Epiphany 2019

The word invitation is a lovely word that communicates your presence is desired. On Epiphany Sunday we celebrate that God sent an invitation to the world to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Wise men (aka Magi, Kings or Scholars) accepted the invitation in the sky and were overwhelmed with joy when they met the infant Lord Jesus. It was an invitation that most likely changed their life perspective for good.

As you enter 2019 what is an invitation God offers you? May you be overwhelmed with joy by God’s love for you and God’s desire to be with you. 

Jesus is the Light of the world. Jesus transcends your daily circumstances to communicate your intrinsic worth. “See what love God has given us that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are!” (I John 3:1)

The Story Between Us: The Letter to the Romans

It helps to read the Letter to the Romans as a symphony in four parts, Romans 1-4, 5-8, 9-11, 12-16.  When read in parts, we begin to see that Paul is telling the BIG Story of salvation for all people. To allow this writing to speak afresh into our lives, we invite you to look for themes, ask questions, wrestle with the text, pray, read it again.  We encourage you to not only read Romans but listen online.  How do we need the message of the Gospel today?


The Letter to the Romans is  a story of a God who is deeply and abidingly committed to keeping the Word God spoke long ago and that is echoed throughout creation — a God who keeps his promise that all people, all nations will have access to the good news that they are God's created ones,  who matter. Embedded in the sometimes complicated style of Paul's writing, is the Big Story of how God reveals and fulfills this promise through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and provides a new way of being together through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In this story we have these two groups of people who have heard the gospel of Jesus, but are having a hard time living into the story they have embraced as true— because they are having a hard time embracing one another.  They are both a part of the newly formed 1st century church but both groups are vying for first place in the heart of that God. As if they could compete for such a place…but the disciples were the same with Jesus!

The  Jewish believers – are holding tight to a very long history with God.  Okay, yes, Jesus is fine and good but, remember, they seem to be saying:  we are people of the law…the law is our identity. The Gentiles, boast in their new status — They are the new kids on the block.  They don't have the baggage of the past. Perhaps they are boasting in grace…. The more they sin, the more grace can abound. Their identity is that they don't need the law or tradition. They certainly don’t need circumcision or any of these food laws!

And, into their struggle, Paul tells them there is only One story and it is the story of the cross of Jesus.  There is no other story, in fact. When they call upon the name of the Lord, their new identity is through the cross and to be joined as a new people.  This is the way to righteousness.

As Romans 3 states so powerfully, both Jews and Greeks –are all under the power of sin – no one is righteous…not even one.  Or as the Message translation says: Whether insiders or outsiders, we all start out in identical conditions — sinners. The playing field is level, Paul writes in Romans 5…'while we were still sinners …Christ died for us.   Jew, Gentile, Insider, Outsider.

And, there at the cross, Paul states in Romans 8 "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  God has done a new work of taking people who were estranged from one another and makes them a New People…a new community…God's People.  

For, Romans 10 states:  There is no distinction (no matter what our back story) between any of us..For the same Lord is Lord of all and generous to all who call on his name.

The challenge Paul lays out to these first century believers is this, will you live in the BIG story of the grace of Jesus Christ?  Will you receive the Second Chance that Jesus offers to live by His Spirit?

If so, then Romans 12 provides a way to respond.

Just as in any good story, there comes a point after the crisis has ended, when the question must be asked:  What is next for our heroes?  How will Dorothy live back in Kansas?  How will the scarecrow lead now that he knows he has a brain?  The tinman, now with a heart?

Romans 12, asks us the same question:  The crisis is over.  There is nothing that can separate you from the love of God that is found in Christ Jesus our Lord.  How then will you respond?

This passage has so many rich words and phrases that you could stop to meditate upon. Rather than analyzing each word, there  is one overarching invitation that I would encourage you to focus upon and let the words of Romans 12 hang on this one invitation:

Love as you were created to love!

Then Romans 15 gives us imagination of how to live outwardly “welcoming one another as Christ has welcomed you.”

And, Paul will then invite them boldly -- will you join me in my assignment and bring witness that Jesus is the one who brings joyful hope and abiding peace?

Will you participate in a new humanity  -- that is not based on ethnicity, heritage, gender, status or skin color?

And, Romans 16 concludes with greetings from a diverse community  of faith that is living into this message of good news for all as they seek to form society anew -- and radical to the culture around.

The Letter to the Romans  is about identity -- Who are we?  Beloved saints, who are part of an new humanity formed through God by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit. We are people invited into a Big Story of God’s hope and transformation for the world, united by the reality that God’s Spirit is working in each of us. And, you are invited to be yourself in this Big Story, created, loved, valued by the one True God and free to live in response.  You are God’s beloved saints.


Prayers of the People 07.01.18

Our gracious God,
You have told us through your prophet Micah, “O people, the Lord has told you what is good, & what he requires of you: to do justice, to love kindness, & to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). We confess our failure to live these values of Your Kingdom, & we ask for your cleansing & healing from our self-centeredness. We confess our national failure to live these values, & we pray for revival in our land, that people across our country will turn towards you & welcome the transformation of Your Spirit in their lives, that we may see our prejudices transformed into justice for all persons, our meanness & desire for revenge transformed into kindness & mercy, and our arrogance & self-centeredness transformed into humility.

Jesus, you welcomed the children, you took them in your arms & blessed them. You said that anyone who welcomes a little child welcomes you. You told us to let the children come, not to stop them, for Your Kingdom belongs to the childlike (Mark 9:36&37, 10:13-16). Jesus, we pray for the children, all the children of the world who suffer due to war, famine, disasters & injustices of various kinds. In our country we pray for the swift reuniting of families. You know who each child is, where each child is, where each family is. We need & ask for your miraculous intervention to bring about the restoration of families. Thank you for all those working & advocating for this.

And for the children here among us, may we each take the opportunity to welcome & bless a child this morning by speaking to them & showing an interest in them. We pray for our day camps this summer, that children will feel welcomed & valued, that they will deepen in relationship with You, with one another, with adults in our community. We thank you for Lena’s leadership of our Children’s Ministry, & we pray for just the right person to lead in this next season. We thank you for Laurie’s leadership of our Middle School Ministry, & we pray for just the right person to join her in co-leading.

Jesus, you are the Great Physician & the Good Shepherd. You said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary & carry heavy burdens, & I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). You have invited us to “come boldly to your throne of grace that we may receive mercy & find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb 4:16). Sometimes we can’t do these things for ourselves, we need one another to do it for us, and so we come boldly before your throne of grace on behalf of those among us who are weary, who are carrying heavy burdens, who are in special need of your mercy & grace. We lift up those who are struggling with health issues, with chronic health conditions, with frightening diagnoses, with mental health issues, with woundedness, with loss & grief, with relational issues, with a struggling marriage, those who need a job, those whose jobs present daunting challenges. Jesus, we pray for your healing in body, mind & spirit, for your comfort, for your restoration, for your hope, for a strong sense of your presence with us in the midst of whatever our circumstances are. We pray for the grace to stay connected to you, to your community & to your greater purposes in the world.

Lord, thank you for bringing Ashish, Kaeli , Brennan & Adeline into our midst. Thank you for the beautiful story they shared with us a few weeks ago of how you led them from youth ministry in Portland to the ministry of hospitality in South Lake Union. We pray your blessing upon their family & their presence & ministry here in SLU. As Ashish shares your word with us this morning, fill him with your Spirit, with your joy, with your freedom, & we are grateful that you will interpret his message to each of our lives. May our hearts, minds & spirits be open to receive your word to us today.


Cathy Thwing , Sunday morning worship

Prayers of the People 5.6.18

David prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” Ps. 139-23, 24

Lord, we pray, search us, and know our hearts. Try us and know our anxious thoughts --all the places where we have questions, fears, doubts, and lack of understanding. Lord, see if there are any hurtful ways in us, ways that are hurtful to you, to ourselves, to those around us and to your world.

Lead us in the path of everlasting life. Help us to follow in your footsteps, to be humble and patient, to see and love a person fully and wholly, and to seek You always. Help us to access your wisdom and truth in our lives. Use us as your instruments, your hands and feet to bring your good will to fruition. 

We pray for places in the world where war, violence, poverty, epidemics, both human-made and natural disasters have torn families apart and destroyed lives. We pray for hearts to change where conflict seems to have been a way of life for a long time, such as in Palestine & Israel. We pray for people fleeing violence in South & Central America. Lord, bring healing and restoration to all these peoples.

We pray for government leaders all over the world. Give them wisdom, integrity, and commitment to justice. May they be agents of goodness and change. 

We thank you for the newly restored relationship between North and South Korea. We pray for these countries and others around the world to be kept accountable to their promises. Lord, bring your true peace to these places. 

We pray for those among us who are suffering from health issues, those who are going through difficulties finding work or at work, those who are hurting from loss or strained relationships, those who are experiencing financial hardships and more. You know each person by name and every detail of what they’re going through. Lord, please step in and make your presence known to us. Please use us as your hands and feet in the lives of people around us. Help us to be attuned to these needs and to how you want us to step in.

Gracious God, we ask that you open our eyes to see how you’re moving in our lives and in our world. Thank you for including us in your Kingdom work of healing, justice and peace. Help us to trust in your equipping us and using us in community. We give You thanks for sending us your Holy Spirit, your Son Jesus Christ, and in your Triune Name we pray all these things. Amen.

Sayuko Setvik , Sunday morning worship

Spring/Summer Series. 2018


Water is essential to life, as we know.
Therefore it is not surprising that water would literally flow through scripture from Genesis 1 with the Spirit of God hovering over the surface of the waters to Revelation 22, "Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life."

We are spending Spring and Summer reading, learning from and wrestling with what we learn from passages of scripture that are connected to water. What themes about our relationship with God, with one another, with the environment and with ourselves will jump off the pages of God's Word and into our lives?

Part of this journey of focusing on water for me began when I was reading the Gospels during Lent and realized how much time Jesus focuses on water – in the dry, arid land of first century Palestine – water into wine, walking on water, receiving a cup of water from a woman at a well and then offering living water, rebuking the waters even as he seemed at home on the water. 

So, we start at the beginning... Genesis 1

In the beginning, as if before a blank canvas, with the Spirit of God hovering, trembling, moving over the formless, empty deep and into the void God moves the waters and creates.

Our scripture gives space for there being nothing from which God created and there being a chaotic deep of water from which God moved to create.  I love this pre-historical ambiguity that puts the emphasis upon God not the HOW.

We worship a God that must create.  Central to God is creation. In the beginning God created, through Jesus God brings forth a new creation and right today – God is creating and creating through each of your unique gifts and personalities.

Throughout this passage that tells the story of Creation from nothing to the fullness of life – water weaves through this passage as space is created in the waters and in the space in between.

In the creation telling in Genesis 1,  Humans are placed central in a remarkable collaborative relationship – God speaks the rest of Creation in to being; yet God speaks directly to the humans!

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.  And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.”

What do you make of this liturgy of creation and how we fall into the story?  What do you then make of our responsibility to “subdue" and “have dominion”? Some would say, what if those words hadn’t been put there, then there would be no abuse!

What if actually, the wording is there for exactly the opposite reason?  Because God knew those created in God’s image – would seek power and control, God gave responsibility. Perhaps this text is revolutionary as we look at what God is asking of us, and we as followers of Jesus, are meant to not stay silent.

The rest of scripture affirms that the word ‘dominance” refers to the example of a shepherd who cares for and tends animals for their well-being. Or, for those who were now living in cities and political arenas, a king – who does not exploit but rather seeks to secure the well-being of the rest of creation.

What an honoring responsibility…that can also paralyze us.

Today, on this Second Sunday of Easter as we live into the Good news that Jesus Christ is Risen, and as we celebrate that through Jesus WE are a new creation, it seems right and fitting to spend time with the original story of creation.

What does this story of God’s original intent for all of creation speak into our lives today?

Resurrection people are fools for LIFE


Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? …  For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,  but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”  I Corinthians 1:20-25

If you can't count on the dead staying dead then what foolishness is next?  

Anything. Anything is possible. 

How about experiencing God's acceptance and forgiveness in the midst of our messy lives –without being perfect. Yes! 

How about people we would never expect empowered by God to bring healing and reconciliation in our families, our city our world? Yes! 

How about taking off the armor dropping our weapons living more vulnerably more open handed? Yes! 

And how about death as the path to new life for us? That sounds like crazy talk but God's is not interested in cosmetic changes but inside out makeovers. We had a house years ago that wasn't really working for us and clearly was not going to work with the arrival of our third child, Luke. So we set about planning a remodel. Problem was the house already had a couple of self-improvements before we bought it and between wacky roof lines, different levels and where the bearing walls were located all our ideas to improve our house would not work. Finally, our architect said the only way this is going to work for your family is to tear it down and build new—same address new house. 

The resurrection foolishness says God has the power to make you and me new—not your old self trying to be better but a radical break with what was and entering into the new authentically you you-- not by your grit and strength but saying yes to that resurrection power. Risking that as we trust the One who soaked up all our brokenness—all that would disqualify us from being with God and put it to death along with himself on the cross—that that One will transform us and bring new freedom. 

Foolishness? To let go like that? A wise person once said, "One is no fool who gives up what they cannot hold to gain what they cannot lose." 

Living requires dying. Foolishness! But dying is swallowed up by resurrection so anything is possible. Aligned with the Risen Lord, the sky is the limit.  

The foolishness of God challenges us. The resurrection challenges us: How expansive of a reality are we going to live in?   

Are you going to play it safe or foolish?  After all, Christ is risen.., He is risen indeed!