By Our Love

Yesterday evening, on June 19, about two dozen Good Samaritans worshiped with the congregation of Primm Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church. Pastor Mercedes reminded us that June 19 was the celebration of “Juneteenth,” the day when African American slaves in Texas finally learned of the Emancipation Proclamation made effective on January 1 of that year. She remarked that we had come a long way, evidenced by our worshiping together, but still had a long way to go in the work of racial reconciliation. Our choir then sang an arrangement of “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.” This song was written in the 1960s by Peter Scholtes, a Roman Catholic priest in Chicago, for the parish youth choir. He wrote the song to be used at ecumenical and interracial events in the city. If you lived through the ’60s, you’ll know firsthand the sentiment behind the text of the song.
 
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.
And we pray that our unity may one day be restored,
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
 
I remember the first time I heard the song. I was a freshman in college, and attended what was considered a “liberal” Assemblies of God church in Springfield, Missouri. They were considered “liberal” because of the racial mix of the congregation and their emphasis on social justice. I was struck by that last line, “they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Not by our doctrinal purity, or how religious we are, or what church we belonged to, but “by our love.”
 
The 19th century English writer Henry Drummond wrote, “We have been accustomed to be told that the greatest thing in the religious world is faith. Well, we are wrong.” The greatest thing, as St. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, is love.
 
In Galatians 5, St. Paul mentions love first in his list of “the fruit of the Spirit.” Why? Come to church on Sunday, June 23, and find out! We begin our summer series on the Fruit of the Spirit. I will give you a teaser, however. I think Paul listed love first because all of the other fruit—patience, kindness, peace, etc.—flow out of and are, in a way, elements or expressions of love. Living in love is possible, scripture tells us, because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
 
Two weeks ago we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and now we are in the season of Pentecost. It’s a good time to reflect upon and consider the work of the Spirit in the transformation of our own character and the Spirit’s work to help us fulfill our baptismal promise to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.” The best place to start is love.
 
“They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
 
—Fr. Steve+

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Note from the Rector: Come, Holy Spirit

This Sunday, June 9, we will recall and celebrate the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to his first disciples: that he would send the Holy Spirit who would make Christ’s presence known throughout the whole earth to every believer until the end of time. Pentecost, as some of you may recall, is actually a Jewish feast (Shavuot) and was primarily a thanksgiving festival for the firstfruits of the wheat harvest. It was later associated with a remembrance of the Law given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. The church’s transformation of the Jewish feast to a Christian festival was thus related to the belief that the gift of the Holy Spirit to the followers of Jesus was the firstfruits of a new dispensation that fulfilled and succeeded the old dispensation of the Law. The gift of the Spirit also serves as the source of our unity as Christians, and our call and empowerment for ministry and service in the Church and the world.
 
This Sunday our Journey with Jesus does not end; it is just the beginning! Walking with Jesus through his life, death and resurrection, learning from his teachings and example how to walk in the Way of Love and seriously considering what it means to be his Beloved Community where we are is really the groundwork and foundation for actually doing the work of Jesus in our own context. In other words, now the real fun begins! As part of our celebration on Sunday, we will meet one last time this spring for adult formation at 9:15 am to discuss the next step in our journey to be God’s Beloved Community here in Sammamish. Please join us for this important conversation!
 
After we celebrate the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, we will delve into how the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, helping us to become more Christ-like in our character and strengthening us to do the work he has given us to do. Beginning on June 23, the same day we begin the summer worship schedule (one service at 9:30 am), we will begin a 9-part summer sermon series on the fruit of the Spirit. Plan to be at church on these Sundays when you’re in town as we explore love, peace, patience, joy, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
 
With much anticipation,
Fr. Steve+

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Note from the Rector: Fr. Brian Is Moving On

Since the first of the calendar year so much of what we’ve done in our preaching, formation, planning, and conversation has been centered around the theme Journey with Jesus. Last week, The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers touched on this theme in her talk on “Becoming Beloved Community” and expanded our vocabulary to include thinking about this journey in terms of a labyrinth. A labyrinth, you know, has a beginning point and a destination, but the way is never linear! There are twists and turns, and often the way forward is surprising. As I reflect on my four years (as of June 15) as your Rector, I remember the twists and turns and many surprises we have encountered in our journey together. We have done good work, and I am grateful and hopeful for our future as a parish.

One of the surprises in our journey together occurred two years ago, when Fr. Brian Gregory came to serve as Curate. (For those who don’t know, in our tradition, a Curate serves for two years as a priest-in-training.) Not only did he bring years of expertise in youth ministry, but his beautiful family, as well. Kelly, Ellsley, and Westin have become dear to us all, and made their own mark on the life of this parish. Another surprise was that we had the honor and privilege of hosting his ordination to the Sacred Order of Priests. He has done good ministry here among us over the past two years. He has been a particular blessing to me as a trusted colleague and friend.

Most of you are aware that Fr. Brian and Kelly have been in discernment for quite some time about the possibility of serving the Lord in Guatemala. Last Sunday I announced that Fr. Brian and his family have come to a decision; they will be leaving the States in mid-August to serve at least one year in Guatemala. I will leave it to Fr. Brian and Kelly to give you the details of what they’ll be doing—as a start, you can read Fr. Brian’s letter to the congregation here.

Fr. Brian’s last Sunday with us will be August 4. He will preach and celebrate at both services that day, and the vestry is planning a celebration to express our gratitude. I will lead us in a brief commissioning service that day, and we will send them on their way with our thanks and blessings. Stay tuned for more details. I will also be making an announcement soon about how we can continue to support Fr. Brian in the work to which God is calling him.

In the meantime, the vestry leadership and I will be in prayer and discernment about staff leadership for our children, youth and family ministries. As I stated on Sunday, the vestry and I are fully committed to reaching and serving families with children and youth, which makes up the vast majority of our community demographic. I will keep you updated as we move along in this process.

Please keep Fr. Brian and his family in your prayers as they prepare to move to Guatemala, and for our parish as we continue on our journey to become the Beloved Community that God desires for us!

Blessings, Fr. Steve+


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A Note from the Rector: “Becoming”

On Tuesday evening, Stephanie Spellers reminded us that the first word in “Becoming Beloved Community” is “becoming.” We don’t just arrive at a point where it’s perfect and where we don’t have any more work to do. Becoming a life-giving, liberating, loving community is, as our mission statement puts it, a journey.
 
Last week, most of us who walked the Portugues Cominha arrived back home from a two-week journey from Porto, Portugal, to Santiago de Compestela, Spain. Our journey took us over 140 miles, but I think I speak for all of us when I say that it was an inward journey of the soul as well. As I told the folks in worship last Sunday, what developed in our journey was a sense of real community—we got to know the good, the bad, and the ugly (especially those blisters!), and yet our love and care for one another grew deeper with every mile. It was truly a transformative experience.
 
That is my hope and dream for Good Samaritan: that we would enter more deeply into the journey of Becoming Beloved Community. Not just for ourselves, but for the families who attend our preschool, the people who live down 244th, and, indeed, this parish’s circle of geographical influence. Jesus has given us not only the example of what that looks like, but through the power of the Spirit, the ability to actually pattern our lives and the life of our community after the way of Love. The conversation has begun, and I promise you that it will continue!
 
I invite you to join the conversation we are having about “Beloved Community” at adult formation the next three weeks. This Sunday we’ll do some unpacking of what we heard and discussed on Tuesday evening with Stephanie. If you weren’t able to attend, we’ll bring you up to speed so that you can join the conversation.
 
-Fr. Steve+

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And on the sixth day…

Week 6 REST

 
The earliest recorded account of Creation (Genesis 1) shows us a pattern of labor and rest. Scripture tells us that for six days God created (worked), and on the seventh day, God rested. Other parts of the Old Testament tell us that the ancient people of God saw in the creation story a pattern of working and resting, and sought to instill that pattern in their own communal life. As the group discussed on Sunday at adult formation, the Sabbath was made for us, not us for the Sabbath. Dedicated time for restoration and wholeness is not only critical for our bodies and minds, it’s also an act of trust that God will take care of us, as well as all those things that occupy our time when we’re not resting.
 
As a priest, one of my greatest concerns for the spiritual life of my parishioners is schedules that are so full that there is little time left for God, community, and family life. Lent is a good time to reflect on our schedules and ask ourselves if we are really taking time during the day or the week to reflect, rest, and enjoy the blessings of life. Last Sunday, the formation group read the story of the Valley of the Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37:1–14) and discussed how that related to Rest. Perhaps the lesson is that without intentional times of rest and renewal, our lives can end up dry and joyless.
 
Take a few moments this week to reflect on the passage, and these questions.
  • What gets in the way of practicing sabbath rest? Is it hard to rest? Why?
  • The act of rest and restoration is a part of the cycle of rebirth that is God’s hope for us and gift to us. What does this mean to you?
  • How can I encourage others to rest?
  • How do I practice sabbath rest within my body, mind, and soul and within communities and institutions?
 
Thanks to Philip Ballinger and Claire Nold-Glaser for leading adult formation last Sunday. Join us this Sunday for a discussion of how we can give witness to the love, justice, and truth of God by crossing boundaries.
 
—Fr. Steve+

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To Pray Is to Change

On Sunday, March 3, your new vestry met for its first official meeting. We always begin the meetings with a meditation and prayer, which I heartily recommend before any discussion of finances, building issues, the abandoned car in the parking lot, and why the copier keeps breaking down! At this meeting I read a paragraph from Peter Steinke’s A Door Set Open.

“Mission is the expression of the church’s deep, abiding beliefs. Mission provides the major standard against which all activities, services, and decisions are evaluated. Mission is the preserver of congregational integrity. It is about God’s love for the world, not about what I like or don’t like about my church” (p. 78).

Then I had the group list and discuss those things we deal with as vestry that would fall into the categories of “maintenance” and “mission.” We had a good discussion, then I led the group in prayer.

On the way home it occurred to me that we could have skipped the prayer I led, not because we didn’t need to pray but because we had already been praying! Having a conversation about how we lead the church in its mission was the prayer. If God is listening all the time, then God was a part of the conversation. And that’s what prayer is in its essence; conversation with God, talking, listening.

A few hours earlier on Sunday, we held our second session of “The Way of Love: Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life” at the adult forum. The topic was PRAYER. We broke up into groups, then gathered back in the big group and had great discussion on some really practical questions and observations. The materials provided by the Presiding Bishop’s office describes prayer this way: “…when we pray we invite and dwell in God’s loving presence.” I shared with the group this quote about prayer from Richard Foster:

“To pray is to change. This is a great grace. How good of God to provide a path whereby our lives can be taken over by love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control” (Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 6).

My guess, if you’re like me, is this: “I want all the love and joy and peace I can get!” Conversation with God, dwelling in God’s loving presence, helps us grow in these virtues.

If you missed last Sunday, you’ll find the scripture passage we used for our discussion and some reflection questions. I hope you’ll join us this Sunday, 9:15 am, for the next step in our journey on the Way of Love.

Prayerfully,

Fr. Steve+


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What Is Worship?

On Sunday the adult formation group had a lively discussion about worship. We explored these questions: what is worship, what is most meaningful to you in a service of worship, what does it mean to worship God in spirit and in truth, is regular attendance in corporate worship important? We just scratched the surface!
 
Worship of God is expressed in many forms. St. Paul urged the Roman Christians to present their bodies to God as a living sacrifice as an act of worship. Worship is something we do in private or small groups or in a larger congregation. It includes adoration, thanksgiving, hearing and reflecting on Scripture, and celebrating the sacraments. The discipline of worship in community is regularly gathering to thank, praise and dwell with God. Regular participation in worship with the community is not just about what we receive from it, but also what we are able to share with the larger group. Just our physical presence can be an encouragement to others. We read and discussed the following passages from Scripture:
  • John 4:7–24
  • Acts 2:44–47
  • 1 Corinthians 14:23–25
Reflect on these and on the questions listed above. As part of your Lenten journey, participate in corporate worship as much as possible. There are plenty of opportunities!
 
On the Way,
—Fr. Steve+
 

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Statement on the Klahanie Graffiti Incident

Last week, several homes in the Klahanie neighborhood of Sammamish were spray-painted with racist graffiti. The police are investigating this incident as a hate crime. As our Baptismal Covenant states, we believe all human beings are formed in the image of God, and as such deserve respect, understanding, and protection from harm. Races, ethnicities, and the wide variety of human experience reflect the very character of God who delights in the richness of diversity. I am grateful that our parish exists in a community of diverse cultures and languages where we can learn from each other and grow in our own understanding of what it means to be part of the world which God created. In the Sammamish City Council’s statement, they observed that at least 27 languages are spoken in our city. Our preschool children reflect the diversity of our community, and it is with joy that every day we see children from all over the world learning and playing together. This, I believe, is God’s dream for the world. In the face of this incident and others throughout our nation in recent days, what can we do? I believe that each one of us, as the Baptized in Christ, not only has a responsibility to resist racism, but to actively engage in the work of justice and peace. There are several ways to do that in our context, and here are a few ideas:

  • Attend one of several peace events being held around our city in the coming days, one of which will be held on April 3 when State Supreme Court Justice Steve Gonzalez comes to Sammamish to speak on racism and inclusion. Details to come soon on this event.
  • Of course, calling out racist statements when you hear them is another way to respond. Sure, it might be uncomfortable, especially if it’s a friend or family member, but as Christians it is the way we are “salt and light” in the world.
  • Reach out to neighbors, acquaintances, folks you meet at the grocery store who are from another country or of a race or religion different from your own. Get to know them; let them know that you are glad they are part of our community.
  • Join the conversation the Faith in Action Commission is having about partnership and ministry with our sisters and brothers at La Iglesia Episcopal de la Resurreccion in Mt. Vernon.
  • Join in the conversation on Sundays at 9:15 am as we explore Jesus’ Way of Love and how we more faithfully live into it. Pray. Pray for our country, for our leaders, for our community. Pray for justice and peace. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. Prayer aligns us with the will and purposes of God, which is, as St. Paul declares, reconciliation with God and breaking down the barriers that divide us.

These are just a few ways to respond, you’ll think of others, I am sure. Speaking of prayer, this one from the Book of Common Prayer beautifully expresses our hope as Christians”

“O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Hopefully, Fr. Steve+


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You’re Invited to Go Deeper

by The Rev. Dr. Steve Danzey

Are you wondering why we are doing an adult formation series on Baptism? It may seem basic, or maybe you feel that you know everything about it already. But the truth is that there is always something to learn and ways to grow. Baptism gets to the heart of what it is to be a Christian—both the ways in which we encounter God’s grace and what it means to live as a Christian in the world. So whether you were baptized 60 years ago or are thinking about doing it now, diving into its meaning will stretch and deepen your faith as an individual and, just as importantly, the faith we share as a community.

If you missed the first week of “I Will, With God’s Help,” our current formation series on the Baptismal Covenant, you can still join us this Sunday for the remainder of the class. We meet at 9:15 am in the Narthex on Sundays. The youth of Good Samaritan have been exploring “I Will, With God’s Help” since September and we hope you’ll join them in learning about and exploring our faith.

About the Baptismal Covenant

In the Episcopal Church, baptism is when we say “yes” to God’s grace in our lives and to everything being a Christian means. We say “yes” by making the promises contained in our Baptismal Covenant—our job description, of sorts, as Christians as we understand it in the Episcopal Church.

Many of us were baptized as babies. Our parents and sponsors said “yes” for us at that point, promising to guide us in the Christian life according to the Baptismal Covenant, hoping that one day, we might make the promises and follow Christ for ourselves. You may have been confirmed at some point later on in life and have lived the promises as your own. The reality is that we always have room to grow, to be more faithful to our call as Christians, to make these promises again and again because we never live them perfectly. This is the reason why we say the Baptismal Covenant together, as a community, whenever someone is baptized in our church and several other times throughout the year. We need always to be reminded of God’s call and what it is we have promised to do as followers of Jesus.

Along with our formation series to explore the meaning of this in more depth, two opportunities to reaffirm the promises of our Baptismal Covenant are happening in the coming weeks:

  1. This coming Sunday, January 13, is the day we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord, and we will renew the Baptismal Covenant together as we remember Jesus’ own baptism—whose example we follow.
  2. On February 10, Bishop Greg Rickel will be visiting during our regular services, giving the sermon, baptizing and receiving any new members, confirming youth and adults, and praying for those who would like to make a more formal recommitment to their baptismal promises.

I hope you will join your church family and make the commitment to go deeper with us this year as we go on a journey with Jesus. Baptism is the beginning of our Christian life, just as it was the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. After we renew our Baptismal Covenant in the coming weeks, we will continue following Jesus’ journey of love through his life and death in Lent, through his resurrection in Easter, and finally through his charge to the church at Pentecost. Each stage of the journey is important and your presence is what makes us a community as we travel together.

—Fr. Steve+


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The Way of Love: On the Journey with Jesus

On Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, I described the Christian year as a journey with Jesus—a journey with him through his birth, baptism, ministry, passion, death, and resurrection. I also invited the congregation to a year of intentionally leaning into that annual journey the Church has given us. Now that we’ve journeyed through Advent and celebrated the birth of Christ, our pilgrimage leads us to those places and events in the life of Jesus where God’s love and grace is revealed in particular and powerful ways.

Beginning this Sunday, January 6, and concluding on February 3, we will unpack the baptismal covenant and prepare for Bishop Greg’s visitation on February 10. Using the curriculum “I Will with God’s Help,” we’ll dig deep into each component of the baptismal covenant each Sunday at 9:15am. I encourage every parishioner to consider making a formal renewal of your baptismal vows at the bishop’s visitation. This formation series will prepare you for that. The series also serves as preparation for Confirmation or Reception into the Episcopal Church. I’m also asking new members or those considering membership to attend this class as part of their introduction to the parish. And for those who are just curious and not really sure about making a formal commitment, you are especially welcome! Forms for renewal of baptismal vows, Confirmation, Reception, and new member registration (with an explanation of each) will be available again this Sunday. I’m particularly excited about this series as it will be something we do together to deepen our faith.

After the bishop’s visit and continuing through the season of Lent, we will continue our journey on “The Way of Love.” Inspired by our Presiding Bishop, The Most Reverend Michael Curry, this Sunday morning series will explore practices that help us on the journey of Love. Bishop Curry writes:

Before they were called “church” or “Christian,” this Jesus Movement was simply called “the way.” Today I believe our vocation is to live as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement. But how can we together grow more deeply with Jesus Christ at the center of lives, so that we can bear witness to his way of love in and for the world? The deep roots of our Christian tradition may offer just such a path.

Each session will focus on a particular Christian practice, with some time for reflection and practical application. We’re working, too, on activities and events during the week to follow up on what we’ve been learning about and discussing on Sundays, including the possibility of a short retreat at one of the local monasteries.

After Easter, we’ll continue the Journey leading up to Pentecost, which is celebrated on May 31 this year. Pentecost, remember, celebrates not only the coming of the Holy Spirit Jesus promised, but the sending out of the Church into the world to do the work of the Kingdom. During this season, we’ll be very intentional about putting into practice what we’ve learned and discovered throughout Epiphany and Lent about the Way of Love.

As either Fr. Brian or I say every Sunday as we invite you to the Lord’s Table: Let us walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself for us…”

Fr. Steve+


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