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‘Si, Siburgs!’ for all that was, all that will be

By Pastor Paul Stumme-Diers

Dear Bethanians,

In 1969, our family took a summer long trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico, where my father studied liberation theology under the tutelage of Ivan Illich. I was 8 at the time, so my memories are limited to watching the moon landing, seeing Aztec Stadium the summer after the 1968 Olympics (where the greatest individual athletic feat of all time took place … Bob Beamon’s long jump), Teotihuacan, etc.

But for some reason I also remember an advertising campaign that was omnipresent, especially for tourists. Everywhere we looked there were signs thatsaid, “Si, Sanborns!”

It is strange how the mind works, and perhaps especially so when it comes to my mind, but as we prepare to bid farewell to Dave and Trish Siburg, as they make their move to Nebraska, that phrase come to mind, with a twist: “Si, Siburgs!” I think this is because, like in the Mexican advertising campaign, the Siburgs have been everywhere when it comes to the Bethany community.

- Dave and Trish (and Tamara) have been faithful members of the Bethany Choir, setting a faithful tone with their faithful resence, and melodic voices.

- Trish has been a constant for Bethany in providing piano accompaniment, especially for our Saturday evening worship. She and Dave would arrive early and stay for fellowship after worship … and then be back at worship the next morning to sing with the choir. I am grateful for Trish’s patience with a pastor who would sometimes change things around, or not think things through. Truly a gift!

- Dave and Trish were present at the special functions of the Bethany community, from FFF to special worship services. I could always expect to see the Siburg’s Sebring in the parking lot.

- Dave and Trish were always generous in sharing their home and their family with their extended family here at Bethany. Their children (especially Tamara) were a regular presence at Bethany, and quite often they would host parties in their home in Poulsbo. When the choir was imagining where to hold a farewell party for them, the first instinct was “Let’s have it at the Siburg’s” ... no, we didn’t, but it was mentioned.

- The Siburgs were also one of the many families at Bethany that value the cross-bridge partnerships we share with the communities to our north, especially First Lutheran/Poulsbo, where they have deep roots and a strong affection.

But the “Si” part of this connection extends beyond the omnipresent nature of their family, and celebrates the “Yes,” the “Faith,” the “Joy,” the “Hope and Love” they exude. In that Spirit, we give thanks for the gifts they have brought to our life together, and with confidence we send them off with a “YES” for what lies ahead, and for the ongoing connectedness we will maintain as friends, and through Christ.

“For all that has been, thanks; for all that will be, “Si, Siburgs.” (Which would have been the original quote had Dag Hammarskjold spoken Spanish, and known the Siburgs.)

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On those chips and breaks that will happen to our bowls, and ourselves

By Pastor Paul Stumme-Diers

Have you seen the bowls? A month ago congregational members aged 3 to 93 decorated bowls for Bethany to use at our Midweek Lenten Soup Suppers (and Luncheons). If you haven’t seen them, displayed in our fellowship hall, you have missed out on an array of beautiful, individualized pieces of art (which, incidentally, also have held some fantastic soup!).

I picked them up the day before our first soup supper, and when I did, the friendly, kind person at Heart and Soul who had glazed and fired the bowls told me three times; “You have to be careful, because they chip easily. When they do we can bring it into her and she can usually repair them.” She said WHEN, not IF. My response: “Chips Happen.”

When I arrived with the bowls at Bethany, I immediately took the big box to the kitchen. I wanted to see how they turned out, and thought I had better wash them before ladling soup into them. Opening the box, I saw that each one was protectively placed in a bubble-wrapped pouch. I appreciated the care she had shown – it could be they showed extra care when they heard I was picking the up – bit I was also dazzled by the brilliance and the unique expression exuded by each one.

I was inspired to imagine a “theology of bowls” as I unpacked that box, and as you can see, it is a work in progress:

1) “Chips Happen.” I told the woman at the store that we would put people at ease by telling them we were expecting some chips, cracks, and breaks. As a church we are familiar with chips, cracks and breaks, but also with healing and renewal, and a meaning beyond the brokenness.

2) This all is part of the fragility of ceramic bowls. I even gave thought to purposely dropping the one I had made as an object lesson … but I kinda like it too much. We are well aware of our finitude and fragility.

3) On a lighter note, each bowl is unique. In fact, I am amazed at how no two look even remotely alike, and they are all amazing. The words echo from Jesus’ baptism into our own: “You are my child, my beloved, in you I am well pleased.” Unique, beloved, with special characteristic, including a capacity for containing love.

4) If we squint into the colors and designs of the bowls, we are amazed by their transformation since we last saw, and painted them. Then the blurry, dull pastels were not dazzling, and to my untrained eye showed little promise. Ah, but the glaze applied and the fire they endured brought out their brilliance; it made them come alive. Illuminated and tempered and made more colorful by fire – have you seen such qualities in others? I have.

5) The BOWLS ARE HUGE! They are apt reminders of God’s abundance, able to hold enough for two persons. But, as we would say at the table when unexpected guests arrived for a meal: “Hold back.” Even though you can fill it up, and may be able to find room to finish it, be mindful of others, make room for others, share with others – or in a radical notion, perhaps invite them to go ahead of you.

6) Even before considering the size of the bowls, realizing that they are empty marks a beginning. There we recognize our hunger, our need, and we look for a nourishment to fill the emptiness. We find that source, that grace, in God who provides – the Great Soupmaker.

7) These are bowls that belong to community. Individuals put their marks on them, oftentimes including their names or initials, but they have been created to be shared. In the 10 soup suppers I will attend, I will use 10 different bowls, perhaps not one using “my own.” These are creations by and for God’s community at Bethany. At Lent’s end they will be distributed to the homes of their respective artists, but even then they will be community bowls now inhabiting particular homes.

As I am selecting a bowl, as I am filling it, as I am dipping my spoon into it, and as I am washing it afterwards, any given bowl may chip, crack or break. Fear not, for they were made to be used, even though “chips happen.” Those blemishes suggest character and tell us they have been used for what they had been created, and we see in them their beauty, in the glaze of God’s grace.

Bowled over with gratitude,

Pastor Paul

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