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Showing posts from 2007

Methinks we don't protest enough

Recently a church member told me that she finds being called a "Protestant" offensive and frustrating. She doesn't feel like she's protesting anything- she's simply a Lutheran Christian. I've been thinking about her dilemma and I agree with her in a certain sense. It is not really necessary to think of ourselves (those of us who aren't Catholic) as Protestant in the way Luther and his followers were. The old dichotomies between the Reformation rebels and the Established Church do not exist in the same way anymore and, thus, the old labels need not apply. However, isn't the larger gospel message that we are to remain Protestants- those protesting against the ways of the world? Aren't we supposed to show Christ's love in many and various ways (how the Spirit moves) through our daily lives and our vocations? Hasn't God given us the gift of faith, so that we might believe in all that has been done for us? Believing that, we are called to prot

What's in a name?

Today I'm wearing special socks: lavender and black with my name at the ankle (Julia) and the words "clever and kind" on the arch. They make me smile to wear them. How anyone knew me well enough to mass produce socks that describe me perfectly to be sold in a store in England... I'll never know. Are all Julias clever and kind? When I put on my socks this morning, I thought, "My socks say I am Julia", which lead to the thought, "Who do you say that I am?" Now you can see where this is going- right? In the gospel story (Matt. 16:13-20, Mark 8:27-30, Luke 9:18-21), Jesus asks his disciples about the word on the street about him, "Who do people say that I am?" The disciples tell him that some people think he might be John the Baptist or Elijah or possibly another historic prophet- returned from the dead. When Jesus asks his followers who they believe he is, Peter blurts out, "You are the Messiah (or the Christ)." For once Peter h

Firm Foundation

Yesterday in church we sang one of my favorite hymns. Here it is with some language edits by me: How Firm a Foundation How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in God's excellent Word! What more can God say than to you has been said, You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled? In every condition, in sickness, in health; In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth; At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea, As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be. Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, For I am thy God and will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand. When through the deep waters I call thee to go, The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow; For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress. When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie, My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply; The flame shall not hurt the

With Gratitude

Last week I think I was making people crazy with my Pollyanna attitude. Well, maybe only myself. On Saturday, 27 October, as I was getting ready for bed, I found that my septic tank had backed up and flooded my downstairs bathroom. It was already 9 o'clock at night and I needed to call a plumber, wait for him to come and then clean up the mess after he left. I was so very tired and still needed to get up early and preach the next day. Yet when I went to the store for cleaning supplies at 11:30 at night, I found myself walking through the parking lot praying this: "Thank you, God, that we had money to pay for the repair. Thank you that there is not significant damage and we still have a house. Thank you that this didn't happen on the first night Rob was home." When I realized what I was doing, I kind of laughed at myself because of my seemingly ridiculous level of optimism. Yet I felt happy because I knew things were going to be okay. My high continued to esca

November Newsletter

A small moment of fear strikes my heart when I announce “Time for the Children’s Sermon” because I wonder if today will be the Sunday when some well-meaning child asks me a huge theological question. I envision everyone sliding forward in their seats to watch Vicar Julia squirm and answer, “What was before God?” or “What happens when we die?” or “Why do bad things happen?” Yet that fear quickly dissipates when I see all the children squeezing out of pews and scrambling to get to the front of the church. The joy of children who are still excited about coming to church is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. How can we encourage that joy and excitement? Parents, pastors, teachers and the whole church family promise at baptism to help children learn about their faith and what God has done for them and for the world. When we baptize children, we are witnessing the miracle of God’s claiming them and joining them to us as fellow children of God. Since they are part of this fa

Reborn Free

Reformation Day Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Anchorage, AK October 28, 2007 Vicar Julia Seymour Jeremiah 31:31-34; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36 Peace and grace to you in the name of the Holy Trinity who gathers us here, nourishes us and will go forward with us into the world. Is there anyone else here who grew up in the American South? I don’t know if you had this experience, but more than once in my life I’ ve had people who were not from the South and had never been there ask me one question. This question was not “What are grits” or “Why do you talk like that” or “Why is your tea sweeter than pop”. People will ask if they can make a personal inquiry and then lean in and quietly ask, “Do you still have slaves in the South?” That’s the equivalent of asking an Alaskan if he or she lives in an igloo or sees penguins all the time. I was usually tempted to put on my thickest drawl and go on and on about the joys a

Taste and See

It's been awhile, but the fat, white flakes have me in a reflective mood. All week long I have been waiting for the snow to accumulate and I've been thinking about my maternal grandmother. My grandma taught me how to make snow cream- a delicious combination of evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla and snow. Since I grew up in North Carolina, the opportunities for snow cream were few and far between- but the sweet, creamy goodness is a strong gustatory memory of my childhood. I've been waiting this week to make this year's first batch of snow cream. Thinking about that taste memory led me down a dreamy path of other reflection. The scent of Deep Woods Off makes me think of summer camp. The smell of cold jet engine fuel takes me back to deplaning in Nome. The sound of studded tires slowly rolling over pavement reminds me of the crunch of gravel under my bike tires when I was young. The sight of children playing with dolls outdoors brings to mind how my sister and

What to do?

I was recently asked about how ELCA Lutherans handle difficult passages in the Bible, particularly ones dealing with women's ordination. Do we dismiss them as being from a different cultural context or should we take them literally? So today I want to take a look at one of those passages and one way we might consider it. 1 Timothy 2:9- 14 " 10 11 [A] lso that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty. " The easy way to d

Ordinary Time

Yesterday when I was putting on my alb (the white robe) before church, I reflected, a little disappointedly , on the service to come. I confess that I had the thought, "It's kind of a boring Sunday." There were no baptisms, no special recognitions, I wasn't preaching... so nothing new, just the same, same, same service that happens all the time. The service began with announcements as usual, the confession and forgiveness and then a hymn, etc. You know how it goes. Yet it was somewhere around the children's sermon that I felt that thrill of ecclesial excitement. It's hard to describe, but it's like the Holy Spirit blowing up my spine and saying, "Wake up! Look, look! Here's something else!" (In my mind, the HS has to use Dick and Jane syntax- otherwise we might miss the point. See the sunrise! Taste the bread! Grace is good! Count the blessings- 1, 2, 3.) Back to the church service and my tingling spine, as I heard about the wo

What Shall I Say (October Newsletter)

The first time I ever talked formally with a pastor about my sense of call to ministry that pastor prayed with me. The second time, she handed me a book called “What Shall I Say?” This was a slim black paperback with a leaf pictured on the cover. It is the book put out by the ELCA that describes the various opportunities for ministry in the church. “What Shall I Say?” describes what an ordained pastor does, what a diaconal minister does, and so on. When I read the book, for the first time, I really saw in print what someone would expect of a pastor and how the church will guide people in different ministry roles. The funny thing is that “What Shall I Say?” could be the theme for my ministry training. That phrase comes into my head all the time. If I know I am going to meet with someone, what shall I say? Will the words come that are helpful to this person? When I am preparing a sermon, what shall I say? How can I make this text clear and relevant to the congregation? When I am pr

Idol Chatter

Lectionary 26 September 30, 2007 Amos 6:1a, 4-7; 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31 Idol Chatter Peace and grace to you in the name of the Holy Trinity who gathers us together here, nourishes us and will go forward with us into the world. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” What does the pursuit of happiness entail? How will you know when you have attained that which you pursue? Our culture tells us there are many things we need to make us happy. Maybe we are not receiving advertisements for beds of ivory or wine bowls, but we do need a Victrola…a hi-fi…an eight-track player…a cassette player… a Walkman… a CD player…a Discman… an I-Pod. There is always something newer, better, faster, bigger to be had. It’s not even to keep up with the neighbors an

Jesus Loves Me

This Sunday, there was a grace moment in church- a moment so filled with and blessed by the Holy Spirit that I will always remember it. The pianist played a beautiful version of 'Jesus Loves Me' during the offertory. As the notes rippled throughout the sanctuary, so did another sound... the soft sound of voices singing the hymn, quietly and gently. As I looked out at the congregation, I saw so many people, young and old, singing the song together. Parents encouraging their young children with the words, older people with smiles on their faces at the familiar tune, elderly members silently moving their lips to a song they've known for years. It was such a powerful visual. Almost a liturgical Norman Rockwell painting- the family of God gives their offerings and rejoices in song. Yet there was more than just a nice visual and a sweet sound. There was a genuine sincerity in the music. These weren't lyrics to puzzle over or a new melody. The song was sung from memory

How Can I Keep from Singing

For as long as I can remember, I have been afraid of bears. I can remember dreams when I was very young about being chased by bears. I am not entirely sure what that stems from, but needless to say- it's been a lifelong horror. I am not certain that I could put a fine point on the fear- being mauled, just seeing a bear, being eaten. I'm just afraid of bears. How ironic that someone who is terrified of bears lives in Alaska. I've seen a black bear less than a quarter-mile from my house. Once I was in the path of a running grizzly while in the tundra outside Nome. I've seen bears from far away and not far away enough when I've been hiking in different places. I generally feel pretty calm about at the time, though my heart pounds. Why am I thinking about bears now? I have had a hymn going through my head for a couple days. Not a hymn about bears (which one would that be?), but the hymn " My Life Flows on in Endless Song ". My life flows on in en

Opportunities from Heaven

I recently went with a friend to see the movie Evan Almighty - the story of a modern man whom God tells to build an ark. He encounters a great deal of ridicule from his friends and even his family as he outlines the plans for the giant boat and begins to appear more and more like a biblical figure each day. While I wouldn't recommend the movie for its theological soundness, I do think it had a few good points to consider. In one scene, Evan's wife is in a diner and is very upset. She left Evan and took their sons with her because she believed he was going crazy and was potentially harmful. As she looks lamentably at her plate, the "waiter" stops by her table. Though she doesn't know him, the audience recognizes "God" as he has appeared in the movie. "God" tells her this: How do you think God answers prayers? If you pray for courage, does God give it to you or make an opportunity for you to be courageous? If you ask for patience, does


Everywhere you turn today, there are flashbacks and memorials to September 11, 2001. People are talking about where they were, what they remember or how they were affected. Many people are also reflecting on the aftermath of that attack and tragedy, even how it is affecting us today in cautionary actions and in worldwide conflicts. Driving to work this morning, I wondered about how the apostles might have felt at the Passover - a year after the crucifixion. A few of them might have still be in Jerusalem, since some of Paul's letters talk about a group of disciples there, but others left that area and went to other parts of the world to spread the message of Jesus. Yet I am sure at Passover, that celebratory meal, they always thought back to that one time, in the Upper Room- when everything was so uncertain. And then three days later, everything they thought they knew was upturned. We have slowly found the world moving forward from that particular September day. The memorials will

September Newsletter Entry

It is hard to believe that fall is here. It is not yet time for sweaters, but I find my hand moving past the lighter shirts in my closet, down toward the longer sleeves and darker colors. My drive from Eagle River has changed too. I have to think about the school traffic and more people driving in and out of the city. Everyone is hoping for one more fishing trip, one more hike, yet another campout- trying to enjoy the vestiges of the summer and the fun that autumn can provide in the short time it’s here. This month marks a mental change for me. For the past three years, the end of August has meant a return to Connecticut and to school. I had to think about books, class schedules, and travel plans. I was a student. Now I’m still learning, but from you. This year is my transition from student to pastor and Gloria Dei is helping me over that bridge. Internship brings new levels of authority, involvement in decision-making, surprising ministry experiences and absorbing the nuances of the

Faithfully Stepping Out in Doubt (Sermon 9/1/07)

Lectionary 22 Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Anchorage, AK September 2, 2007 Vicar Julia Seymour Proverbs 23:6-7, Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16, Luke 14:1, 7-14 Peace and grace to you in the name of the Holy Trinity who gathers us together here, nourishes us and will go forward with us into the world. How many of you have heard about the book coming out that contains the letters of Mother Teresa? It is a collection of letters she wrote to her spiritual advisors over the course of fifty years about her struggle with doubt and darkness. Mother Teresa writes that she continues to believe in God, but that she no longer hears God’s voice and she is no longer assured, as she once was, of God’s will. These letters date from the time, in 1948, when she began the Missionaries of Charity in India. Before that time, she came to India with the Sisters of Loreto and then she believed she heard Jesus telling her to start a new mission, a miss

Religious Holidays in Anchorage

You may have read in the Anchorage Daily News about a new policy regarding certain religious holidays and the scheduling of school activities. If not, a link to the article is here . The new rules do not mean that school will be out on these new holiday inclusions, but that the Anchorage School District will avoid scheduling activities, like sporting events, on these days. The new list includes Passover, Rosh Hashanah , Yom Kippur , Eid al - Fitr and Eid al - Adha . They are added to a list which includes New Year's, Orthodox Christmas and Easter, Good Friday, Easter, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas. The new holidays may be unfamiliar to some: Passover is a Jewish celebration, in the springtime, that commemorates the events in Egypt that led up to the Exodus. The name of the holiday comes specifically from the fact that the angel of death "passed over" the houses of the Israelites during the plague which killed the eldest sons of the Egyptians. Passover is a holid

If God is for us (Sermon 8/19)

Jeremiah 23:23-29, Hebrews 11:29-12:2, Luke 11:49-56 Peace and grace to you from God our Father, Jesus our Savior and the Holy Spirit who Moves Us All. Oh, Jesus. Why would you say that? “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, but rather division!” My heart sank when I first read those words and in the past couple weeks I read them over and over. I like the Jesus who heals. The Jesus who tells stories about blessed peacemakers, prodigal sons and found sheep. Maybe even the Jesus who gets a little angry in the temple and tells people what’s what. Scott said sometimes he likes Jesus to stir things up. I do too… when he does it on Scott’s Sunday to preach. I don’t know what to do with Jesus the divider. I am sure that’s how his disciples felt when Jesus told them this. The Jewish community in that time was already well divided. The Pharisees who were concerned about the Scriptures. The Sadducees who worried over the rules. The Zealots who were angry about the

Three Ws

When I was in seminary, there always seemed to be plenty to read and write. There were chapters of the Bible to cover for class, language flashcards to peruse, theology books to plow through and a never-ending stream of pages to pound out on a variety of topics. I do not know why I thought that internship would bring a break from this. While I am doing different reading and writing, it always seems like there is so much of it to do. In considering this situation, I came up with the 3 Ws of internship (or pastoral ministry in general). First, one waits. I feel like I am constantly waiting. Waiting to have a moment to mull over a new idea. Waiting to get to work and see what's waiting there for me. The ultimate wait is for the Spirit to move. I always feel like I am waiting for a BIG sign to tell me: "Here's what to write. Here's what to say. Here's how this sermon/newsletter/card should read." Yet the clock can tick down to the wire and I'm still waiting

For Such a Time as This

When I was a little girl, I loved to read stories out of the Bible. I know that sounds funny, but I did. I progressed beyond my Bible story book and would read things out of my little New King James that my parents gave me when I was four. Among my favorite stories to read was the story of Esther (found just before Job). I loved the story of the brave girl who was brought before the King Xerxes (or Ahasuerus ) and was chosen to be the queen. Her cousin Mordecai told her of a plot by the king's right hand man to kill all the Jews, which would include Mordecai and even Esther herself. Esther gathered all her courage and went before the king to tell him about the plot. The story ends up with a happy ending for the Jewish people (celebrated in the springtime holiday of Purim ), but the end is unhappy for Haman (the right-hand man) and his compatriots because they are all killed in a very shocking ending to the story. I was thinking of a verse from Esther today. When Mordeca

James, Apostle

Yesterday was the feast day for the Apostle James. James, and his brother John, abandoned their father's fishing boat and went with Jesus to fish for men. These sons of Zebedee are also referred to as the "Sons of Thunder". They had a tendency to speak before they thought and seemed to continually miss the point of Jesus' ministry. They wanted to sit next to Christ on the throne, they were present at the Transfiguration and were there throughout the Passion week events. James is considered the first martyr of the early Church. He was executed by Herod Agrippa I about 15 years after Jesus died. References to James are found in: Matthew 10:2, 17:1-13 Mark 1:16-20, 3:17, 10:35-41, 14:32-42 Luke 5:1-10; 6:14, 8:51, 9:28, 54 Acts 1:13, 12:2 James is a role model for us because he reminds us that Christ's work and love is never about the "end" or what glory we can have for ourselves. The saving work of Christ in us spurs us to love our neighbors in the

And it was still hot

My favorite children's book is Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are . If you are not familiar with the tale, it's about a little boy whose mother sends him to his room one evening. His imagination runs away with him and he ends up in the land of the wild things. Once he convinces the wild things of his powers, they make him king. Though he loves it, he misses home and he wants to be where someone loves him best of all. So he ends up back in his own room. "There he finds his dinner waiting for him. And it was still hot." I always think this is a very grace-filled ending. Ultimately, we all want to be where we are loved best of all. The location of that love is always and only within the heart of God. We can feel that in our life experiences that create that sharp gasp of surprise at the awesomeness of the moment. No matter how far we wander or what we think we deserve, God is always with us. And God's grace, when we are able to recognize it, is always h

Luther said, "Popes can err..."

Many people were surprised, or maybe not, last week when Pope Benedict XVI declared that non-Roman Catholic Churches are outside the true faith. This affirmation of older, more traditional RCC teaching has not been reaffirmed in church-wide commentary really since Vatican II in the 1960s. In addition, many church bodies, including the Lutheran World Federation, had felt progress was being made in ecumenical relationships with Rome. The document is an attempt to clarify some matters of RCC faith that may have seemed murky to some for the past forty years. Some highlights include: Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of "Church" with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century? Response: According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Churc

In the beginning

It's the middle of my second week of internship. The first week was a little disjointed (no pun intended) due to my broken thumb and the Independence Day holiday. My first Sunday went well and I felt very welcomed into the Gloria Dei family. The second week is busier, but that's good because it helps me feel more settled in and attached to the church. I have started this blog as a way to make public some of my feelings and experiences along this journey and to share with you some of my meditations. I may not be able to post daily, but I will generally try to share a poem, hymn, inspirational writing or Scripture verse that I have been contemplating. My Hope is Built on Nothing Less My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus' blood and righteousness I dare not trust the sweetest frame But wholly lean on Jesus' name (Chorus) On Christ the solid rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand. This hymn has become very significant