While the world goes on with business as usual, utterly undisturbed in its normalcy, while Mary & Joseph go through their simple obedience to God and community, the whole realm of God, all the angels, spiritual powers, & all creation is beside itself with praise & thanksgiving at what God has done & is doing in this little baby. Only Simeon and Anna, see it. In God’s freedom, God works below the radar and reveals wonders only to the those whom God chooses, the least: not the most, the strong, the well-disciplined or well-intentioned. Only the least. How offensive this is. It empties us. It exposes the inner thoughts of our hearts. If there is faith in the heart it will cling to God’s Promise regardless of what is exposed. If not, well… teeth gnashing futility.
A quote from The Martin Luther Christmas Book, trans. Roland Bainton, “…and we who hear this message, ‘Behold I bring you good tidings,’ never feel one spark of joy. I hate myself because when I see him laid in the manger, in the lap of his mother, and hear the angels sing, my heart does not leap into flame. “With what good reason should we all despise ourselves that we remain so cold when this word is spoken to us over which all [persons] should dance and leap and burn for joy! We act as though, it were a frigid, historical fact that does not smite our hearts…”
Almost everything I see Lutherans writing about and the things my colleague pastors want to speak about is how the Bible message lands in our thoughts, as if the important thing is to be intellectually convincing. The thinking seems to be, if we are intellectually convincing it will lead to just action and good behavior.
Martin Luther lamented his cold heart, the way he remained untouched by what should have moved him to his core. This place — the heart — the core — is where the battle of indifference is fought. Not on the field of the intellect. Intellectual curiosity and the battles fought on the field of intellect deal in “frigid historical facts”. They have a place, but need to be kept there. Otherwise they are a fatal distraction. They do little more than mistake indignation for an answer to indifference. But they do not make the heart warm to God’s Word or to our neighbor. How horrible if, instead, they functioned like fingers in our ears, singing, “Lalalalala, I cannot hear you” while God tries to penetrate our hearts and form Christ in us with the Good News?
God does not want you to know God as the Supreme Being. God wants you to know God as the human baby who grew up to be the human adult, Jesus Christ, whose entire mission in life was to honor his heavenly Father by loving & serving needy people like you & me, even to the point of his forsaken death on the cross. God wants to be known in this way & in no other way. This, & none other is your Savior God, & the Savior of the world. This God is not content to remain distant from you but comes to you as the Savior of the last, the lost, the least, the little and the dead.(Robert Capon) Christ meets you there as your neighbor who is in these circumstances. Serve! Christ meets you there as your Savior when you are in these circumstances. Receive!
The Bible tells us very directly & clearly what is blessed about the Blessed Virgin Mary. (Luke 1:45) She believed the Word of the Lord spoken to her. Mary’s blessedness, virginity, purity have very little to with her sexuality or her biology. Her virginity is a symbol of an intimate space which God protected undefiled & pure. Anyone who believes the word of the Lord does so from a space of undefiled purity. Faith is such a space. God has also protected such a space in you. But you will not feel it or know it as if it is at your command. If it was at your command you would defile it. That is also true of Mary. But God gives it & sustains it as a free gift.
John the Baptist says of Jesus Christ, “Among you stands one whom you do not know…I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” Not only do we not know this One as he stands among us, we don’t want to know, because Christ Jesus has embeddedhimself in our miserable condition. He resides with us in this world, in our weakness, poverty & humiliation, not in our strength, health, beauty, and power. That is where the devil meets us. But Christ is the Savior where we need him not where we want him. He is the shining light that illuminates the dark corners of our hopelessness.
We pray Prayers of the Church or intercessory prayers, each Sunday following the offering and before Holy Communion.
Without God to teach us, we would simply pray our own banal and circumstantial desires: prayers which God will graciously ignore! (James 4:3) Christ changes our desires and directs us to what we ought to desire (Matthew 6:5-14).
So the prayers in our public worship serve the twofold purpose of praying for the thing we desire and for teaching our hearts what we ought to desire most deeply.
The “Prayers of the Church” are a liturgical act. That is, we are representing the deepest concerns of the communion of saints, not only our personal, local, or circumstantial concerns that seem most urgent and interesting.
Follow this link to see the petitions we are currently praying in our worship along with some explanations. The petitions appear in italics,with explanations in smaller regular print, to the right.I invite you to join in praying with us for these concerns.
God created the church to joyfully lift up the Good News of God, even when all hell is breaking loose — like it so often seems. We are not called to be a police force for morality. We are not called to frighten people with dire warnings, as if we were some holy alarm system (although that might sometimes be a necessary tactic). The prophet Isaiah teaches us our actual purpose:to joyfully proclaim God’s good news in Jesus Christ and to live into the future God promises in Christ. Our joy might be solemn, sober and serious, but it is a deep joy that points beyond present circumstances to how God promises them to be in Christ.
Making friends with neighbors and simply being in relationship with them here and now is a way of lifting up Christ for our neighbors. True relationship means humbly and gratefully receiving the gifts our neighbor offers. Gift of Grace receives SO many gifts from our neighbors!
Our nearest neighbor Karla Meursing, is a dear friend to Gift of Grace who has been quietly supporting Gift of Grace projects for several years. She has been most involved with the chicken project. She LOVES the chickens. In addition to having her own flock, she helps take care of ours every single day, feeding and watering them and generally keeping an eye on them.
Karla is an artist. So, she makes art out of her chicken interactions and shares it with us. Here are some art projects she has shared with us. Give thanks to God for Karla and the gifts she freely shares with Gift of Grace.
When we first got chickens Karla was taking an online art class. She befriended an artist in Germany, Saskia Elze, and told her all about the chickens and their adventures. This led to the creation of this book, based on actual chicken events: The True Story of Blackface’s Night Out.
Saskia drew the pictures and wrote the story. Then sent them to Karla via the internet. One of Karla’s art forms is book binding. So she printed the pictures out and created them into a book. Some of the pictures show her binding work.
By the way, to honor Saskia Elze’s work please note: pictures and story are copyrighted.
In a little henhouse there lived four hens and a rooster.
The biggest hen was called Big Red Bertha.
The rooster’s name was Cocky.
He was very young and a dashing and all the hens had a crush on him,
most of all Blackface, the smallest hen
One evening Big Red Bertha hissed menacingly at Little Blackface,
“You’re too small and ugly. Cocky will never like you!
And he won’t find worms for you anymore either.
You’d better leave before he throws you out.”
Blackface was devastated and ran out of the henhouse.
She didn’t see where she was going and she felt all alone
Night fell. It was cold and Blackface didn’t know what to do.
She cried big, hot tears and it seemed
like no one in the world loved her.
Suddenly she heard a familiar voice calling her name.
It was Cocky and he had been looking for her all over
because he liked her best all hens.
When Blackface realized that he liked her she was overjoyed!
Together they went back to the henhouse.
They sat down on the roost side-by-side
and huddled against each other.
Big Red Bertha was furious that her plan hadn’t worked.
Cocky was very cross with her
and didn’t give her a single worm for a whole month.
Little Blackface stayed with him and never ran away again.
Karla’s drawing of the building and food forest from Summer 2017
You are invited to a Thanksgiving Feast at Gift of Grace on Thanksgiving Day.
GraceFeast’s own chef, Matthew Shea, is teaming up with a we.org service club from Redmond to serve this feast. Matthew has worked with this crew in the past. They have even cooked and served meals here, for example, last Christmas.
Two mom’s from Redmond, Diane Baron and Kelli Landers, started their own after school service club through the we.org organization when their kids were in 3rd and 5th grade. They are now 8th and 10th graders. They wanted to encourage kids to learn the joy of service early. This is the goal of we.org. Each year this club is committed to 1 local and 1 global service project, but they do more. They connected to Matthew when they were volunteering at Facing Homelessness. Diane rejoices that Matthew has been been an inspiration to her kids as they have gotten to know him over the past 3 years. They now count him as a friend.
I rejoice too, because getting to know one another across socio-economic status is exactly the spirit of GraceFeast. Jesus broke bread indiscriminately. We want to follow his lead and experience the joy he promises.
I will send out the details of the time and menu of the Feast when they are solidified, but for now, mark the date and give thanks for God’s reconciling work in the world. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord. (Psalm 34:8)
I am writing to celebrate with you the arrival of 2 new hens, joining our other 4 hens. The best part of getting these new hens is that they were given to us by a neighbor family. One of the main reason for having Gift of Grace Urban Farm, of which the chickens are a part, is to encourage interaction with our neighbors. So, we give thanks to God for Nancy
Adams Treder and family for gifting us these hens. We can also give thanks for Molly Donavan and those who manage to the FaceBook page “Buy Nothing: Wallingford.” This page is dedicated to helping neighbors gift things they would otherwise toss out, as well as being a platform for letting neighbors know about items you might need in the event the someone can gift it to you instead any of us buying MORE STUFF! Nancy posted her hens on the page. I saw the post and we connected. Before calling me, she read most of our giftofgrace.org website to learn who we are.
We also received this lovely table for Little Castle Preschool from the “Buy Nothing: Wallingford.” page!
In more chicken news, about a month ago a band of marauding raccoons attacked our next-door neighbor Karla’s coop, killing about 8 hens. A few nights later they attacked our coop and killed all Karl’s chicks.The chicks were in our front coop pending their transition to Karla’s back yard with her other hens.
We discovered how the coons got in our front coop and solved that issue. The next night or so they attacked our coop again and this time got in the back coop, killing one of our hens before Karla heard the ruckus and come to the defense of our remaining hens.
How that coon got in our back coop remains a mystery. We went over every inch of it and could not find a point of entry. We nevertheless fortified the coops. Since then we have had no more coon visits that we know of. We hope it stays that way.