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From these three, rich stories of faith and community

By Pastor Paul Stumme-Diers

Dear Bethanians,

“Storytellers” is how I would describe those who have been remembered in our last three funerals at Bethany. Mentioning the names of Raymond Keeney, Peter Beckman and Franklin Chu brings to mind their storytelling prowess:

Ray told wonderful stories about Bainbridge Island history and the stuff of everyday life, and was always seeking out new stories through books and his travels with Mabel. The gleam in his eye and the smile on his face always punctuated these stories in an energizing way.

Franklin had a rich history of stories, from his family’s history in China, to childhood stories from Ohio, to the stories of his medical practice and his adventures in family, life and golf. I can picture him telling these stories around the dinner table where he and Linnea were such wonderful hosts.

Peter taught through stories, including three particular stories he wanted his grandchildren to know as life lessons. Often his stories were tinged with a theological motif, and they arose from his time in the service, from his time in the classroom, from his occupation with orchids and interaction with nature, and from his life with Lydia.

Each of these storytellers in their own way made connections with the stories of God’s grace and goodness, and shared them in the context of the community of faith here at Bethany. We can all recognize these stories in the fabric of the Bethany community story, part of a larger volume to which we all contribute.

But another attribute of each of these storytellers is that they were good listeners. (I only recall one of them ever falling asleep during one of my sermons…) I think this is an important attribute of a good storyteller, that they can listen to and honor the stories of others. 

We are people of the story, gathering each week to hear the sacred stories of Scripture, surrounded by people with their own faith stories, and with people who know and honor our own, even as we open ourselves to those whose stories we have yet to hear. And in this mix we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, who calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies us, enfolding us in the eternal story of love.

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Hope and anticipation despite shortened Advent season

Dear Bethanians,

OK it’s a cliché, but as I turn the calendar to December, “I don’t know where the month went.” It may be a product of age, as every year seems to me to pass more quickly. It may be an effect of the weather, when our typically wettest month felt more like an extended summer. It may be November was so packed with activities and a spirit of thanksgiving that a joyful pace sped things up.

However that happened, here in December, marking a new month, but also liturgically welcoming the new church year, the advent of Advent. While December, and the four Sundays of Advent, always fly by (Cold December Flies Away,” ELW #299), this year it poses an even greater risk for the fourth Sunday of Advent is the day before Christmas Eve. This portends a short Advent, an abbreviated season of waiting, but also of preparation.

Let us mark this season with hope and anticipation and not the rush and bustle imposed on us by a truncated calendar and commercial hype. Let us all an extra dose of intentionality and attention lest we lose sight of where Advent went. Prayer – good idea. Winter walks – think of Mary and Joseph on their journey. Time spent in relationship – remember the biblical examples of letters, unexpected visitations, and faithful gift giving.

To assist in your Advent life, Advent calendars are available at Bethany for you and for friends and neighbors. Mark these holy days, this precious journey, with calendars that taste of chocolate, and another variety that tells the Advent message in the words of the ELCA Hunger Program. Create an Advent log, and find a moment each day to light the candles and to pray “Come, Lord Jesus, Be our Guest.”

Let us this Advent be aware of where the month goes, and how Jesus comes.

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