcerated people. And although we’re still in the planning stages, you’ll soon be invited into the new things that are happening—I hope you feel the energy too!

Peace,
Chris

Happy New Year

On New Years Eve, I sent a Tennyson poem out to a few friends.  It was poem I had been reading throughout December as I anticipated the new year: 

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Here’s the whole text as I encourage you to read and reread.  I’m ready to ring in the new year, say goodbye to the past year, and anticipate what lies ahead.  In the church we have celebrated the birth of Christ and now we turn our minds to the lifelong commitment of serving Christ.  Jesus has come to bring us the light, our calling is to allow that light to shine.  

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Blessings to you and those you love for 2019.

Peace,

CCM

Sunday’s Solo

On Sunday, Katherine Riddle will sing a solo version of a beautiful text by English poet Christina Rossetti. First published in 1872, it’s been set to a number of tunes but is well worth reading on its own:

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, –
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

Peace,
Mark

An Awesome Christmas

Christmas! Yes! The angels were so excited they tore open the heavens and shouted to the night-shift temp-worker shepherds. The shepherds were so excited, they left their sheep to head to a stranger’s barn. The magi were so excited, they planned a month’s long inter-continental journey.

The message spread throughout the region and through time and it has come to us today. So spread it! Give gifts, reach out to folks, wave to strangers, high five your cranky uncle, give your depressed dad a hug.

God is here! Have an awesome Christmas.

Love,
Pastor Rachel

Serving Refugees

Many of the “refugees” still coming to the Washington region are commonly referred to as “SIV’s” – people with Special Immigrant Visas. These are visas for people and their families who served as translators for the U.S. military in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their journeys to get here have been long and difficult, and yet getting to the U.S. doesn’t mean the journey is over. Adapting to life in the U.S. has its own incredible sets of challenges, especially for the women who have come to the U.S., many without any formal education at all. For some, being in a country where they don’t speak the language, or have marketable skills, feels like a trap.

Lutheran Social Services has started a program called Threads to Success, and GPC is a big part of it. Beginning in January, thirty-five Afghan women are signed up to take sewing classes in order to gain a skill and connect to community (sewing is typically a man’s job in Afghanistan). GPC has already provided all 35 sewing machines needed, and will be providing help with critical transportation needs.

Thank you for your generosity, and stay on the lookout for an invitation early next year to help put this program into practice! Let us pray that this program truely becomes a sign of hospitality to others who continue to struggle.

Peace,
Chris

28 Minutes

28 minutes. When was the last time you took 28 minutes to sit and ponder the holy mysteries of our faith? At this time of year it is almost an absurd question. Sunday’s service is going to force the issue as the GPC choir and a baroque orchestra present Gloria in D Major by Antonio Vivaldi. In our hour of worship, you will have 28 minutes of music to lift your sights towards the heavens, offer prayers to the Almighty, and have your faith inspired by this sacred music. Our special music tradition in Advent is an annual gift to the church. It is your chance to be still in the presence of God and be enfolded in the glory of collective praise and worship. We pray it will bless your journey towards Christmas and cultivate within you a holy sense of wonder and awe.

See you in church!

CCM

Patiently Waiting

On Sunday, we begin the first of four weeks of Advent, a season when we essentially celebrate the act of waiting. This is made easier for us now when we know the timeline: four weeks of Advent, then Christmas. It’s literally clockwork, but what are we supposed to do if when we don’t know the timeline? Even as I write this, on Thursday, deadline looming near, I’m fulfilling the adage, coined by Cyril Parkinson, a 20th century British scholar, who said, “work expands so as to fill the time available for completion.” It’s known as “Parkinson’s Law,” and I’m guessing you’ve felt it’s pull in your own life.

The last few weeks I’ve been listening to and studying Bach’s Cantata, BWV 140, “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme.” Here’s a link to my favorite recording of it if you care to listen. It’s one of the best of Bach’s cantatas, if they can even be ranked. The first, fourth and final movements incorporate the hymn text and tune written by Philipp Nicolai (No. 349 in the Glory to God hymnal). This hymn references the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, a cautionary tale told by Jesus to prepare his listeners for the coming of the kingdom of heaven. Though the hymn only mentions the wise virgins, we all know the story of the other five (and I’d probably be one of them) who push Parkinson’s law to the edge and come up wanting, desperately searching for oil and missing the arrival of the bridegroom.

I love what Bach does with this cantata in the inner movements. Unusually, for the cantatas, there are two duets for the soprano and bass, who sing a dialog between the Soul and Jesus, characters in a kind of sacred opera. The words they sing are based on the love poetry of the Song of Songs: Soul: “My friend is mine…” Jesus: “and I am yours,” S: “love will never part us.” It’s the love story that is the truth at the heart of the gospel. I don’t know that it’s an antidote to Parkinson’s law, which I still feel working in my life, but it’s a better perspective to have when working and waiting.

Peace,
Mark

Mission Market & Fair

For many years, GPC has hosted a market every November/December to kick off the holiday season and provide an opportunity to purchase with a purpose. In the last few years, we’ve updated the name to reflect the fact that mission has expanded significantly, and that there are increasingly ways that GPC serves year round. Our hope is that you’ll come by not only to purchase olive oil from Palestine or nativity sets from Niger, but that you’ll take a few moments to be proud of all the ways GPC gives, and even sign up to try something new.

Thank you for continuing to serve as we grow together in love and faith!

Peace,
Chris

The Silver Lining in Politics

On Tuesday night, like many Americans, I watched some of the coverage of the election returns, with a combination of despair at how divisive the dialog around our differences is, and hope that we might find a path to conversation and greater unity. I’ve always believed that all humans, even coming from drastically different cultural, political, religious and economic places, have much more in common than not. But sadly, we prove easily distracted from that fact by leaders who choose the shortcut to power found in dividing us from each other.

Searching for my rose colored glasses, perhaps you’re not surprised that I keep coming back to music. I admire the composers of the past who continued to practice their art through the wars, political and theological divisions that fractured people and countries. There was beauty to be made, the mystery of God to express. Music, with its many independent yet harmonious voices, models for how we too could get along, work together, collaborate to form a cohesive whole. At GPC every week, we have the unique privilege to do just that, to cut through the chaotic noise of division with the even more powerful music of unity.

Peace,
Mark