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December: Renewed focus in Advent journey

Bethanians,

Every morning I get multiple e-mail reminders from the Wellness Program of our health-insurance provider with the heading “You Have Journeys to Complete.” These are immensely irritating, especially when received in bunches – reminders of things left undone. They also can be helpful, in the way intended, to inspire me to be more attentive to the faith journey I am on.

Although I am usually one who more favors the journey than the destination, achieving goals along the way can be a helpful approach.

But “You Have Journeys to Complete” comes to mind with the many people connected with the Bethany community who have or are completing their earthly journeys. Jess Browning directly comes to mind, someone who “completed his journey well,” but also so many, too many to name, who are connected as family and friends in the Bethany congregation. These serve as reminders that we are each on a journey, the completion of which is the eternal embrace of God. In their memory, “You Have a Journey to complete” takes on a prayerful quality.

Advent is in itself a journey, and often with all the activities, obligations, and short duration it can feel like a program to “complete.” The destination: Christmas. The goal: To survive. But perhaps this year it can assume the spirit of a journey, an “Advent-sure,” a being “on the way.” Instead of a “Journey to Bethlehem,” perhaps a daily, renewed focus on prayer, on walking, on thankfulness, on hungering for justice. We are not accumulating points for completion (like the wellness program), but daily renewing our vigor for the journey. For the journey leads not to an end, but to the “Nativity of our Lord;” it culminates not in conclusion, but rather in the surprise of Immanuel, God with us.

Bless you on your Advent Journey.

 

 

Posted by Pastor Paul Stumme-Diers with

November: Transitions mark the journey that we do not make alone

It could perhaps be said about most any time of year, but it feels to me as through October/November are transitional months in our faith journey. These have long been favorite months for me, with the changing seasons, and this fall the colors have been the best I can remember in the Pacific Northwest. I am reminded of these transitional months, as Bethany’s celebration last week (replete with sill songs and tasty pies) of our 10th anniversary together still resounds joyfully in our ears. (We fondly remember the forty people helping unload the U-Haul).

Transitions take many forms, with children (and parents) and teachers settling into their new patterns. The prayer list seems to expand daily, making me wonder if this is a season especially conducive to transitions in health. The funeral of Jess Browning last weekend amplifies that question, as does the extra attention I see Laurie giving to residents at Martha and Mary in her role as chaplain in these fall days. All Saints Sunday this week marks these “transitions” on our annual calendar.

Thses are the days we turn up the heat in our homes, and we break out the down comforters. The newspapers warn of “The Big Dark” that descends upon Seattle each year at this time, and our clocks are required to “fall back” in response.

We transition from baseball to football (which seems a welcome transition this year in Seattle), and even basketball is edging in. Elections, the first Tuesday in November, are designed for orderly transitions, and Reformation Sunday reminds us that reform and change are a part of the church, essentially to its vibrancy.

To acknowledge and celebrate this each week, we gather to praise the Living God, to listen to the word that comes alive in our hearing, and to revel in the truly present Jesus, who comes to us in bread and wine to accompany us in our transitions. 

And at the end of November, we punctuate all of this transition and change with Thanksgiving. For just when we grow early of all the upheaval, we squint to see the harvest, the healing., the hope, and our empty vessels are filled with gratitude. The transitions mark the journey, and we do not walk alone.

Posted by Pastor Paul Stumme-Diers with

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