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