Seattle Voter's Forum: Casting ballots with our whole city in mind. Worship in Action

By Beth Douglass

Seattle's next election day is coming. On November 7, we'll cast our ballots for mayor -- but Seattle voters have more to decide than whether to elect Jenny Durkan or Cary Moon.

As we flip through our Washington State voters' pamphlets and prepare to fill out our ballots, we want to be intentional about considering the impacts our vote has -- not only on our families and neighborhoods -- but on all families and neighborhoods in Seattle. As our city's economy continues to grow at rapid speed, we're becoming even more aware of the impacts on Seattle's underrepresented communities, which are receiving even fewer resources from industries focused on pouring into other areas of town.

For the past year, Union church's Truth & Justice initiative has looked to explore the different ways this gap in our city continues to widen. From youth incarceration, marginalization, homelessness, the history of America's criminal justice system, and workshops to help us begin to identify our own implicit biases and cultural lenses, it's been an exciting year. We are so grateful for the many community partners and leaders who have been instrumental in helping us host these timely events and discussions.

On Suday, September 22, we hosted a voter's forum at the close of our 4th Sunday community service and volunteer activities. Gathering in the cafe of Kakao Coffee and Chocolate, we gathered to discuss a variety of issues on our November 2017 ballot.

Our goal was not to walk away having decided how to vote, but to have the chance to engage in dialogue with others in our community, and to ponder together how we can vote in a way that is guided by Scripture and informed by Christ's heart for the world and the types of actions he took.

The forum began with the video, "That Is Privilege?," which we watched in an effort to see some of the ways our experiences are different from others, and to explore the ways that various parts of our identities and experiences can impact our experience with the world. 

View the full list of questions, compiled by Buzzfeed, used in the video.

In smaller discussion groups, we discussed a variety of current issues, paying specific attention to the impacts they each have on underrepresented populations, such as those expeirencing homelessness, immigrants (documented and undocumented), refugees, people of color, historically non-white neighborhoods, single parents, those with disabilities, who are renting their living spaces, who don't have a car, people with significant medical needs, and more.

  • Homelessnes, right to shelter
  • Housing, zoning, and backyard cottages
  • Police reform
  • Income tax
  • Transportation
  • School funding, education equity, and access to resources
  • Seattle's rapidly growing technology industry
  • Access to healthcare

At the close of our discussion time, we talked about whether we see these issues different when viewed through the lens of another. 

As we choose how to vote -- and consider the many options we see for how we can sharing of our time and resources -- it is such a gift to engage in dialogue with each other. As we learn about others' experiences, areas of expertise, and the places where they are investing their time, we are able to learn, grow, and move forward with a continually growing and expanding view of our city and the complexities of the challenges we face.

Voters forum.jpg

Union's Truth & Justice will host a variety of events in the coming year.  Email Truth & Justice for information. 

Why worship in action matters

Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and earth were created, things visible and invisible...and in him all things hold together."  Colossians 1:15

At the heart of God is imagination! Who could have imagined that the image of the invisible God would be Jesus of Nazareth who walked this earth proclaiming good news to the poor and hope to the afflicted and purpose to all people who, he reminded, are image-bearers of the God of Creation.

Walter Brueggeman writes: "'Imagination' may be understood as the God-given, emancipated capacity to picture (or image) reality -- God, world, self -- in alternative ways outside conventional, commonly accepted givens. Imagination is attentiveness to what is 'otherwise,' other than our taken-for-granted world."   Testimony to Otherwise:  The Witness of Elijah and Elisha

Our fourth Sundays, worship in action, are an invitation to live and worship with imagination and hope. We invite you to step into our Fourth Sundays with imagination and attentiveness to what is "otherwise" in our world.   Let us pray together that we will have eyes to see God at work and be bold to participate in our world, affirming that Jesus Christ holds all thing together.  And, share with us what you are discovering about our imaginative, creative, restorative God!

Assurance for each day

Out loud I will say:  Bless the Lord

We worship our God

            who forgives our sins

                        who heals us to become whole

                                    who brings good news to the poor

            who sets the burdened and battered free.

who rescues and restore us

making us a people in whom Your light shines.

Help us to hear your words about us: 

            through You we are your beloved,

                        Fearfully and wonderfully made.    Amen

Side by Side: Living into Our Purpose

Throughout August and September we are focusing upon the letter to the Philippians.  We are basing the title of the series on Phil. 1:27,” stand firm in one Spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.”  

The letter to the Philippians was written sometime between 60-62 AD by the Apostle Paul who was in prison in Rome. He wrote to a faithful group of believers in Jesus Christ who lived in Philippi, an ancient city but a new Roman colony less than 100 years old established after Octavius defeated Antony (around 30 BC) and then settled Philippi with veterans from the war; transplanted Roman citizens.  Now, Nero was Emperor of Rome and the pressure to worship the emperor had only increased throughout the Roman territories. The primary title for the emperor were Kyrios and Sōtēr (“Lord and Savior”) and every public event was to be given in honor of the emperor.

Paul’s purpose in writing the Philippians is to encourage them that even as he suffered in prison because he claims Jesus as Lord and Savior, they too in Philippi can resist the pressure to succumb to the emperor that cares not a twit about them and to stand together in their commitment to the true Lord, Jesus Christ who “though in the form of God emptied himself taking the form of a slave.”  They can live as people striving side by side for the faith of the gospel as they seek the well-being of one another just as their true Lord, Jesus Christ, did. They can live as people whose hope rests in their true citizenship of belonging to the God on high and not be dismayed by the opposition that would frighten them to follow an earthly emperor. They can live with a joy that transcends all circumstances because Jesus their Lord is with them in all circumstances. Why?  Because they follow the true Lord who turned power on its head and said, “if you want to be first be last”…”if you care for the least of these you care for me.”  They follow the true Lord who assures them they are not subjects of a capricious lord but beloved partners and co-workers who are being transformed into their true identity as one’s created in God’s image.

Philippians reminds us that we know who we are as we seek to know our true Lord, Jesus.  We discover our true purpose as we work together to share in the sufferings of others and live together, in all our uniqueness, by the power of the one Spirit.  We can be content in all circumstances when we remember who we are in Christ.

Our challenge in reading Philippians today:  Who vies for our attention?  What makes it difficult to trust that Jesus is Lord?  What are pressures we face from the current day “empire”?   What does it mean to have faith in the gospel?   How does gospel living change how we live “side by side”?  What is our purpose as followers of Jesus?

May our attitude be the same as Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:5)

Pentecost Benediction

Based on Acts 2

Go out into the world
Trusting this reality – YOU matter to God.

Go out into the world,
As people who practice Celebration

Go out into the world
With eyes to see those who need a hand;
Who need to be lifted up
And hear the Good news – they matter to God

Go out this week and
Dream dreams, pursue visions
and speak of God’s goodness
in the words of those who would hear.

And may the God who breathed life into creation be your delight.
May Christ Jesus give hope to your dreaming,
and may the Holy Spirit, your advocate and supporter,
........set your hearts ablaze with a passion for peace.

We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
In the name of Christ, our Living Saviour. Amen.

May 28. Worship in Action Opportunities

"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17

Fourth Sundays provide a way for us to come alongside our neighbors in South Lake Union and beyond. Below are some opportunities for this month. Meet at 415 Westlake Ave N at 10 a.m. unless time or location specified.  Events usually wrap up 11:20 am.  Questions? Renee

Breakfast at Mary's Place Guest Rooms l 9 am | 2213 8th Ave, 98121
We are serving breakfast at the Mary's Place Guest Rooms located on 8th Ave just south of Denny. 2213 8th Ave, 98121. Join with us to welcome families to our neighborhood. If you can join us, please arrive between 8:45 and 9:00 a.m. for set-up and serving. Children welcome. Contact: Myla

Seattle Cancer Care Brunch Team l 10 am | 207 Pontius Ave N
Instead of meeting at 415 Westlake go directly to 207 Pontius Ave N, 2nd floor dining room. Serve food and engage in conversations with residents staying here for treatment. This is a vital ministry of presence. Contact:  Ted

Make our Neighbors Happy|10 am | 415 Westlake |
Work on removing our dilapidated awning and adding a beautiful Garcia designed wood trim. Ladders welcomed. This is going to be very satisfying. Let's go team!

Make Our Neighbors Happy II|10 am | 415 Westlake | 
Spruce up our parking strip tree bed and prepare it for a new garden.

 Card and Snack Making |10 am | 415 Westlake | all ages
Help create cards of encouragement for our Women's Shelter or snacks for the kids at Compass House and students at Compass House and Mary's Place.

Help for the Hungry l all ages l 10 am | 415 Westlake
Pack sack lunches for the Immanuel Community Services Hygiene Center. The ICS Hygiene Center, located in the gymnasium of Immanuel Lutheran Church, provides the opportunity for homeless men and women to wash their clothes, take a shower, and spend the morning in a warm, safe, and clean environment. The Center is open weekdays from 8:00 am to noon. 

Bulk Food| 10 am | 415 Westlake
Help provide food security as we provide and repackage food or our local Immanuel Food Bank this month.

Meal Support| 10 am | 415 Westlake
Join with Alicia Downey in our kitchen to create meals for people in our community who could benefit from some extra tangible love.

 Create Your Own 4th Sunday Action
Some folks like to take 4th Sunday to develop connections with brothers and sisters by attending another church in their neighborhood or gathering others to share a meal or help a neighbor in community. What is a way that you feel nudged to express God's love and acceptance and seek the "welfare of the community?"

You also may want to take time to meditate on Luke 15:1-10.  How does it make you feel to know that God rejoices over you?  When have you experiencing God seeking after you?  How does this change how you live each day? 

 No Open Mic because of the holiday weekend. Our next Open Mics will be Monday, June 5 and Sunday, June 18 both at 6:30 p.m.

Stealing From the Bounty of the Past

Stealing From the Bounty of the Past
Jeff Fisher

This past Sunday at Union we introduced a new song, “Prayer for Lent”. Despite the admittedly uncreative title, I’m very excited about incorporating this song into our worship during this Lenten season, because it draws a connection between our community and the nascent church in the Fourth Century. The lyrics are adapted from a prayer attributed to St. Ephrem, a Syrian monk who died in the year 373. St. Ephrem was a prolific hymn-writer, who became revered for his ability to teach theology through music and combat doctrinal heresies that threatened to divide the church in its early, vulnerable state.   St. Ephrem, a Syrian refugee who experienced persecution and was forced to flee his home in the war-torn trauma of the 4th century, never stopped encouraging others in their faith. 

I think that St. Ephrem would be pleased that we are using his words to edify the body of the church so many centuries later. After all, in one of his hymns he says, “The boldness of our love is pleasing to you, O Lord, just as it pleased you that we should steal from your bounty.”

It’s important that we “steal from the bounty” of the generations of the church that came before us, because doing so provides a necessary reminder that our faith is anchored in something lasting and eternal that proves God’s faithfulness through the ages. It’s so easy to become obsessed with novelty and to look for the “new” thing that God is doing, but I take deep comfort in the knowledge that ours is but one chapter the book of salvation, and that as we flip back through the dusty pages of that tome we find that the words of a 1700-year-old Syrian man can suddenly become fresh again and produce new fruit in our congregation.

So, I hope that singing this song over the next several weeks assists you in preparing for Easter, in letting go of the things that weigh you down and opening yourself up to the new life of the resurrection. I also hope that the story of the prayer and its author open you up to embracing the spirit of philoxenia, the love of the stranger, so that you might discover the ways that God will continue to minister to you as you continue the pursuit of justice and shalom in the places of hurt and despair in our city and beyond.

Prayer for Lent
(Adapted from St. Ephrem’s Lenten Prayer)

O Lord and Master of my life
Take from me the spirit of sloth
Take from me the spirit of despair
Take from me the lust of power and idle talk
Instead, Lord, give to me
A spirit of holiness
Of patience and humility
That I might serve you more
O Lord and King
Help me see these faults of mine
And not to judge my neighbor’s heart
For you alone are God
Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen

A Lent question: To whom else can we go for DEEP, LASTING LIFE?

When people decide it is too difficult and disappointing to follow Jesus, he asks those still with him, “Do you also wish to go away?”  Peter’s response is “To whom else can we go?  You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).

Perhaps Jesus had not met expectations or provided the quick solution they desired. Jesus did not magically lift them from the complex maze of their daily lives.  He did not pull unending loaves of bread out of his pocket, but instead offered himself as the living bread. Jesus invited them to trust that he is the daily nourishment and guidance they need because he IS God’s presence. I AM the bread of life, Jesus says. 

In a moment of clarity, Peter gets it:  Jesus, I will stick with you.  What are any other true options?  You are the one who brings deep, lasting life. I will stick with you. 

The literal meaning of Lent is “lengthening.” Just as the daylight lasts longer each day as we move toward Spring, Lent is a season to intentionally seek a space – a “lengthening” space in our daily lives to examine this question:  To whom else can we go for deep, lasting life?  (While giving something up for Lent is the traditional practice, I do find that intentionally taking on a new practice might be the more positive response, especially a practice that takes me out of my comfortable patterns. Maybe the better question each day needs to be:  what will help create space, awaken my senses and help me face unmet expectations and live each day differently and more alert?)

In the maze of life, we are enticed down many paths that lead to dead-ends. Jesus does not promise to lift us out of the maze but instead promises to lead us through the maze, meeting us daily and relevantly.  Lent is a space that invites us to intentionally and honestly ask ourselves, “Will I trust Jesus?”

We need these 40 lengthening days of Lent to recognize the ways that we are forgetful, to name misplaced loyalties and to focus afresh on our need for a Savior so that Easter, the celebration of the resurrection, can break into our lives as God’s earth-shattering, world-redeeming, hope-infused reality of new life -- a new life for all of humanity and a new life that invites us into reconciling relationships with one another. Where else can we go for deep, lasting life?

 Renée

Fourth Sunday – Meet your Church Neighbors

Deirdre Curle's journey of becoming acquainted with her church neighbors on Fourth Sundays. 

In the summer of 2015, a good friend from Puerto Rico was visiting for a week, and I invited her to come to Union with me. Although my friend was warmly greeted by several of you, she was taken aback by the calm casualness of our church – people walking around in shorts and sandals, sipping lattes, quietly singing along with our mellow worship songs. When I asked her what she thought of our church, she commented on how low-key we were compared to churches in Puerto Rico. Then she paused and said, “You know, you guys should check out other churches and see how they do things.”

I can’t help but wonder what we could do if we all came together as the church. Perhaps meeting our church neighbors is the first step.

After my friend left, I thought about what she said. I’ve attended Union for seven years, and University Presbyterian for ten years before that. But I’d never visited any of my Beacon Hill/Georgetown neighborhood churches. I decided to use our fourth Sundays to meet my neighbors. Here’s what I’ve learned and experienced so far:

Every church I've visited has welcomed me warmly, many times literally embracing me. Even when I looked different from them. Even when I did not speak their language. People have shown me the love of God and have made me feel like their sister in Christ. They’ve invited me to stay for lunch, attend fund-raising teas, and even join their worship band. All have encouraged me to return.

Most of the people who attend church in my neighborhood don’t actually live in my neighborhood. Much like our Union congregation, many people commute to their churches. People drive to their places of worship in my south Seattle neighborhood from Burien, Renton, Redmond, and Lake City. It seems that once people find a church they like, they’re willing to travel quite a ways to get there.

The ways to praise God through music are limitless. As a musician, it has been absolutely fascinating to see how different churches present musical worship. A Ukrainian Orthodox church I visited had no instruments at all. Instead, an a capella choir led the congregation in singing four-part harmony. An African-American church I visited joyfully sang songs for over an hour with a lively and incredibly talented band and choir – altogether, they made up about half the congregation. And one church had no live music at all – they sang along with a recording of Hill Song. It was inspiring to see how each church found different ways to glorify God through music.

Child participation in church differs. Most churches have Sunday school programs for young children. But in others, children stay with their parents during the service. One church I attended was celebrating Youth Sunday. On this particular day, children played in the band, sang in the choir, passed out the offering plates, read the scriptures, and read the announcements – in essence, did everything but preach the sermon. At the luncheon afterwards, they helped serve the food. I thought this was a wonderful way to prepare children for active engagement in their church and community.

Church attendance is in decline. According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research (2015), more than half of all American congregations have less than 100 people in attendance. And according to Gallup (2012), Washington is one of the least religious states. These trends were painfully evident in the churches of my neighborhood. As enthusiastic as they were, most of the churches had attendance of less than 50. One church I visited about a year ago had only about 20 people. I visited them again last month, and they were down to 11, including myself. A quick Google search will yield numerous articles on declining church attendance, citing reasons such as people’s busy schedules, changing societal values, and lack of interest among Millennials. Sadly, many small churches in Seattle now face difficult questions about their financial viability and their relevance in the community.

There is great potential for us to be the church together. The Greek word for church is ecclesia, which refers not to buildings, but to the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 5:25, 32). Visiting other congregations has given me the opportunity to share what we do at Union, and learn about how others are living out their faith. I can’t help but wonder what we could do if we all came together as the church. Perhaps meeting our church neighbors is the first step.

1/22 Fourth Sunday Service Opportunities

January 22, 2017. Fourth Sunday. Worship in Action

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” 
Colossians 3:17

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

An invitation to live externally focused.

Fourth Sundays, Worship in Action, provide a way for us to spend time with neighbors in South Lake Union and beyond. Here are some ways to be a neighbor this Sunday:  Note meet at 415 Westlake Ave N at 10 a.m. unless time or location specified. 

Some folks decide to take time in their neighborhood to spend time with a neighbor, come alongside a work project or visit another church.  Please share your stories. Questions?  reneen@upc.org

The Heart of Spiritual Practice |11:30 a.m.| 415 Westlake

An interactive time for adults (parents or mentors to kids)  to go deeper with children into the practices of worship to help us as families connect with our Loving God, grow as a disciple of Jesus, and celebrate how we can work with God to see God’s Kingdom come.  11:30 to 1:30 (following 4th Sunday activities). Lunch included.

Breakfast at Mary’s Place Guest Rooms l9 am | 2213 8th Ave, 98121

We have been invited once again to serve breakfast at the newly opened Mary's Place Guest Rooms located on 8th Ave just south of Denny. 2213 8th Ave, 98121. Join with us to welcome new families to our neighborhood.  If you can join us, please arrive between 8:45and 9:00 a.m for set-up and serving. Children welcome. Contact: mylacausing@gmail.com

 

Hymn Sing at Skyline Retirement l 10:15 am |725 9th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104

This project is perfect for families as it is kid and adult friendly! Meet in the lobby at the NE corner of the building. We will sing hymns and visit with elderly residents. Contact:  ruth.branch@gmail.com

 

Seattle Cancer Care Brunch Team l 10 am | 207 Pontius Ave N

Instead of meeting at 415 Westlake go directly to 207 Pontius Ave N, 2nd floor dining roomServe food and engage in conversations with residents staying here for treatment.  This is a vital ministry of presence. Contact: Ted at thwing@seanet.com

Card making l all ages l 10 am| 415 Westlake

Help create Valentine’s Day Cards for the Women’s Shelter.

Food prep for our Union community & friends |10 am | 415 Westlake

Join Alicia Downey in the preparation of meals that we can drop off for people who are in the midst of a transition this next month. 

Help for the Hungry l all ages l 10 am | 415 Westlake

Pack sack lunches for the Immanuel Community Services Hygiene Center.  The ICS Hygiene Center, located in the gymnasium of Immanuel Lutheran Church, provides the opportunity for homeless men and women to wash their clothes, take a shower, and spend the morning in a warm, safe, and clean environment. The Center is open weekdays from 8:00 am to noon.   

Bulk Food | 10 am | 415 Westlake

On these dark and shortened days, what a difference a cup of coffee can make!  This month we are supporting our local food bank by providing and re-packaging coffee for those who will come to Immanuel Food bank this month.

New to Union |  10 am | 415 Westlake

Meet with Renée learn more about Union Church’s vision and mission to live externally focused, inwardly alive and eternally connected as followers of Jesus in our world.

 Kakao Open Mic | 6:30 p.m. | Kakao Cafe

Sunday evening, January 22:  Music, readings and community. Come ready to perform or to enjoy the performances of others. A light dinner will be served.

 

In Death and Broken Ground Salvation Springs

“This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”  -Jeremiah 22:3

This is but one of many passages in the Old Testament where we find God giving his people the same clear commandment: to show justice and mercy to the most vulnerable people living among them. Perhaps this directive was repeated so frequently because in ancient Israel immigrants and the poor were often treated as they are here today, with shame, fear, and contempt. The problem is that reaching out to people in these circumstances inevitably costs something of ourselves. It definitely costs us time and convenience, but it might even cost us our reputation or our safety.

But when we look at the life of Jesus, it is clear that he had little concern for what the ruling and religious powers of his day thought about his ministry to society’s downcast. In Luke 6:20 Jesus preaches to the gathered crowd, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.” Jesus is saying that God’s blessing and authority rests among those considered to be the lowest of his people, a challenging thought to those in positions of privilege. And doesn’t this mean that if we want to experience the blessing and presence of God, to participate in his Kingdom, that we should be drawing close to those with whom that blessing resides?

Sandra McCracken’s song “All Ye Refugees” is a message of radical inclusivity toward the outcast. It is a word of welcome to the alien, an invitation to “join the great procession” and journey toward our eternal home with all of creation. But it is also an invitation for all of us to join our God in extending his welcome to the ends of the earth, even into its darkest places. The second verse starts: “Oh refugee, I did not cast you out / In death and broken ground salvation springs.” Despite all evidence to the contrary, we often equate God’s blessing or salvation to our own earthly success and triumph. In this verse, Sandra McCracken reminds us that it is out of chaos that God brings order, and into darkness that he shines his light. This is the message of hope that we have to bring into the places of despair.

Caring for the poor and refugee may seem like a political issue, and it is commonly assumed that the church shouldn’t be involved in politics. To a degree this is true, and it would be a grave mistake to associate Jesus with a particular partisan ideology. But when issues of justice and mercy become politicized then Jesus stands at the center of our politics, and it becomes the church’s obligation to get involved. I am thankful and proud to be part of a church like Union that consistently engages with these issues through our work with Compass House, International Justice Mission, and our homeless women’s shelter among others. It is important that the songs we sing continue to draw us back toward this mission and remind us of the eschatological scope of God’s salvation, that reaches from the highest castle to the lowest gutter, and seeks to draw all of his people to himself.

Union Partnership with the International Justice Mission in the Dominican Republic.

Thank you to all who contributed on Christmas Eve to our partnership with IJM to fund a rescue. Thank you to those who have signed up to be Freedom Partners.   Here is more information about our commitment to the work of freedom in the Dominican Republic.  Please stay posted for our next steps as Freedom Partners.

DR-Photo

Despite the clear blue waters and the white sand, the tropical country of the Dominican Republic wrestles with the enormity of the dark and hidden problem of sex trafficking. Worldwide, nearly two million children are bought and sold in commercial sex trade every year. The International Justice Mission (IJM), an organization committed to the end of slavery worldwide, recently opened an office in the DR to focus on the rescue and rehabilitation of young women enslaved in these horrible atrocities. 

Union Church has had a long history of supporting IJM, partnering through prayer and study for justice. 

With the formation of this new office, Union Church has made a new and bold commitment to become a formal partner church with the DR office. 

Union has been able to use its unique resources to raise funds for a complete rescue of a young woman enslaved in the DR. The cost of a full rescue, from investigation through recovery and restoration into the community costs $6500. IJM raises the money for these rescues from partner churches and through individual Freedom Partners. 

Union’s partnership with the DR office goes far deeper than a financial commitment. As a partner church, we will offer support to over 40 staff people in the DR by regularly praying for the work and the rescues, providing English training, sending resources as needed and leading trips to the DR to work and pray. 

We will also have the opportunity to sell jewelry at Union sponsored events made by women living at the restoration center known as Lily House. At Lily House, women have an opportunity to start fresh by learning to read and write, learning biblical teachings, and learning life and career skills. 

In addition, we will be able to host art events that display the unique work of IJM survivors and engage in further activities that raise awareness of the dark and hidden world of human trafficking.

The creative ways in which we can support this ministry are not limited to these plans and Union is open to new and innovative ways to extend light and life to our sisters and brothers who are enslaved. 

If you have an interest in becoming actively engaged in this ministry, contact Renée, James B. or Stephanie.

To support IJM directly as a Freedom Partner by offering $24 a month, sign up here.

To be more actively engaged in praying for justice, take some time to pray with these resources from IJM.

“Seeking justice doesn’t begin at the door of a brothel. Seeking justice begins with seeking the God of justice.”
Bethany Hoang, Deepening the Soul for Justice

Winter Sermon Series

Desmond Tutu stated, “If you want to keep people subjugated, the last thing you place in their hands is a Bible. There's nothing more radical, nothing more revolutionary, nothing more subversive against injustice and oppression than the Bible.”

As we journey into this new year of 2017, we invite you to read our scripture texts in preparation and spend time with this question, "Who is this Jesus?". Find the list of this series' scripture readings here.

1/08/17: Luke 4:14-44 

1/15/17: Luke 5:1-11; 9:1-6

1/22/17: Luke 5:12-32

1/29/17: Luke 6:1-11; 13:10-17

2/5/17: Luke 5:17-26; 43-49

2/12/17: Luke 6:27-42

2/19/17: Luke 7:1-35

2/26/17: Luke 7:36-8:3

3/5/17: Luke 8:1-21

3/12/17: Luke 8:22-39

3/19/17: Luke 8:40-9:6

3/26/17: Luke 9:10-17

4/2/17: Luke 9:7-27; 43-50

4/9/17: Luke 9:28-36; 19:28-48

4/16/17: Luke 24 EASTER!

Monday Reading

Yesterday I encouraged us to think about how we begin our day and end our day. What do we fill our heart and mind with as we wake and what do we fill our mind and heart with as we prepare for sleep?
We all know that there is the temptation to begin and end with messages of fear that easily come to us through the news that is readily available on our phones.  Well, I sure know I am tempted to wake up each morning asking what is happening now in the world?!  
Yesterday I was also reminded that our God, who never sleeps created us to rest.  So today, I give you my morning reading and a quote from Eugene Peterson.  
Also, I am highlighting an online advent devotional you might enjoy.  The scripture, art and prayers both comfort and challenge:  2016 Advent Devotion

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Eugene Peterson: 
We go to sleep, and God begins his work. As we sleep he develops his covenant. We wake and are called to participate in God’s creative action. We respond in faith, in work. But always grace is previous. Grace is primary. We wake into a world we didn’t make, into a salvation we didn’t earn. Evening: God begins, without our help, his creative day. Morning: God calls us to enjoy and share and develop the work he initiated. Creation and covenant are sheer grace and there to greet us every morning.”

Renée

Advent.2016

Nobody's Fool.  A True Ruler
The glory of God is the human person fully alive. –St. Irenaeus
(Quote shared by Mike Yonkers to our Union Church)

Scripture: LUKE 4:1-13
The temptation of Jesus is not  a traditional Advent passage, but it is an amazingly right focus.   For what is Advent but a time of acknowledging that our God on High chose through Jesus to condescend into human form, as Philippians 2 says so poignantly , 

“Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,  emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness...”

The baby Jesus grew into a man, fully human while still divine, who experienced hunger, sorrow, joy and temptations.  What does it mean for us that Jesus, our Savior, knew temptation just like us? How does Jesus teach us to respond to temptations when they come our way?   How does Jesus help us recognize that there are tempting half-truth and falsehoods that take us away from our true identity of belovedness?
The writer of Hebrews affirms that we have a Savior who did not succumb to human temptations, though like us he knew the temptation to settle, to take the short cut, to refuse the way of traveling through suffering.

 “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18).”

When we ask the question, is God among us, we look to Jesus and see one who says, 
“I am here, my beloved child. I know your temptation. I know your sorrow. I know your loneliness. I know your pain. I know your dreams. I know your hopes. I know your fears.  And, I will never leave you or forsake you. Bring your burdens to me. I know. And, I entered this world to absorb the power of evil and free you. Live now as my free person no matter what the world tells you.” 

Fourth Sunday of November

Sunday, November 27  Worship in Action

 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:17
An invitation to live externally focused. Contact:  reneen@upc.org for information.

Seattle Marathon Water Station| 6:40 am| near King Station
If you are looking for an early start to your day and have wanted a support the Seattle Marathon, join some of us at the water station at Fifth Avenue & South King Street.  6:40 AM (yes, I did say early start!). We still need a few more folks.   

Breakfast at Mary’s Place Guest Rooms l9 am | 2213 8th Ave, 98121
We have been invited once again to serve breakfast at the newly opened Mary's Place Guest Rooms located on 8th Ave just south of Denny. 2213 8th Ave, 98121.  Join with us to welcome new families to our neighborhood.  If you can join us, please arrive between 8:45  and 9:00 a.m for set-up and serving.  Children welcome.  We also need a few more hands to help cook at 7 a.m. at 415 Westlake.  

Hymn Sing at Skyline Retirement l 10:15 am |725 9th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
This project is perfect for families as it is kid and adult friendly! Meet in the lobby at the NE corner of the building. We will sing hymns and visit with  elderly residents.

Seattle Cancer Care Brunch Team l 10 am | 207 Pontius Ave N
Instead of meeting at 415 Westlake go directly to 207 Pontius Ave N, 2nd floor dining room. Serve food and engage in conversations with residents staying here for treatment.  This is a vital ministry of presence. 

DESC Gift Baskets l all ages l 10 am |415 Westlake – we will put together baskets of useful and fun items for the Downtown Emergency Service Center that serves 2500 vulnerable men and women.  Imagine receiving a new laundry basket with kitchen tools, laundry supplies, snacks and fun leisure items!  We will have supplies for 24 baskets, if you love putting gifts together, this service opportunity is for you.

Card making l all ages l 10 am| 415 Westlake --  help create festive cards to accompany the gift baskets and to also give to teachers and staff at Lowell Elementary School.

Help for the Hungry l all ages l 10 am | 415 Westlake
Pack sack lunches for the Immanuel Community Services Hygiene Center.  The ICS Hygiene Center, located in the gymnasium of Immanuel Lutheran Church, provides the opportunity for homeless men and women to wash their clothes, take a shower, and spend the morning in a warm, safe, and clean environment. The Center is open weekdays from 8:00 am to noon. 
  
Bulk Food| 10 am | 415 Westlake
On these dark and shortened days, what a difference a cup of coffee can make!  This month we are supporting our local food bank by providing and re-packaging coffee for those who will come to Immanuel Food bank this month.  

New to Union|  10 am | 415 Westlake
Meet with James B to learn more about Union Church’s vision and mission to live externally focused, inwardly alive and eternally connected as followers of Jesus in our world. 

A prayer of confession & a word of assurance based on Luke 3 from Stephanie Templin Ashford.

When we were talking about confession, my husband joked: I did it in the library with the candlestick.

We both had a good laugh and while I wanted to brush off the notion that worship is like a game of clue, my mind couldn’t stop hearing the truth in these words.

Because when I spent some time in Luke 3 looking at today’s scripture passage I heard those familiar words of John the Baptist who calls to the people “prepare a way in the wilderness!” as he quotes from the Book of Isaiah:

Every valley shall be filled in
Every mountain and hill made low
Crooked roads will be made straight
And the rough places will be made smooth

And I found myself standing with one theater spotlight on my heart and I was saying, I confess..  I did it.

Will you enter a time of confession with me?

Powerful, powerful, powerful God… hear our confessions. It can be a difficult thing to come before you and admit the moments in our lives that do not live out your gospel vision.  It can be embarrassing to shine light into those dark corners because there, all that we have been hiding is suddenly in plain view. 

It is sometimes too challenging to completely tear out the playbook page that says “this is how I think things should be,” and replace it with the pages of truth that you have provided for us.

You know what really happened.  You saw where I was. You heard what I said. You know the weapons I used. 

I was in the restaurant with the women and I let my eyes fall to judgment of another person’s clothes, another person’s shoes, another person’s body…. instead of finding beauty, I found comparison and distance. I was in the kitchen with dishes allowing my heart to fill with bitterness, wallowing that I was alone in the chores, instead of asking for help or finding gratitude in a warm home with a table to set.  

I was on the couch with my phone, more eager to spend time on Facebook instead of engaging in the beautiful play of the children in front of me.  

But most of all, greatest of all, deepest of all, I was at the dining room table, reading the bible, focused on the quote from Isaiah and doubting. I was reading the Bible and doubting.

Powerful, powerful, powerful God, 

When you say that the valleys will be filled, I see people in the valley, drowning in sadness and pain and instead of believing you will fill the gaping holes, I find myself in disbelief that those hollow places can ever be full.

When you say that mountains will be made low, I stare at the towers of wealth, the height  of greed and I am filled with anger that you haven’t brought down the empire to its knees.

When you say that the crooked roads will be made straight, I stand at the fork in the road and I don’t really believe that you can make a clear path through this mess.

And those rough places…  you say you will make them smooth. But the seas are so rough that many are sick.  The splinters that are piercing so many… how can it be made smooth enough so everyone is safe?

In fact, I’d like to be able to say that I stand against it all, but mostly I sit, watching all of the ways that I feel you haven’t made these promises come true and I confess that I have done too little to be part of your prophetic plan.  I confess that I have been in the supermarket, in the school yard, on the street corner and I have passively shrugged off your call for justice with the safe statements that you’ve got it all in your control, which really translates to: ”I can now rationalize why I don’t have to change anything in my life.” 

Help  me, O God.  Help us, O God. Help us to see and hear the call to prepare a way in the wilderness with new ears.  Because, I confess right now I’m doing a better job preparing for a large meal and a football game than I am preparing for your kingdom to come on earth.  

And so.. this week, this day, raze the empire of my heart. Bring it to the earth and cut the height of my indignant pride to its knees and help me to confess again and again in the moment… help  me to name where I am, claim what I’ve done (or left undone) and to repent… so that you can make a new place in me and in us.    Amen!

Assurance of Pardon                                                                                                                   John the Baptist says all of this…names all of these challenges, all of these mandates and he says it is all for the forgiveness of sins.  All so that the people will see God’s salvation.  Even in our doubt and our shortcomings, God’s promises are true. God’s grace and forgiveness are for each one of you, redemption and new life push through the darkness and bring a new day of peace and of freedom for us and for humanity.  Praise God!

Prayers of the People on November 13, 2016

Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933)

Post-Election Day

You creator God
     who has ordered us
       in families and communities,
       in clans and tribes,
       in states and nations.

You creator God
     who enacts your governance
       in ways overt and
       in ways hidden.
     You exercise your will for
       peace and for justice and for freedom.

We give you thanks for the peaceable order of
   our nation and for the chance of choosing—
     all the manipulative money notwithstanding.

We pray now for new governance
   that your will and purpose may prevail,
   that our leaders may have a sense
     of justice and goodness,
   that we as citizens may care about the
     public face of your purpose.

We pray in the name of Jesus who was executed
   by the authorities

The day after the election

My dear friend, Sandra Fisher, sent this scripture that has helped me ask, “who do I want to be today?” I want to be a person who cares for the vulnerable, the suffering, the maligned, the marginalized.  To be a blessing. To seek equality.  To be attentive.

I give thanks for you, my friends. Let us love with the love of Christ together. 

I Peter 3:8-18 – Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.

Whoever wants to embrace life
    and see the day fill up with good,
Here’s what you do:
    Say nothing evil or hurtful;
Snub evil and cultivate good;
    run after peace for all you’re worth.
God looks on all this with approval,
    listening and responding well to what he’s asked;
But he turns his back
    on those who do evil things.

13-18 If with heart and soul you’re doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you’re still better off. Don’t give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God.

Renée