December 31, 2019
Dear King of Glory family and friends,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday with your friends and family. We sure had a great time here at KOG celebrating with one another. Let me take just a moment to thank some of the people who helped make our Christmas at KOG a little brighter: Karla Bjorklund, our Ecclesiastical Artist, for her lovely decorations; Deacon Lind, Catherine Marcum and Amanda Pulos for their work in making our decorating party a lovely time for all ages; Karen Ronchetti, for her time and effort in beautifying our sanctuary every year; Doris Williams, Karie Frederick, and Michèle Jensen, our office volunteers; all of the KOG musicians including the praise band, the choir, and our music staff; Ms. Amanda, our youth, and our preschool staff for their work on the Christmas program; Sharon Windhorst, for making sure the Lord’s Table was always prepared; Bob Lipot and Marlys Buckey, our counters who came in the day after Christmas to keep our finances in order; Michele Elvander and Debbie Bise, our Christmas Eve cookie bakers; all those who donated socks and underwear and dollars toward our water well goal; Alan Marcum for hanging our clothesline and outdoor Christmas lights; and last but not least, Carl and Leah Lind, Bruce and Karie Frederick, Jodi Coffman and Nikki Busch, and Josh Baesler, our Christmas tree star hanging team. (It actually stayed up all season long!!!) J And thank you to many others, who I cannot name, but who contributed in other ways that enabled KOG to rejoice in the good news of the birth of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel.
Typically in my January article I talk a little about the new year and new year resolutions. This year, I would like to suggest a resolution that we could all adopt and follow together. Due to all the deaths we have been facing at KOG this past year, including the most recent losses in December of Bev Stolte and the pregnancy of Amanda and Dan Pulos, I have been thinking a lot about grief. I just finished a wonderful book given to me by my father called “Everything Happens For a Reason and other Lies I’ve Loved” by Dr. Kate Bowler, a professor of evangelicalism at Duke University. The book is about Kate’s diagnosis and battle with cancer shortly after becoming a new mom, as well as her faith struggles throughout it as she coped with potentially dying and/or living with cancer. It’s a great book, a short read that is very moving and funny, and I would recommend it to anyone. At the end of the book, Kate gives two really wonderful lists for her readers. The first is humorously called “Absolutely Never Say this to People Experiencing Terrible Times” and the second list is “Give This a Go, See How it Works” with suggestions on what is helpful to say to people when they are in distress. My suggestion for all of us in this new year is that we resolve to have heathier and more helpful responses in how we support those who are grieving around us. Our care and kindness team along with our Stephen Ministers, under the leadership of Deacon Lind, have undertaken some new ways to support the grieving in our midst. I am including below Dr. Bowler’s two lists of what she found helpful and hurtful to give you some ideas of what you can do to help, especially when you or others are feeling helpless. I hope they aid you in comforting those experiencing loss around you or in giving you suggestions to tell others of how to support you in your grief. Of course, every person and every experience is different, but I hope these lists can give us all the tools we need to begin learning how to be more present, as Christ himself did, for those who are going through the worst life can bring. May this new year bring you joy and love and laughter, but if it also leads you or those you love into the dark valleys of sorrow or suffering, may you and those around you find the words needed to bring light, peace and blessing.
Serving with you in Christ,
Absolutely Never Say This to People Experiencing Terrible Times:
A Short List (top 5) from Dr. Kate Bowler
- “Well at least . . . “ Don’t compare or minimize another’s grief. Let them feel what they feel for as long as they feel it.
- “In my long life, I’ve learned that . . . “ Ease up on life lessons when people are facing the potential end of theirs. Life is a privilege not a reward.
- “It’s going to get better. I promise.” Don’t promise something you can’t deliver.
- “God needed an angel.” This makes God look needy and is contradictory to biblical tradition that says angels are made from scratch not from deceased people. God does not take people from us. God comforts and grieves with us in our sorrow and welcomes people home when their physical bodies can no longer sustain them.
- “Everything happens for a reason.” When someone is drowning, the only thing worse than failing to throw them a life preserver is handing them a reason. Though you may believe and draw comfort from these words, they can be harmful when said to others even leading to self-blame, because it leaves people wondering and guessing at what that reason could be and what they possibly did wrong.
Give This a Go, See How it Works: A Short List form Dr. Kate Bowler
- “I’d love to bring you a meal this week. Can I email/call you about it?” When experiencing cancer or other illnesses or the debilitating effects of grief, presents can be helpful. Food, plants, magazines, etc. It doesn’t matter, because people often have a hard time naming what they need but the sentiment is what matters most.
- “You are a beautiful person.” Tell your friend something about his or her life that you admire without making it feel like a eulogy. Everyone needs those words of encouragement.
- “I am so grateful to hear about how you’re doing and just know that I’m on your team.” Don’t be nosy and ask people for details about their condition. Just let them know you are there cheering for them and a willing listener if they ever feel like they want to share.
- “Can I give you a hug?” People who are suffering often feel isolated. A hug or a hand on the arm can mean so much, but always ask first.
- “Oh my friend, that sounds hard.” Be willing to stare down the ugliness and sadness with those who are facing it. Just let them talk about it if that’s what they want to do.
- *****Silence***** Pain and tragedy are awkward. There is never one perfect thing to say. Sometimes the best thing to do is just “show up and shut up.”
December 1, 2019
Dear King of Glory family and friends,
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! And let me be the first now to wish you a very Happy Advent!!!! We have a really fun and interesting new Advent series we are starting this Sunday, Dec. 1, and it’s all about undergarments! Kinda. Maybe I should explain. 😊 During the Christmas season we spend so much time thinking about what to put on our Christmas lists and what gifts to buy for others. Have you ever been surprised by a gift that was under your tree? Have you ever been disappointed? Our Advent season theme this year at King of Glory is Socks and Underwear: the Story of the Best Gift ever Given.
Socks and underwear, you are probably thinking, what does that have to do with Christmas? Well, socks and underwear are iconic for being that gift that no one wants but everyone needs, and that is exactly what Christmas is about. This Advent, we are focusing on how Jesus was the gift that the world didn’t want but truly needed. Our sermon topics throughout this season will be about this theme, with titles such as “An Unexpected Gift, Gift Wrapping, Gift Returns, and the Greatest Gift Ever Given.” Our Sanctuary is going to be decorated with socks and underwear and other items of apparel strung on clotheslines (join us on Saturday, Dec. 7 at noon to have a free lunch and to help decorate!). Worship on Sunday, December 8, will be a Unity Service starting at 10:00 AM with lots of music from our different KOG music ensembles and our KOG preschoolers and youth doing a program all about the gift of Jesus. Last, but not least, during this season we will be tying in our mission and giving focus as well. We will have two focuses that come out of our theme: 1) we are asking folks to bring in new packages of socks and underwear to be donated to local organizations for those in need and 2) we are setting a goal of purchasing a water well through Lutheran World Relief (cost $2500) through special offerings, in order to help our neighbors in another part of the world get access to safe drinking water, an essential need for all.
We hope you will join us for any and all of these aspects of our Advent Season as we explore “Socks and Underwear” and how Jesus is the gift the world didn’t want, but the gift the world truly needed.
P.S. One final note regarding our all-congregation church decorating afternoon on December 7 from 12-3:00 PM. We hope you’ll come out to join us for food, decorating and other fun activities to help prepare our Sanctuary for the Advent Season. We also are inviting everyone to bring some ornaments from home to help adorn our tree. Since our theme this year is of a more informal, intimate nature 😊 we are hoping for our tree to fit right in with that theme as well. How it turns out will be a bit of a surprise, much like the unexpected gift of Christ.
November 1, 2019
Hello dear KOG friends and family!
Happy November! I literally can’t believe the words I am typing. It is November! Where did October go? Someone should tell the calendar above my office desk because it is still on September! Well, since it is November now, that means much is upon us for discussing and remembering and celebrating!
Firstly, I want to remind you that this Sunday is our Unity Service to mark the end of our Red Letter Growth Group and Sermon Series. Our 10 am worship will also mark the end of this fall’s stewardship campaign and we are asking everyone to bring in their 2020 commitment cards to be blessed during worship and tallied during the Celebration Lunch that follows (as has become our new tradition). Thank you to all who have helped to make this coming Sunday possible (as well as the Growth Group series and stewardship preparations prior to it): Karen and Paul Wallace and our Growth Group leaders, Sam and Catherine Fullerton and our Stewardship committee, and our office staff who worked tirelessly to support both of these efforts! We hope you’ll join us this Sunday in celebrating the end of our study and the making of our financial commitments for God’s mission in the coming year.
Secondly, this upcoming Sunday is also All Saints Day. We will be praying for those who we have lost in the past year, of which there have been many. Please take this time to reach out to anyone you know who lost someone in the past year to offer a listening ear or supportive shoulder. And if you yourself lost someone, know that our prayers will be with you this Sunday and our Prayer Warriors continue to pray for you weekly.
Thirdly, I wanted to remind you that I will be hosting my forum on the ELCA’s recent resolution that passed regarding becoming a Sanctuary church body. I want to extend an invitation for all to come to this forum, whether you have a strong opinion, no opinion or just a lot of questions. The beginning of the forum will be about education. I will discuss what the Memorial and Resolution process is in the ELCA as well as what was the context of this particular resolution’s passing (it is far less simple than has been implied on Fox and CNN). There will be time for people to ask questions and share their feelings and experience regarding this issue. What this forum will not be, however, is an attempt to debate the merits of the decision or a time to try to reach any sort of consensus on this contentious and complicated issue. I see this forum as a time to discuss, share and explore not only this decision but also how we can, in general, respectfully and lovingly disagree with one another (or the greater church body) and still be church together. I would love for this to be a first conversation in many where we explore some of the ELCA’s Social Statements how they might inform our faith as well as our civic life. Being the Body of Christ, does not mean uniformity in opinion, it means unity in mission, and I think this is a great opportunity for us to experiment and practice together how we can dissent without division. All of our perspectives and opinions enrich the Body of Christ. Though our politics and the ways we live our faith by supporting particular policies may be different (and ever more polarized in the current culture), the central tenets of our faith and our mission in Christ can still hold us together. I hope you will join me in this first step on a potential long and exciting journey we may take here at King of Glory as we consider exploring together this resolution as well as past social statements.
If you’d like to do a little pre-forum reading, the text of the resolution that was eventually passed by the voting members of the ELCA’s National Assembly is below.
Always grateful to be serving with you in Christ,
ELCA 2019 ASSEMBLY ACTION CA 19.03.11 BY MAJORITY
To receive with gratitude the memorial from the Metropolitan New York Synod concerning sanctuary;
To reaffirm the long-term and growing commitment of this church to migrants and refugees and to the policy questions involved, as exemplified most recently in the comprehensive strategy Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities (AMMPARO);
To recognize that the ELCA in congregations, synods and the churchwide organization are already taking the actions requested by this memorial; and
To request that appropriate staff on the AMMPARO team, LIRS and the Domestic Mission, Global Mission, and Mission Advancement units review the existing strategies and practices by the five current sanctuary synods and develop a plan for additional tools that provide for education and discernment around sanctuary;
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America declares itself a sanctuary church body; and
To request the ELCA Church Council, in consultation with the appropriate churchwide units and offices, provide guidance for the three expressions of this church about what it means to be a sanctuary church body and provide a report to the 2022 Churchwide Assembly.
October 1, 2019
Dear King of Glory friends and family!
Happy October! Another fall is upon us, as is another season of Growth Groups. I hope you all have been enjoying the Red Letter Challenge (“RLC”) book and sermon series. As a part of the RLC, we will be focusing on 5 different themes for 5 weeks: Being, Forgiving, Serving, Giving and Going. Now normally during the fall we also spend 3-5 weeks or so talking about how we steward the resources God has given us (time, talents and tithes), but this year, due to the RLC schedule, we are doing things a little differently. During the Giving week of the RLC only, we will discuss lots of different ways to give back to God what God has first given to us, rather than have a full-blown, month-long stewardship program this fall. However, there are a few elements from previous years’ stewardship campaigns that we will still be doing. First, we will still be asking you to turn in Commitment Cards (you should have received those in the mail this week). Please bring those with you to worship on Sunday, Nov. 3. Secondly, we will be having our annual Commitment Sunday Unity Worship Service as well that same day, Sunday, Nov. 3. The Unity Service, which we are referring to as our Red Letter Rally Sunday, will start at 10:00 am. Thirdly, we wouldn’t dare do all of this without topping it off by hosting our delicious and beloved Free Celebration Lunch in Big Ed following the Red Letter Rally Sunday Unity Service. Please don’t forget to RSVP for the free catered lunch by either calling the office, responding to our Evite, or by signing up after worship some upcoming Sunday. We truly hope everyone will be able to join us in celebrating the end of the Red Letter Challenge and our deepened trust in God through our 2020 financial commitments.
Another event I wanted to have you mark on your calendar that will also be tying into our RLC series is the Fall Festival. This year’s Fall Festival will take place after our 10:30 Reformation and Confirmation Service on Sunday, Oct. 27. As we finish up our RLC theme of “Going”, our Fall Festival theme will be “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” from Dr. Seuss. All are invited to dress in red and white (think the Cat in the Hat plus Reformation colors :), decorate their cars for our Trunk or Treat, or just enjoy the good food, candy and games that will follow the service.
The last bit of information I wanted to pass on was about a Resolution that was passed at the recent ELCA Churchwide Assembly naming the ELCA as a Sanctuary Church. Unfortunately, the word “Sanctuary” has become quite politicized, so I wanted to spend a minute or two here explaining what exactly this means for us. Basically, this resolution was not meant to say anything political or policy oriented. This resolution does not ask or require churches to do anything that they are not already doing or that they are uncomfortable doing. What this resolution does do is it uses the term “Sanctuary” to state that we are a church that advocates for the safe and humane treatment of all people. It affirms the biblical mandate for all Christians to not only love our neighbors but to also love the stranger, and the rich and numerous biblical stories where God sent people away from their homes and into strange lands as a means of protecting them (including Jesus, Mary and Joseph). The resolution recognizes that our current immigration system is broken and there have been many troubling reports of mistreatment of people seeking asylum and refuge. And it also acknowledges that policies and practices that ask our border patrol and ICE agents to treat others inhumanely are equally damaging to those agents and their humanity. So, in summary, this Resolution is not intended to be a political statement. It is one of faith and compassion. It calls for all ELCA churches and members to pray for and advocate for the safe, humane, respectful and dignified treatment of all people affected by the immigration system: immigrants, including parents and children, asylum seekers, border patrol agents, ICE agents, lawyers and judges, social workers, and all other local and federal government employees that work in this area. I will be holding a time to share more information on this resolution as well as on what the ELCA is doing in some of the home countries to which immigrants are being returned in order to help them find gainful employment and discourage them from attempting to emigrate again (another wonderful thing our Mission Support to the ELCA makes possible). If you’re interested in being a part of this non-partisan discussion, it will be held between worship services on my first available upcoming Sunday, which is Sunday, Nov. 10 (the Sunday after our big RLC Rally Day and Celebration Lunch). I hope you’ll join me.
Blessings to you and yours on this wonderful month of October! So much is going on and ministry opportunities abound. I am honored, as always, to be serving with you in Christ’s name.
September 1, 2019
We are officially back to school and into our fall season: woohoo! This is such a fun time of the year and so many great things have been planned. Allow me to just highlight a few of them. “God’s Work. Our Hands Sunday” is coming up on Sunday, Sept. 8. There will be a 10:15 gathering in the Sanctuary, which Deacon Leah will lead. Please come and be blessed and then sent out for our morning’s service activities! The following weekends include a guest speaker from the Young Adults in Global Mission program of the ELCA and our annual campout. Then on Sunday, Sept. 22, we will be starting our fall Growth Group series with the Red Letter Challenge by Zach Zehnder. This is a great collection of 40 daily devotions accompanied by simple ways to practice your faith. If you’re looking for something that simplifies Jesus’ message and the Christian life into 5 clear and relatable themes, and then gives you tools for implementing them in your daily life, this is the book for you! I’ll be preaching on this book every Sunday from Sept. 22 to Nov. 3. See Paul and Karen Wallace on the patio after services, if you haven’t yet, to sign-up and get your book (we’re charging only $10 due to a Thrivent Action Team grant) to read on your own or with a Growth Group. As usual, Growth Groups will be assigned and will set their own schedules, but the KOG campus will be open on Wednesday afternoons and evenings and Sunday mornings, if you’d like to meet here.
Now, to switch gears back to this being the month where everyone goes back to school, this is a crazy time for many of us—parents, teachers, church workers, anyone who drives on the interstate! But I recently read an article that reminded me this can be a sad time for some, especially those who have lost children or struggled with having children. This season can be a reminder of that pain. This past year at King of Glory, I have heard so many stories from various members about struggles with infertility. It is one of those very common yet socially stigmatized experiences that people are reluctant to talk about. If you or someone you know has struggled with infertility, please know there are resources out there. I bought a few Christian books for my office (a devotion, a memoir, and book on the biblical perspective), which I am happy to loan out and I hope will bring support and healing. Also, I think as a community we could be more sensitive to this issue. For example, I have been asked countless times over the past year if I am pregnant (and no, I am not, I just still have some baby weight, which I love having pointed out to me 😊😊) or when will Josh and I be trying again? I know these comments and questions come from a place of love and care, so I typically respond with a smile and a laugh but asking such questions can be hurtful. What if we were struggling with secondary infertility (i.e. difficulty in having a second child, a common experience for parents)? What if we had miscarried and wanted to keep it private (also very common)? Or what if I were pregnant, but it was too soon to share the news? Such questions can at best create awkward situations and at worst open up very painful wounds. As I have heard stories from friends, family and church members about their struggles, I have learned to be more careful with my comments, questions and assumptions, as even the most well-meaning words can deepen those wounds.
During seasons like this where we are especially focused on school and children, let us remember that for some, it brings mixed emotions. Let us strive to be more sensitive and supportive to one another in every walk of life. Families come in all shapes and sizes, stripes and colors, biological, adopted, fostered and even friends who become our family, and rarely do families come in the timing or way we want or expect. The good news is that in the Bible too, families came in all kinds of shapes and sizes and often had struggles (and even scandals) in their lives together. But God was and is always eager to bless every family, and every type of family, and God seeks for all families to prosper in their love, respect and mutual care of one another. May God bless you and your family this fall, as well as our King of Glory family, so that all people may have a place and a purpose and be profoundly loved.
May the LORD give you increase, both you and your children. May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
Serving with you in Christ,
August 1, 2019
Happy August, King of Glory!
I hope your summer months were good and that you enjoy the last few weeks that are left before school semesters start up and traffic worsens. J It has been an exciting last month for our church for sure. We welcomed 10 new members! We had an amazing week of VBS! And we called Deacon Leah Lind to be our new Deacon of Administration and Congregational Care! (By the way, thank you to all of you who attended the Q&A and the Congregation Meeting. It’s awesome to see your interest and investment in the future ministry of your church family.) Whoever said that summer months were a “break” from the busy season did not work at our church! This upcoming month is proving to be no different as we anticipate Leah’s start on August 5th, hiring a new permanent custodian, and hopefully finding a new Choir Director. (At the moment, we are not yet looking for an organist as Gwen Woloshun has graciously agreed to stay on—health permitting—to give us time to first fill these other positions.) Plus, of course, we are now starting to gear-up for our fall season, and it’s gonna be a good one! We have a great Growth Group series planned and a very fun theme already set for Advent (you’re gonna love it!).
With all of this busyness and more changes headed our way, I got to thinking about worry, especially in light of last month’s Gospel passage from Luke regarding Jesus’ visit to Martha and Mary’s house. In my sermon that Sunday, I didn’t focus too much on Jesus’ words to Martha, when he says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things,” but these are important words for us all to reflect on (including me). The Greek words used here are μεριμνάω and θόρυβος which mean to literally be divided and tumultuous or in an uproar. I love those Greek words, because they describe so well the results that worry can have in our lives. Worry divides our focus and our hearts. It fogs up our vision, like a bathroom mirror after a hot shower. Anxiety puts our emotions on a roller coaster, like the ones at the OC County Fair. Taking care of our daily responsibilities with resolve and facing whatever comes our way with clarity and calm is important. However, when we let worry, stress and busyness cloud what is most important (i.e. our faith and relationship with God), then we find ourselves in Martha’s shoes.
I recently read a story about a woman named Ann Jillian who found herself in such a state when she discovered an irregularity in her breast. She immediately imagined the worst: cancer. Panic immediately ensued. As reported in Care Notes, she stopped by her church on her way to her doctor’s appointment, and saw these words inscribed above the church entrance:
The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either God will shield you from suffering, or God will give you strength to bear it. Be at peace, then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.
Ann Jillian had never noticed those words before and, “Up to that point,” she said, “everything was turbulent. Then I released everything into God’s hands. Of course God wanted to help me.”
What do you need to release into God’s hands today? God wants to help! What is causing an uproar or division in your mind and heart? Try taking some time to refocus on Jesus. Read some scripture—Luke 10 is a good place to start. Spend time in prayer. And remember that when we maintain our focus on God (the most important thing), then everything else finds its proper place or simply fades into the background, where it belongs.
Blessings to you and yours as you finish up summer vacations and prepare for fall,
July 1, 2019
Happy July, dear KOG friends and family!
These summer months remind me of spending time as a child in our garden, in the back yard at my childhood home in Minot, ND. My grandfather, Stan, (the one my Buick was named after) used to come over to our house and help tend our garden, since my dad would spend most of the summer away working at different pipeline sites in Montana and the Dakotas. Actually, both of my grandfathers grew up on farms in North Dakota and loved to garden once they moved into homes in the “big city” of Minot (population 30,000). In fact, Josh’s father, my father-in-law, Ron Baesler (who preaches here on occasion) is also a North Dakota farm boy who now loves tending to his garden here in Southern California. Personally, Josh and I have not had much time to carry on the family gardening tradition, but we hope to one day pass on that mantle to Jules. J What is it about gardening that is so attractive? So appealing? It’s especially great here in California where you can literally garden year-round! There is nothing like eating the fruits of your labor fresh out of your own garden, right?
God enjoys gardening too. Not only in the Garden of Eden, but in every human heart. God desires to grow the fruits of the Spirit in each of us. Just look to Galatians 5:22-23 where the apostle Paul writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control.” These are the fruits of the Holy Spirit that God plants and waters and tends to in each of our hearts, so that we can taste of their goodness in our lives. Have you ever asked yourself, “What fruit is my life bearing?” or “How can I be more fruitful?”
Well, as I said, I’m only a wanna-be gardener when it comes to physical produce, but spiritual produce is a whole other matter, and one that I’m much more experienced in. I have two tips for you today on how you can be more fruitful, and they’re actually things that any good gardener knows.
First, gardening and growing the fruits of the Spirit are both about partnership. According to Rev. Rick Warren, God uses a two-part process. In Philippians, Paul writes you must “work out your own salvation” and then he turns around and says, “…for it is God who is at work in you.” That seems like a paradox and against Lutheran theology, right? But Paul isn’t saying we have to work for our salvation. That has already been gained by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Just as God is the one who creates the seed that turns into the plant, our salvation comes from God alone. But we can work it out, as in work with it or do a spiritual workout; we work our gardening skills, lift those spiritual weights, to get the most out of what God has already given us and is trying to work in us. If we want to grow the fruits of the Spirit, we need to work at them.
Secondly, gardening and growing the fruits of the Spirit take time and patience. Just as a seed doesn’t turn into a full grown blooming and deliciously ripe tomato plant overnight, our spiritual growth—growth love, joy peace, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—takes time and patience. There are no short cuts or quick answers. I’ve heard that some farmers will spray CO2 on green unripe tomatoes to make them turn red right before they go to market, but one bite into those tomatoes and you can tell, right? There’s no comparison to a vine-ripened, fresh out of the garden tomato, where the inside matches the outside, and has taken it’s time soaking up sunlight and water and fertilizer. That’s what God desires to grow in us. But we too need to be patient and stick to the task at hand, soaking up God’s word, worship, and prayer to help us in our fruit-growing endeavors. This summer, may you grow a fabulous garden or enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labors (maybe one of our KOG gardeners!), but above all, I hope that you continue to work with God to grow the fruits of the Spirit in your heart.
June 1, 2019
Happy June King of Glory! There are two things I’d like to begin with. First, don’t forget to join us on Sunday, June 9 at 10:00 am for our Unity Service (we only do these twice a year now, so don’t miss out!), plus we’ll be having our summer kick-off BBQ afterward with lots of good food and fun. Secondly, I wanted to say Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers and fatherly folks out there. A free picture awaits you and your family between services that day as well as some yummy pastries. We hope you’ll join us and have a blessed day!
It has been such a busy winter and spring hasn’t it? Maybe that’s why I have recently been pondering a word that occurs in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament nearly 74 times. It’s a word that I first heard about in seminary, when I was studying ancient Hebrew (a requirement for Lutheran seminary students). Although there are many words in Hebrew that are difficult to translate directly into English, this word is particularly fascinating, because it isn’t just that we can’t translate it perfectly, it’s that we can’t translate it AT ALL! Why? Because scholars don’t even know what it really means. The meaning has literally been lost over the millennia. What is the word? סֶלָה or selah. Nearly all of selah’s occurrences are in the Psalms. Maybe you’ve noticed it there? Or maybe your eyes just read right past it. That’s what most people typically do, and what I myself used to do, but as I said, my interest in selah has been peaked again recently.
So what do we think selah means? One hint we have comes from where it occurs. Selah almost always either ends a Psalm (e.g. Psalms 3, 24 and 46) or it comes at the end of a verse in a Psalm, though there are a few exceptions. That particular location is one reason why scholars think that this word was meant to cause people to stop and listen, to pause and let the words they have just heard or read or sung truly sink in. Others however point to how selah is similar to another word in Hebrew that means “to hang on” or “weigh”. Others think selah is similar to the word “amen” in Greek and a comment on the desired truth of the prior words. While others yet say it means “forever” or “always” and is an affirmation of the enduring nature of the words just shared.
Although we can’t know for sure selah’s intended meaning when it was scribed thousands of years ago, it can still bear great meaning for our lives today. This word can serve as a reminder from God to us all that it is necessary and prudent to allow for moments of selah in our day. Much like how God calls upon us to take a Sabbath during the week, with selah, God calls upon us to regularly stop and listen throughout our day: to listen to God, one another and the needs of our own hearts. Selah asks us to take a pause from the busyness and stress and worry and to remember the enduring truth and weight of God’s word for us. Selah asks us to hang our hope on God’s promises alone. Could you use a little more selah in your life? What would your moments of selah look like?
As you move into this summer season, may God’s selah interrupt and disrupt the rhythms and routines of your days and provide you opportunities to stop, listen and hang your heart and hope upon the truth, love and grace of our God alone.
May 2, 2019
Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Happy Easter, dear friends and family of King of Glory! I hope you all had a meaningful Lenten season and Holy Week, and a joyful Easter! First, I want to thank everyone who helped make this special season of reflection, study and faith development possible. Thank you to the Wallaces for heading up our Growth Group ministry yet again this year. Thank you to all of our small group leaders for giving of their time. Thank you to Nancy Cotta for arranging our Wednesday Lenten Soup Supper speakers and to the folks who helped to set-up, clean-up and bring soup for these lovely suppers. Thank you to Catherine and Alan Marcum for running sound and projection at these Wednesday services and for all others who stepped up as needed to serve during worship. Thank you to Karen Ronchetti for decorating the Sanctuary and to the staff for their extra efforts during this especially busy time. Thank you to all those whom I am not naming here but who also gave of their time and energy. Thank you also to our two staff members who recently announced their resignation—Penny Benetatos and Heather Stolte—both of whom agreed to stay on until the end of the Easter season. We have appreciated so much your efforts and wish you both all the best on your new endeavors! And lastly, thank you especially to our Sunday morning speakers, who were willing to share their personal stories of God’s transforming and sustaining Grace in their lives: Ned Gould, Amanda Pulos, Rhonda Fisher, Paul Wallace and Jodi Coffman! You all are amazing and touched many folks by your words.
Recently, there has been a Psalm running through my head, Psalm 30, which is one of our lectionary texts for the first Sunday of May. It has some famous lines in it that many of you have likely heard before if not memorized yourselves: “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (vs. 5b). This Psalm also has some other well-known verses, such as, “You have turned my morning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me in joy.” Such juxtapositions as these are common in our faith vernacular, right? I was lost, but now I am found. I was blind, but now I see. I was dead and now am alive. I was a slave to sin, but now I am free. I lived in darkness, but now I see light. What others can you name from scripture or song? Such powerful testimonies of how God’s grace can change one’s life and perspective. Thank goodness we have people who are willing to share such testimonies, like the writer of Psalm 30 and those who did so in our own congregation during Lent, so that others can be filled with hope and inspired to turn to God in their times of distress.
Even though the Easter season is upon us, times of trial and temptation, times of sorrow, doubt and despair, they still linger, for the day of God’s Kingdom has not yet fully come. My question for you is, how have you experienced God’s deliverance? What would your testimony be? Below are some of the questions I shared with our Lenten speakers, to help them in their preparations. I share them with you now to hopefully help you as well in naming and articulating your own testimony of how God’s grace has effected your life.
- What biblical story or passage best describes God’s grace to you?
- Max Lucado writes that God’s grace changes, emboldens, strengthens, rewires and softens us. Describe a time when you have experienced the power of God’s grace.
- Grace is God’s promise that Christ will live not only for us but within us, that a new spirit will be put in us, that we get a “spiritual heart-transplant.” When have you experienced Christ living within you? Did you forgive someone who wronged you? Find the strength to choose a better path? Make an unexpected life change? Stand up for others in a way you never expected yourself to?
- Personally, I like to think of grace as when judgment is warranted, but instead favor/blessing is found. Does that spark any thoughts, memories, realizations for you?
If you have not done so yet, I strongly encourage you to consider what your own testimony about God’s grace would be. How has God changed your weeping into laughing, your night into morning, your blindness into sight? You never know who may be needing to hear your testimony today.
Grace, Peace and Easter Blessings to you all from our Risen Lord, who has turned death into life!
April 1, 2019
Hello again, dear friends and family of KOG!
Happy Lent! I hope you are enjoying our Sunday guest sermon series and Growth Group focus on Max Lucado’s book Grace. I am taking a little break from talking about grace for a moment and instead wanted to focus on a recent Netflix program I’ve been obsessing over: Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Have you seen it? It’s about a Japanese woman, Marie Kondo, who helps transform people’s lives by helping them tidy and declutter their homes. It’s addicting and touching and inspiring. Each episode has not only reminded me of how much our physical spaces effect our emotional and mental health, but it has also made me want to do some major spring cleaning and purging of my own. And it seems like this is the perfect liturgical season to do it, right? After all, Lent is a time when we are called to declutter and purge the things that have clouded our souls, minds and lives. This is the season when we try to do a fresh sweep of our selfishness and ask God to give our hearts a good cleansing. What in your life needs to be purged? Bookshelves? Office files? Kitchen cupboards? Or perhaps it’s constant busyness? Perfectionism? Past hurts and grudges? I know it is difficult, but only by devoting intentional energy and effort to this physical and spiritual process can we open up and prepare ourselves to receive the new and unexpected blessings God desires for our lives.
I was feeling all ready to go with my Lenten purge . . . then Josh and I sold our condo. This, of course, was/is a wonderful thing, but it also meant there was no time to purge, only pack, and pack we did and then move in the flurry of one weekend with the help of some very gracious church members. We are currently living out of suitcases and boxes at my in-laws in Placentia waiting to move into our new home. My dreams of tidiness had to be packed up as well during this process, to be opened another day. Just as I was about to begin feeling discouraged, I came across a wonderful thought in my new favorite devotion book: Gracelaced. In it, the author, Ruth Chou Simons, discusses Psalm 92:2 in which the Psalmist writes, “I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.’” Chou Simons writes about how her tidy home used to be her refuge (before she had 4 boys!) and of her struggle to maintain that refuge with her growing family and busy schedule. Rather than bemoaning it as a loss, however, she says it helped her realize that a tidy home, or office, or man-cave, were never meant to be our refuge. God is our true refuge. Only when we seek to find our rest, peace, and strength in God, will we be satisfied.
Now, you may be thinking, “Pastor Lund, you’re confusing me. First you said that tidiness is good and now you’re saying it’s not?” Yes, it may sound like a bit of a flip-flop, but here’s my point: it’s necessary and good to do our Lenten practice of spiritual tidying, but let us not forget that tidying itself is not the answer to peace and happiness. Let us not let our newly purged and organized homes and hearts become our new idol. Instead, do the tidying, do the hard work of Lent, but then remember that in the end it is not your work that is the answer. The answer is always God and the work God did through Jesus Christ for you. It all comes back to Grace. God’s grace is our true refuge and strength; the one and only place that deserves our trust and devotion. As Lent draws to a close, let us all say to God as the Psalmist does, “You are my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.”
Blessings to you on the rest of your Lenten journey and whatever tidying you undergo, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
Peace, Pastor Kinndlee