Virtual Reflections

             

January 25, 2021 Reflection

Jonah cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
And the people of Nineveh believed God… When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed God’s mind about the calamity that God had said would be brought upon them; and God did not do it.                  

Jonah 3

In the story of Jonah, God requests that Jonah go to the city of Ninevah (in present day Iraq) to prophesy to a flourishing power structure that their day of doom was at hand because of their evil deeds which prospered the rich and powerful.  Jonah first argued with God that he didn’t want to go to Ninevah, and when that didn’t work he tried to hide, and eventually he was thrown overboard on the boat where he had hidden and was swallowed by a fish. Once he finally agreed to carry out his prophetic call, he walked the streets crying out to the citizens of Nineveh.  And what did they do but believe him, and repent! Just like that. What’s more, instead of the destruction that God had promised, God changed God’s mind and had mercy on Ninevah. 

This story is a folktale, a satire, written using one group to represent another group, with a lesson for those who would hear it. The tale addressed issues at a time when the Hebrew people were either still exiled in Babylon, or when they were just beginning to return to Palestine.  At the end of their exile, the refugees were afraid they would be assimilated into a neighboring people who were now living in Jerusalem, their religious center.  So a message was delivered through a tale about Assyrians, inviting the Hebrew community to reimagine their own story in order to help them find a way out of their fear, to help them envision a new reality for themselves. It’s a kind of “what if?” story.  What if things could be better than they imagined they would be when they returned to their homeland?  What if they listened to the Spirit-Among-Them with their hearts and minds and became again the community God called them to be?  What if repentance of evil and injustice came to pass in the power houses of one’s nation, and people were treated with the respect and dignity all deserve?     

The questions coming out of this folktale are ones for us today also, where there is so much of which to repent as a nation.  So this tale from Jonah encourages us, also, to think differently and to imagine more broadly.  It also gives us a break from the negativity and the bleakness that surround us –   that an impossible situation like this one in Ninevah could come to pass; that a writer in the midst of the great prophets of Israel, and in the midst of a refugee community afraid of what they would find when they returned to their beloved homeland, could write about the way things could be; that God called a whole people to turn and they did; and finally, that even God turned also, to embody mercy rather than retribution.  This is visionary writing, and as odd and how foreign its message rings, it was included in the canon for a reason.  With the reminder of the state of our nation this morning, as well as the corner of the world where Nineveh is located, as well as the public outcry about what happened in our Capitol on Jan. 6 and what continues to happen to those who are losing jobs and losing housing and losing sleep, we need a story like this.  We need moments when we’re invited to live in the what-ifs. 

I hope you were able to catch the poem that was read at the end of the presidential inauguration last week, “The Hill We Climb,” written and read by U.S. poet laureate, Amanda Gorman, a 22 year old black woman, one of twin daughters born and raised by a single mother, a young woman with visions of one day being our president, and then invited to recite a poem for our president.  A few stanzas of her poem follow:

We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another…

We will not march back to what was,
but move to what shall be…

When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid,
the new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Amanda Gorman

May we repent of whatever we’re doing that blocks the light for others, that inhibits us from being able to reach out our arms to one another, to bravely see and be a new light for each other.  Maybe this is what the writer of Jonah had in mind so the people might set aside images of bleakness, chaos, sorrow, and sleepless nights, and welcome the wonder of surprises and miracles.

In community with you, peacefully, simply, together,                      

Debbie

Keeping Connected

How are we doing with keeping up connections while staying apart?  Are you getting the calls you need, the porch visits you’d like, the weekly congregational check-in calls we set up early in the pandemic?  Please let Debbie know if you feel overlooked or if you have a need that has not been addressed.

COVID-19 Vaccines

If you have not yet registered for the vaccine and you are 65 or older, live in multigenerational households where there is a person aged 65 or older, or you are a healthcare worker or work in an essential industry, go to http:/www.nvhospital.org/covid-19 to register.  There is a description of eligibility under A1, A2, and B1 tiers, and a registration form to fill out and return.

The sooner the majority of us receive the vaccine, the sooner we can join together again in in-person worship.  What a day that will be!

Ellisforde needs a good spring cleaning

Would you be willing to sign up for a deep cleaning of a section of our church building?  Sanctuary windows and sills?  Clean the pews? Cleaning our refreshment space?  Cleaning a bathroom?  Kitchen?  Sanctuary Room downstairs (or a section of it?)  You get the picture.  Please let Debbie know if you would like your name of a section to be cleaned.  This way we can keep our distance and help restore our building!

Worship in January

January 31, Daniel will lead worship and share the message (There will be no Reflection/Check-In next Monday)

Zoom Link:   https://zoom.us/j/236009838

To dial in to the Worship Service with a phone,  Call 1-301-715-8592,

When asked for meeting i.d. Enter 236 009 838#     Then # again

Our Finances

Thank you for your continued donations for our general fund as we carry on being the church without in-person worship!  For mailing your donations to Miriam, and for leaving them under the office door at the church, we are grateful, as it’s so important that we keep up our regular giving during this difficult time – serving the church and serving the people!  In person worship is in our future, especially with the vaccines coming to all of us! In the meantime, please mail your financial gifts to Miriam Caddy, 16 Orchard Loop South, Tonasket, WA, 98855, or continue dropping them by the church and sliding them under the office door.

Six-Week Lenten Book Study

Since the pandemic began some of us have participated in a series of book studies, starting with Anne Frank’s experience of being forcibly “quarantined” with her family and others as Jews in hiding, to studying racism and our part in it through two books, White Fragility and Caste.  For our Lenten study we have chosen Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kemmerer.  The book combines Kemmerer’s vocation as a scientist with her Anishinaabekwe’s indigenous knowledge as she retells the myths she grew up with and lays them beside current understandings (or misunderstandings) of the earth and its resources. The result is a kind of sacred wisdom pitted against western culture’s assumed wisdom.  Her stories are moving as well as instructive, sacred as well as critical of religious pretense, hopeful as well as heart breaking.  At the end of one of the chapters she talks about the idea of learning, that western knowledge has led us on a different path of knowing than have indigenous traditions, often to our detriment, but that we can relearn something of that earlier way and in fact many are thirsting for this older knowledge. 

Braiding Sweetgrass is a continuation of our journey to discover what we have gotten wrong and to discuss how we might learn and act for the sake of the people of this earth and the earth itself.  In the spirit of Lent, a period of preparation and penance as we await Jesus’ death and resurrection, this book seems to us a helpful aid on our journey.  If you are interested in joining us, please contact me (droberts8487@gmail.com, or 509-486-2192).  We will likely begin by Zoom on Wednesday, February 17 (date and time to be confirmed once we know who is interested and their schedules).

In our Prayers

-Cara Johnson and her mother, Eleanor, as Eleanor battles with end of life issues at Extended Care in Tonasket; thankfully, it looks like Eleanor is recovering from COVID!
-Sid Bosch, and Martha, as Sid’s condition continues to weaken after two strokes and various other ailments connected to his strokes.
-Dale Swedberg, as he deals with swelling and pain, 11 months and medical opinions into knee replacement surgery.
-The Tonasket Food Bank, as we juggle volunteers during this pandemic, and as clients are in more need.  We have had tremendous response in financial and food donations from our community during this time!
-North Valley Hospital and Extended Care as folks are experiencing both loss and recovery from COVID, and as hospital administrators continue to work on vaccine distribution.  Hurray for our hospital CEO, John McReynolds, and the leadership he has offered through this pandemic!
-The Church of the Brethren (EYN) in Nigeria, where numerous churches and homes have been attacked by Boko Haram, and church leaders and citizens killed or abducted.  May we pray for a way through the tensions in Nigeria, for peace among religious traditions, and for both courage and comfort as EYN discerns their response to the ongoing threats and violence in the northeast.
All of us, as we grapple with the need for distancing and masking, and the discouragement and even tension among our community that health protocol has brought.  The vaccine is here and will continue arriving!  But before it reaches all of us, may we continue to exercise wisdom as we discern how best to stay safe, and may we sign up for the vaccine when we are eligible for it.   In the meantime, may we think and pray creatively for each other, and be present in creative and nurturing ways.
-Others?  Please let Debbie know.


January 18, 2021 Reflection

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, so I thought we might look briefly at King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” alongside Jesus’ inaugural sermon in his home synagogue as his ministry was just getting started.  As we all know, King was an instrumental leader in the civil rights movement in the 50’s and 60’s. In 1963 King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference had joined with Birmingham, Alabama’s local human rights movement in a direct-action campaign to confront the city’s segregation system.  This nonviolent desegregation campaign used actions such as boycotting local merchants, lunch counter sit-ins, marches, and nonviolent trainings, bringing an increased number of volunteers to its side daily.  After the city government obtained a court injunction against the protest actions, King, along with city leaders, decided to disobey the court order.  On Good Friday, 1963, King was arrested after violating the injunction.  While in the city jail, he read a local newspaper editorial written by eight Birmingham religious leaders critical of his campaign, and penned his response on the margins of the newspaper while being held in solitary confinement.

Among the clergymen’s complaints were that the campaign was unwise and untimely, that it didn’t observe the principles of law and order, that King’s group were outsiders arriving to bring chaos to their city, and that he was an extremist.  King’s famous response included a distinction between just and unjust laws, that just laws uphold human dignity and unjust laws degrade some humans while lifting up others; people have a right to question and even disobey unjust laws in order for important conversation about justice to take place.  He then expressed his disappointment with white moderates (the clergy who were criticizing him) who were more interested in order than in justice, preferring a negative peace where there is the appearance of peace, rather than positive peace where justice prevails and its journey is ongoing.  In this vein, he also accused the white church of being a voice for segregation in that their behavior continued to pit the status quo with its adherence to not rocking the already-segregated-system, against justice.  In response to their accusation of poor timing, King explained that in matters of justice the time must be now or never, that there will always be those who demand patience and waiting rather than action.  But blacks folks had been waiting, and waiting, and nothing had been done on their behalf.  They felt their actions were indeed “timely” and he laid out his “4 steps to a nonviolent campaign” to show his attention to 1) obtaining accurate information, 2) to negotiating with those with whom there was disagreement and by whom harm had been done, 3) that if they refused to negotiate then to attending to the spiritual preparation needed for 4) direct nonviolent action.  You can read his letter by clicking this link, https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/sites/mlk/files/letterfrombirmingham_wwcw_0.pdf

Jesus faced a similar response when he preached his first message to his home synagogue community. He had just arrived in Nazareth, his hometown, and on the Sabbath he went to the synagogue, was handed the scroll, and chose to read from the prophet Isaiah, “The spirit of the lord is upon me because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor and to set the captives free.” But in his case this wasn’t the part of his message that angered the people, as he was speaking to them as one of their own, unlike King’s circumstances. Jesus was admonished because he refused to offer his hometown a privileged seat at the table, assigning them special status simply because he had been born there.  So much in their lives had been against Jews prospering.  The emperor of Rome was his own god, and expected to be worshipped as one; the taxes were more than Jewish citizens could bear – temple taxes, emperor taxes, growing food taxes, selling food taxes, buying food taxes, taxes on their homes, on their villages, taxes for those in authority in their villages, even taxes on the bridges they walked on.  Jews were not respected nor treated well.  Jesus could have uplifted them that day as his own people, but instead he talked to them about a universal ministry, claiming the whole world as his people.  They were weary and they needed this now famous man to allow them their claim to fame, as small as it might be.  They wanted to be first for a change.  But Jesus not only wouldn’t do it, he revealed their own thoughts to them, thoughts they never would have voiced aloud – that they should be special because he was special.

Jesus had a different ministry in mind.  He identified himself as a prophet, not a healer, and prophets were known to call people to accountability for their selfishness, and for their lack of justice and mercy toward others.  Jesus proclaimed in this passage that that was the calling he was taking on, and when the people of Nazareth heard Jesus’ judgment of them, they snapped.  They would rather kill him than have him expose them, even to themselves. And as they were herding him out of town, ready to throw him off that cliff, he slipped away.  In Luke’s gospel he never returned to Nazareth.

My take-away from the ministries of these two men, MLK Jr. and Jesus: Walk our talk; practice the golden rule; assume we’re no better than the one for which we have the least regard; if harm is being done to ourselves or others, respond by confirming the information we have is correct, attempt dialogue before taking action if possible, and make sure any action we take is grounded in prayerful preparation and in principles of nonviolence.

I’m grateful this holiday falls where it does this year, helping us remember our own peace heritage in the midst of national violence and chaos, and helping our country remember nonviolence as a strategy that can bring about important change on behalf of justice for all.

In community with you, peacefully, simply, together,                       
Debbie

Keeping Connected

How are we doing with keeping up connections while staying apart?  Are you getting the calls you need, the porch visits you’d like, the weekly congregational check-in calls we set up early in the pandemic?  Please let Debbie know if you feel overlooked or if you have a need that has not been addressed.

Ellisforde needs a good spring cleaning

Would you be willing to sign up for a deep cleaning of a section of our church building?  Sanctuary windows and sills?  Clean the pews? Cleaning our refreshment space?  Cleaning a bathroom?  Kitchen?  Sanctuary Room downstairs (or a section of it?)  You get the picture.  Please let Debbie know if you would like your name of a section to be cleaned.  This way we can keep our distance and help restore our building!

Worship in January

January 24, Debbie will lead worship and share the message

January 31, Daniel will lead worship and share the message (There will be no Reflection/Check-In after 5th Sundays)

Zoom Link:   https://zoom.us/j/236009838

To dial in to the Worship Service with a phone,  Call 1-301-715-8592,

When asked for meeting i.d. Enter 236 009 838#     Then # again

Our Finances

Thank you for your continued donations for our general fund as we carry on being the church without in-person worship!  For mailing your donations to Miriam, and for leaving them under the office door at the church, we are grateful, as it’s so important that we keep up our regular giving during this difficult time – serving the church and serving the people!  In person worship is in our future, especially with the vaccines coming to all of us! In the meantime, please mail your financial gifts to Miriam Caddy, 16 Orchard Loop South, Tonasket, WA, 98855, or continue dropping them by the church and sliding them under the office door.

Six-Week Lenten Book Study

Since the pandemic began some of us have participated in a series of book studies, starting with Anne Frank’s experience of being forcibly “quarantined” with her family and others as Jews in hiding, to studying racism and our part in it through two books, White Fragility and Caste.  For our Lenten study we have chosen Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kemmerer.  The book combines Kemmerer’s vocation as a scientist with her Anishinaabekwe’s indigenous knowledge as she retells the myths she grew up with and lays them beside current understandings (or misunderstandings) of the earth and its resources. The result is a kind of sacred wisdom pitted against western culture’s assumed wisdom.  Her stories are moving as well as instructive, sacred as well as critical of religious pretense, hopeful as well as heart breaking.  At the end of one of the chapters she talks about the idea of learning, that western knowledge has led us on a different path of knowing than have indigenous traditions, often to our detriment, but that we can relearn something of that earlier way and in fact many are thirsting for this older knowledge. 

Braiding Sweetgrass is a continuation of our journey to discover what we have gotten wrong and to discuss how we might learn and act for the sake of the people of this earth and the earth itself.  In the spirit of Lent, a period of preparation and penance as we await Jesus’ death and resurrection, this book seems to us a helpful aid on our journey.  If you are interested in joining us, please contact me (droberts8487@gmail.com, or 509-486-2192).  We will likely begin by Zoom on Wednesday, February 17 (date and time to be confirmed once we know who is interested and their schedules).

In our Prayers

-Cara Johnson and her mother, Eleanor, as Eleanor battles with end of life issues at Extended Care in Tonasket; thankfully, it looks like Eleanor is recovering from COVID!
-Sid Bosch, and Martha, as Sid’s condition continues to weaken after two strokes and various other ailments connected to his strokes.
-Dale Swedberg, as he deals with swelling and pain, 11 months and medical opinions into knee replacement surgery.
-The Tonasket Food Bank, as we juggle volunteers during this pandemic, and as clients are in more need.  We have had tremendous response in financial and food donations from our community during this time!
-North Valley Hospital and Extended Care as folks are experiencing both loss and recovery from COVID, and as hospital administration continue to work on vaccine distribution.
-The Church of the Brethren (EYN) in Nigeria, where numerous churches and homes have been attacked by Boko Haram, and church leaders and citizens killed or abducted.  May we pray for a way through the tensions in Nigeria, for peace among religious traditions, and for both courage and comfort as EYN discerns their response to the ongoing threats and violence in the northeast.
All of us, as we grapple with the need for distancing and masking, and the discouragement and even tension among our community that health protocol has brought.  The vaccine is here and will continue arriving!  But before it reaches all of us, may we continue to exercise wisdom as we discern how best to stay safe.   (We are seeing the toll in our valley and around our country from the lack of distancing during Thanksgiving, Christmas and likely, New Years celebrations. )  May we think and pray creatively for each other, and be present even as we stay apart.
-Others?  Please let Debbie know.


January 11, 2021 Reflection

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.  When King Herod heard this, he was frightened…                                                                                                                      

Matthew 2

We are now at the end of Epiphany.  The wisemen have arrived to honor the baby Jesus and are now on their way back home, though on a different route than their journey to Judea because of a warning to avoid King Herod, whose interest in this baby was a dangerous one, more self-serving than generous.  The wisemen represent some of the first people to believe in the miracle of Jesus’ presence on earth, and they were not part of Jesus own community.  They weren’t even neighboring Gentiles.  They were strangers from afar, maybe a year, two year’s journey away, who were called to come and celebrate his birth, and they did.  They didn’t become Jews; they didn’t later become Christians.  They went back home after they traveled all that way to celebratesomething they likely didn’t completely understand, while Herod with his close connections to the Jews, feared something he also didn’t understand.

 I was reading about the woman who was killed at the Capitol on Wednesday, Ashli Babbitt.  Reports say she was deep into QAnon, a conspiracy theory that claims Donald Trump has been trying to save the world from a secret cabal of satanic pedophiles, including Democratic politicians and Hollywood celebrities, and that Trump will soon bring his enemies to justice.   Ashli Babbitt depended on that theory when she went to the Capitol from her home in Florida on Wednesday.  She was determined to help Trump bring to fruition QAnon’s theory, and she died trying.  She died helping others in her group break the windows into the room leading into to where Senators and Representatives were certifying the electoral college vote.  She died attempting to confront those elected officials, possibly intending to harm some of them.  Ashli Babbitt represented Herod rather than the wisemen.  That is, she feared more than she trusted, and it cost her her life.  And I think of all who at times thrive on paranoid illusions that if we don’t do such and such something terrible is going to happen, and then we close ourselves off from anyone and anything that doesn’t go along with our beliefs. 

In our multicultural, multireligious, multiethnic world, we can’t live in that kind of fear and at the same time thrive.  The world is too small.  Maybe at one time it was possible to shut ourselves away from that which didn’t agree with our own traditions or understandings or comfort level, but that’s no longer possible. Differing understandings surround us in our towns, in our neighborhoods, in our schools, and we see from last week and from other recent incidents that long running distrust is a breeding ground for hatred, which then invites harm, either to ourselves or to others and probably to both. What happened at the Capitol begins with protecting one’s circle of beliefs from anyone who doesn’t hold them.  That’s a Herod mentality, not a wiseman mentality.

In our day with the wealth of beliefs and traditions surrounding us, should it matter so much for everyone to feel exactly as we do?  Does it matter in our multicultural settings that not everyone is Christian, or that not everyone is our kind of Christian?  This story in Matthew encourages us to welcome people from wherever they come with their own customs and beliefs.  When we do that, hopefully some of the love and compassion Jesus showed will seep into our relationships with others as we welcome them, and they’ll be transformed, and we’ll be transformed too. That’s the new evangelical model, that we make disciples by welcoming everyone and by learning from everyone.  We are not asked to give up the gift of our own religious tradition, but to welcome the gift of someone else’s. It’s taken us centuries to learn this, but we’ve had this Epiphany story to read and ruminate about each year and hopefully at some point we’ll get it right. I imagine that those wisemen being willing to come all that way, and honoring Jesus the way they did, was a transformative experience for the holy family.  The magi taught Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds, something about the reaches of honor and respect, and we know that Jesus carried that lesson with him his whole life.

So consider how magi have sometimes appeared in our own lives, maybe leaving as suddenly as they arrived, almost before we noticed them, or maybe they stayed awhile. Whenever they come, however they come, our lives are changed for the better, even if only for a brief time, because somehow they saw something in us deserving to be recognized and honored and we’re changed because of it.  We’ve been honored, we’ve been recognized!  How could this not change us!    Consider also how we might serve as magi for others, hearing the call to honor another and heeding that call?  Not heeding our fears (and we have plenty of those), but heeding the call to be open to guidance, to learning, to personify the lessons of Jesus, that is, becoming what we profess to believe.

In community with you, peacefully, simply, together,                       
Debbie

Keeping Connected

How are we doing with keeping up connections while staying apart?  Are you getting the calls you need, the porch visits you’d like, the weekly congregational check-in calls we set up early in the pandemic?  Please let Debbie know if you feel overlooked or if you have a need that has not been addressed.

Our Finances

Thank you for your continued donations for our general fund as we carry on being the church without in-person worship!  For mailing your donations to Miriam, and for leaving them under the office door at the church, we are grateful, as it’s so important that we keep up our regular giving during this difficult time – serving the church and serving the people!  In person worship is in our future, especially with the vaccines coming to all of us! In the meantime, please mail your financial gifts to Miriam Caddy, 16 Orchard Loop South, Tonasket, WA, 98855, or continue dropping them by the church and sliding them under the office door.

Worship in January

January 17, Daniel will lead worship and share the message

January 24, Debbie will lead worship and share the message

January 31, Daniel will lead worship and share the message

Zoom Link

https://zoom.us/j/236009838

To dial in to the Worship Service with a phone,  Call 1-301-715-8592,

When asked for meeting i.d. Enter 236 009 838#     Then # again

Six-Week Lenten Book Study

Since the pandemic began some of us have participated in a series of book studies, starting with Anne Frank’s experience of being forcibly “quarantined” with her family and others as Jews in hiding, to studying racism and our part in it through two books, White Fragility and Caste.  For our Lenten study we have chosen Braiding Sweet Grass, by Robin Wall Kemmerer.  The book combines Kemmerer’s vocation as a scientist with her Anishinaabekwe’s indigenous knowledge as she retells the myths she grew up with and lays them beside current understandings (or misunderstandings) of the earth and its resources. The result is a kind of sacred wisdom pitted against western culture’s assumed wisdom.  Her stories are moving as well as instructive, sacred as well as critical of religious pretense, hopeful as well as heart breaking.  At the end of one of the chapters she talks about the idea of learning, that western knowledge has led us on a different path of knowing than have indigenous traditions, often to our detriment, but that we can relearn something of that earlier way and in fact many are thirsting for this older knowledge.  Braiding Sweetgrass is a continuation of our journey to discover what we have gotten wrong and to discuss how we might learn and act for the sake of the people of this earth and the earth itself.  In the spirit of Lent, a period of preparation and penance as we await Jesus’ death and resurrection, this book seems to us a helpful aid on our journey.  If you are interested in joining us, please contact me (droberts8487@gmail.com, or 509-486-2192).  We will likely begin by Zoom on Wednesday, February 17 (date and time to be confirmed once we know who is interested and their schedules).

In our Prayers

-Cara Johnson and her mother, Eleanor, as Eleanor battles with end of life issues at Extended Care in Tonasket; thankfully, it looks like Eleanor is recovering from COVID!
-Sid Bosch, and Martha, as Sid’s condition continues to weaken after two strokes and various other ailments connected to his strokes.
-Dale Swedberg, as he deals with swelling and pain, 11 months and medical opinions into knee replacement surgery.
-Cecile Klayton has not received a follow up report on her condition, which the family assumes is a good sign!
-The Tonasket Food Bank, as we juggle volunteers during this pandemic, and as clients are in more need.  We have had tremendous response in financial and food donations from our community during this time!
-North Valley Hospital and Extended Care as folks are experiencing both loss and recovery from COVID, and as hospital administration continue to work on vaccine distribution.
-The Church of the Brethren (EYN) in Nigeria, wherenumerous churches and homes have been attacked by Boko Haram, and church leaders and citizens killed or abducted.  May we pray for a way through the tensions in Nigeria, for peace among religious traditions, and for both courage and comfort as EYN discerns their response to the ongoing threats and violence in the northeast.
All of us, as we grapple with the need for distancing and masking, and the discouragement and even tension among our community that health protocol has brought.  The vaccine is here and will continue arriving!  But before it reaches all of us, may we continue to exercise wisdom as we discern how best to stay safe.   (We are seeing the toll in our valley and around our country from the lack of distancing during Thanksgiving, Christmas and likely, New Years celebrations. )  May we think and pray creatively for each other, and be present even as we stay apart.
-Others?  Please let Debbie know.


January 4, 2021 Reflection

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”                                               

Matthew 2

This week as we usher in the new year, let’s imagine we are the wise men traveling to Bethlehem in search of the baby we have heard about in our dreams and saw portents of in the stars.  By now, the baby Jesus has been born but we, as these wise travelers, have not yet arrived to bow down before him.  Next week, our tradition has us already having seen the baby and offering him our gifts, and we’re making our way back to our homeland by a different route than we came.  But today we haven’t arrived yet at the stable where the star is leading us.

Research says these wise men came from Persia – what is today the country of Iran – and they were likely Zoroastrians, a religious tradition founded by Zoroaster about 3500 years ago, well before Christianity.  Zoroastrianism lifts up the one God of Wisdom, a monotheistic religious tradition like Judaism, Christianity and Islam, believing in the one God.  It also believes in a future messiah, in a heaven and a hell, in free will – so it has some similarity to Judaism and Christianity.  We know that many of our own religious stories have their roots in other traditions.  We’ve borrowed from the traditions that were once our home before Judaism and Christianity were born.  So here we have these Zoroastrian Magi.  The word ‘magi’ comes from the Persian magus, which is the religious caste into which Zoroaster was born.  It was a priestly caste, and in this Zoroastrianism caste, priests paid particular attention to the stars.  They became well known as astrologers, which was regarded as a great science.  Sometimes we assign the word magic to these Magi, as if they were a kind of magicians.  But the roots of Magi are not in the word magic.  Zoroastrianism was actually opposed to magic, or to sorcery.  And oftentimes our tradition also refers to these magi as kings, but that’s also incorrect. There is nothing in the gospel accounts that implies they were kingly rulers of any kind, though Isaiah has a passage that says the Messiah was worshipped by kings, so perhaps that’s where the idea of Magi-as-kings comes from.  We tend to elevate important people, and in ancient history a king was about as high an office as one could attain.  So the earliest commentators went along with the rhetoric of these Magi being kings, and now we have three kings visiting the baby Jesus, and we have lots of hymns describing the wise men as kings.  But they weren’t kings.  They were religious priests who sought wisdom from the stars and who believed the light of the stars offered both mystery and foresight. Their vocation as astrologers guided them to pay attention to the message of the stars.  And that’s why they followed the one that led them to another country, another religious tradition, all the way to the baby Jesus and his family.  The Magi understood that the purpose of paying attention to the stars was in part to follow the Power that beckons us.  Their tradition taught them to pay attention to the light; to resist the force of the stars was to lose one’s way.

In the magi’s story, there is also a place for Herod, who as political ruler who exerted power over to the detriment of many, represents evil.  Herod might be that place in each of us that doesn’t appreciate bowing down to anyone except ourselves.  Herod is present as the power of domination.  We see him in politics, we see him in social interactions and pressures, we see him also in our religious systems.  Herod may have a kind of light that shines also, and that beckons to us. But the Magi understand true light.  Remember the angel that warned them not to cooperate with Herod?  Those angels represent this true light and the wise men acknowledged this by leaving their gifts with the Christ child and going home by another way.  They decided to ignore Herod with his power and prestige.  This is the path of Epiphany.  The path that follows the true light and returns home to the heart of God.  A story that we read about once a year, but also a story that is always happening within us and among us.

This week we are invited to become the Magi, to practice noticing the light, welcoming the light, following the light, so that when the Light has something important to share with us, we’re ready to hear it and be guided by it.   That’s the message of the Magi, that we join them on their journey, and we let that journey lead us our whole lives.  Once they arrived at the stable and found the Christ child, do you think their vocation was over, that they stopped paying attention to the light, stopped listening, stopped their life’s journey?  I don’t think so.  And we don’t stop either.  We journey our whole lives, welcoming the Christ child again and again, and each time we are hopefully a bit more practiced, a bit wiser, understanding a bit more deeply the gift of the Light of the world.

So with Epiphany in sight, let us reflect on the story of these Zoroastrian priests whom we call wise men, because they were.  And let us be like them, wise people searching for the true light and following where it leads us, always.

In community with you, peacefully, simply, together,                        
Debbie

Keeping Connected

How are we doing with keeping up connections while staying apart?  Are you getting the calls you need, the porch visits you’d like, the weekly congregational check-in calls we set up early in the pandemic?  Please let Debbie know if you feel overlooked or if you have a need that has not been addressed.

Our Finances

Thank you for your continued donations for our general fund as we carry on being the church without in-person worship!  For mailing your donations to Miriam, and for leaving them under the office door at the church, we are grateful, as it’s so important that we keep up our regular giving during this difficult time – serving the church and serving the people!  In person worship is in our future, especially with the vaccines coming to all of us! In the meantime, please mail your financial gifts to Miriam Caddy, 16 Orchard Loop South, Tonasket, WA, 98855, or continue dropping them by the church and sliding them under the office door.

Worship in January

January 10, Daniel will lead worship; Debbie and Daniel with share the message

January 17, Daniel will lead worship and share the message

January 24, Debbie will lead worship and share the message

January 31, Daniel will lead worship and share the message

Zoom Link

https://zoom.us/j/236009838

To dial in to the Worship Service with a phone,  Call 1-301-715-8592,

When asked for meeting i.d. Enter 236 009 838#     Then # again

In our Prayers

-Cara Johnson and her mother, Eleanor, as Eleanor battles with end of life issues at Extended Care in Tonasket, and as she now struggles with COVID as well.
-Sid Bosch, and Martha, as Sid’s condition continues to weaken after two strokes and various other ailments connected to his strokes.
-Dale Swedberg, as he deals with swelling and pain, 10 months and medical opinions after knee replacement surgery.
-Cecile Klayton, Daniel’s mom and their family, as she waits for the results of a second biopsy on her thyroid.
-The Tonasket Food Bank, as we juggle volunteers during this pandemic, and as clients are in more need.  We have had tremendous response in financial and food donations from our community during this time!
-North Valley Extended Care Staff and Residents who continue to juggle responsibilities as COVID has made its way among them.  Hurray for the vaccine!
-The Church of the Brethren (EYN) in Nigeria, where, on Christmas Eve and continuing through last week, numerous churches and homes were attacked by Boko Haram.  May we pray for a way through the tensions in Nigeria, for peace among religious traditions, and for both courage and comfort as EYN discerns their response to the ongoing threats and violence in the northeast.
All of us, as we grapple with the need for distancing and masking, and the discouragement and even tension among our community that health protocol has brought.  The vaccine is here and will continue arriving!  But before it reaches all of us, may we continue to exercise wisdom as we discern how best to stay safe.   (We are seeing the toll in our valley and around our country from the lack of distancing during Thanksgiving, Christmas and likely, New Years celebrations. )  May we think and pray creatively for each other, and be present even as we stay apart.
-Others?  Please let Debbie know.