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Hoping and Waiting

On Sunday, November 29, we lit the candle of hope in our Advent wreaths and were reminded that for Christians hope is not fantasy or wishful thinking. Fantasy and wishful thinking can give us a momentary escape, but when we are up against a raging pandemic, the insanity of our current politics, and the widening gap between rich and poor, justice and injustice, truth and lies, wishful thinking is powerless to bring a real sense of peace. In the Scriptures, hope is expectation rooted in God’s love for us. Hope takes root and grows as our trust in the God Who Is With Us deepens.

But let’s be honest. For many of us it’s hard to grab hold of hope right now. And my supply of hope varies from day to day, often from hour to hour! May I offer you three things I’m doing right now to sustain and strengthen hope in my life?

First, I’ve declared a fast of sorts from social media and the news outlets. I check Facebook in the morning and sometime in the evening, limit posts, and avoid clicking on sensational news posts. As a priest and pastor I want to be informed about what’s going on in the world and around me, but if I’m not careful I’ll read posts or watch a news program until my blood pressure goes up and I’m ready to move my family to a desert island and give up on the human race! The constant dribble of news and talking heads can really do a number on our hope index. You might also want to watch the film “The Social Dilemna,” which underscores how our feelings and moods can be manipulated by media.

Second, I’ve ratched up my reading of the Gospels and books written about how human beings rose to the occasion during difficult and dark times. Reading about the life and teachings of Jesus have a way of centering us and reminding us about who we are as Christians. The sheer beauty of Jesus’ way of love inspires hope; hope that we, too, can actually experience God’s deepest desire for us. I’ve been reading about and watching documentaries about WWI and WWII, as well. Those generations faced desperate times and unspeakable horrors, yet many millions of people became heroes in their own right by resisting evil and making sacrifices. We simple would not be where we are as a nation today without the courage of those generations—a courage that I believe was built on the hope that the world could and would be a better place.

Another way that brings and builds up hope in me is mentioned on page 16 in the Advent booklet we distributed last week. Scott Stoner writes, “And because we know that God often works through others, putting our hope in others can be an expression of our hope that God is, and will be, present to us in and through other people.” Whenever I get discouraged or feel hopeless about what’s going on in the world and in our country, I think about the people of Good Samaritan Episcopal Church. Your engagement and generosity over the past year has been a source of hope and joy to me. So many people, staff and lay leaders, have worked hard behind the scenes to offer worship, prayer, and formation opportunities. We’ve sent a mission team to Guatemala, established a scholarship fund at Lake Washington Technical College, and distributed hundreds of worship packets. Folks have taken care of the facilities, planted flowers, deep cleaned the sanctuary, given of their time. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

As I write this, the people of this parish have pledged over $230,000 toward the 2021 ministry budget. We have pledged 94% of the amount recommended by the finance committee ($246,000). That may well be a record for this parish, and is already a healthy increase over the 2020 pledge amount. Earlier in the year the people of the parish gave over $20,000 to my discretionary fund and even as I write are making contributions for coats and gift cards for families in need. Those contributions have helped families and individuals make mortgage and rent payments, pay utility bills, and buy food. What all of that says to me is that our hope is not grounded in the stock market or who’s in the Oval Office; our hope as a parish flows out of our belief that Jesus’ Way of Love can change the world. God has been present to me this year in you, and for that I am deeply grateful.

No better way of expressing Christian hope is found than in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul writes:

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! (Romans 5:3–5, The Message)

I love that Eugene Petersen translates “hope” as “alert expectancy.” Because of what God has done for us in Christ AND because we are part of the living Body of Christ in the world, we can live in alert expectancy that Love will overcome.

With great expectation,
Fr. Steve+


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Reverse Advent Calendar

This year we’re introducing a new Advent tradition that is not only fun to do, but teaches little ones and reminds adults about the grace of sharing. Many advent calendars will contain a small gift or candy that is opened or received on each day of Advent, leading up to Christmas Day. The Reverse Advent Calendar focuses attention on sharing with those in need and the joy that comes from giving. You and your family is encouraged to purchase at least one or more of the items in week 1 and 3, bring it to church on the following Sunday for a blessing and distribution. In week 2, you’re encouraged to read and reflect on material about the ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and bring an offering on Sunday, December 15, to support their work.

Use the link below to download PDFs of the guide and the calendar, which you can attach to the fridge for easy reference!

Download the complete guide.

Download the calendar only.


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The “E” Word

by The Rev. Dr. Steve Danzey

It’s time we talked about the “E” Word. No, I don’t mean “e-mail” or “e-commerce.” I’m referring to a word that gives many of us the heebee-geebees (how’s that for a word choice?): Evangelism. In spite of all our fears and the many ways the word is abused, “evangelism” is a good word. Simply put, it means “to share good news.” This Sunday evening we have a wonderful opportunity to do evangelism and do it really well—sharing the good news about God’s love made known to us in the birth of Christ and the unique way our Good Samaritan community lives out our faith.

When I say doing evangelism really well, here’s what I mean: Sunday afternoon at 5 pm, we’re inviting our community to gather in our space to sing carols and songs that are as much a part of our culture as they are the Christian faith itself. Who doesn’t love a fun carol sing-along? Included in our gathering will be—you guessed it—food. Cookies. Dozens of cookies. Christmas cookies! And hot chocolate and cider. St. Nick will appear at some point to give out chocolate, too. Do I have your attention yet???!!!!

I encourage you to be here and bring your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers this Sunday afternoon. Not only will it be a great community building event, but an opportunity to share the unique way we live out the Good News through fellowship, song, and hospitality. Based on the response so far, we’re anticipating quite a few folks from our Preschool and the community at large. Come a little early to grab a cookie or two and something to drink before we begin singing. And if you see someone here you don’t know, introduce yourself to them and let them know that they’re always welcome here at Good Samaritan. Just showing up and giving the gift of hospitality makes you an evangelist. It’s just that simple and easy!

E-xpectantly,

Fr. Steve+


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The Deacon’s Corner: Advent Memories and Longing

by The Rev. Kathryn Ballinger
 
Maybe we can never go back in time and recapture the feelings and anticipation of childhood Christmases. Maybe the memories are sufficient to sustain us. But there are moments when the wonder and awe and beauty sweep over us and we again experience the delicious anticipation of a child. We are swept up again with the wonder of cold starry nights, candlelight, and music. Our souls are lifted up, and we experience a spiritually “thin place” where we experience the nearness of the Holy and deep longing. Such was the evening of Lessons and Carols on December 2. Advent is a “now” experience as well as a historical event. Since the coming of Christ goes on forever, there is always an Advent going on. We are the people of Advent. Therefore we can see all the characters of the Advent that was “then” in our Advent which is “now.” Where in our lives is John the Baptist, provoking us to become aware of new things happening in our lives? Where is Zachariah in our lives, not immediately open to what is new? Where is Elizabeth, so ready to appreciate the coming of the Lord? Where is Joseph, so gracious when all was so strange? And Mary, where is she in us, trusting and welcoming the word in her heart? For where we find Mary in ourselves, there we find Christ being born in our souls. All of us are called to incarnate the seed of Christ.

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Advent Adult Formation: Journeying the Way of Love

For the season of Advent, we will offer three sessions to prepare for Christ’s coming by moving through the first two chapters of Luke and exploring how to put our faith in action. We’ll also discuss taking on or living more deeply into at least one of the Christian disciplines each week.

  • Advent 1, December 2 – The Annunciation: Saying “Yes” to the Journey
  • Advent 2, December 9 – The Birth of John the Baptist: Journeying with Community
  • Advent 3, December 16 – The Birth of Jesus: Journeying with the World (Special guests from La Iglesia Episcopal de la Resurrección in Mt. Vernon will attend.)
  • Advent 4, December 23 – No adult formation this Sunday.

Contact Fr. Steve Danzey with any questions.


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