Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sermon: Christmas Truth

Christmas 1 Year A
Matthew 2:13-23
Christmas Truth
By Rich Gamble

Truth is a tricky thing. A list of facts in a newspaper may be deceiving. A poem may speak a universal truth. One the books Kate picked up at the Festival of Hope book sale was called “Lying with Statistics.” Kate was trained in statistics and uses them all the time for her job and she tends to be cautious in accepting the conclusions of some else’s statistics.

For a couple of hundred years we have believed that facts were the source of real truth and stories were just something to pass the time. Before that, stories were believed to be sources of truth and facts were occasionally handy but not necessary. Many modern people reading the Bible refuse to believe it is true because they don’t believe the facts; others want to believe that it is true as they define it and so demand that that the stories be accepted as facts. Prior to the modern age people sought truths not necessarily facts and they didn’t confuse the two.

The two gospels that have accounts of Jesus’ birth have some differences in the details of the story. The Gospel today tells Matthew’s version of the birth of Jesus. If you were distracted by all the Christmas carols it is good to review. Luke has Mary and Joseph living in Nazareth and forced to go to Bethlehem by the dictates of Caesar. This makes the parents of Jesus homeless during his birth. Mary gives birth in Bethlehem in a barn and then Mary and Joseph go back home to Nazareth.

In Matthew’s version Mary and Joseph live in Bethlehem, where they give birth to Jesus at home. But then out of fear of Herod they flee to Egypt. Once they hear that the coast is clear they leave Egypt but since they are fearful of Herod’s son they decide to move to Nazareth instead of going home to Bethlehem.

So in the two Gospels that talk about the birth of Jesus there are different stories with commonalities. Jesus is born in Bethlehem but raised in Nazareth in both accounts. And in both accounts Jesus’ parents are shown to be victims of political tyrannies. Caesar makes the holy couple homeless during the height of Mary’s pregnancy, which was a direct threat to the survival of the infant. Herod plots to kill Jesus directly because he fears that Jesus will be a threat to his claim of the throne of Israel.

In both cases a cruel and thoughtless policy by the rulers leads to hardship and homelessness, and in today’s readings, the death of all the male infants in Bethlehem.

Did Caesar and Herod care about the suffering imposed by their policies? The story doesn’t indicate it. For them, the suffering and loss was an acceptable cost of asserting their idea of how the world should be ordered.

But in these Gospels we see the world not through the eyes of Herod or Caesar but through the experience of the peasants of Palestine. Our history has a particular perspective, that of the victims and not the potentates, the occupied and not the occupiers, the homeless and not the lavishly housed.

You can read historical accounts that will tell you what the Caesars had for dinner. You can read about the wars they fought, the policies they implemented, you can see even today the evidence of their influence in roads and buildings and monuments. There isn’t much evidence of the suffering caused by their economic priorities. There isn’t much information about the life expectancy of the slaves who quarried the marble for the monuments or the impact of the Roman taxation policies on the health of peasant farmers. In the worldview of domination, God is a dominator, therefore those who have dominating power are important and those who have little or no power are not.

Who would care about a couple of Jewish peasants expecting a baby? Who would care about a few peasant babies in the backwater town of Bethlehem?

That is where our story comes in. What’s important isn’t whether either of these accounts is factual. What’s important is the truth they reveal.

This truth is that not only are the lives of those most vulnerable humans important but that God’s purpose for all of humanity is located not on the throne of Rome or the palace of Herod but in a barn (or house) in Bethlehem. The truth of this story is that the power of God is the opposite of domination just as a helpless peasant baby born in nowheresville is the opposite of king on his throne.

The truth is that our God takes a side in history, the side of the nobodies. God’s side in this story is not with those who have the power to destroy human life but with those who have to run for their lives.

Already the cuts in human services is beginning. The wealthy won in the elections and there will be no new taxes to make up for the lagging income caused by the current greed caused recession. And it is unlikely that any more money will be coming from the federal government who just bent over backwards to give wealthy people tax breaks. Programs are closing, services cut back, and the outcome will be more suffering. The corporate media will cover the facts but largely miss the suffering. It is unlikely we will hear much of what it is like to have no medical care for your children, no hospice care for your loved ones. The nightly news will not cover what happens to a working mom when her daycare support is cut, and no one will track down those who are mentally ill and homeless and cover what it means to lose outreach workers.

The cuts will be made to seem like an act of nature, an act of God and not a choice by the powerful to cause the suffering of the powerless. And what few stories do hit the airwaves will rapidly be swallowed up by a sea of cheerful commercials and sports scores.

Here on this day after Christmas we are challenged to seek the truth which comes not from the perspective of judge or President or CEO, not from the guy who has his own media empire nor any of his minions, not from the neighbor who believes what sees on the TV or what he hears on the radio.

Here on this day after Christmas, we are called to look past the tinsel, look past the distractions, look past the lying statistics and instead see the truth that sleeps under our porch or in a car, see the lines of people seeking aid, hear stories of those who live without medical or dental care.

The President and the Congress will probably not send soldiers out to murder babies but they will pass a budget that will not feed uncounted thousands, not ensure everyone on the planet has basic medical care, not build housing for the poorest, not provide clean drinking water for all. This lack of action, this prioritization of the wealthy and warrior over the poor and vulnerable will lead directly to the death of thousands of children every day.

The slaughter of the innocents isn’t just a story from our book of faith, it is the ongoing outcome of the policies of the powerful. Only those of us who bother to look for it will see these deaths. Only those of us who believe in alternative truth than that of fiefdoms of wealth and dominating power will protest and act.

From the beginning of the Jesus story in the our Gospel we are called on to take a side and live that choice. Helpless infants or powerful rulers whose reality will govern our actions?

The good news is that through these truth-filled stories and through the heroic efforts of those who have lived this truth, we have a choice. Try as they might, the powerful have not silenced the alternative narrative.

Christmas, the holiday has passed. Christmas, the choice is ever in front of us.

Amen.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Eve Service

Once again we celebrate Christmas Eve in our own twist on tradition.

Christmas Eve Celebration
7 p.m. Friday
December 24


We hope you can join us.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Reminder" Newsletter December, 2010


Keystone United Church of Christ

From Rich,
In the South Pacific the native peoples saw outsiders (many for the first time) during World War 2. The warring sides brought to these people, clothes, tools, medicine, and food. This cargo was believed to be the gift of the gods. Then the war ended. The supplies stopped coming in and the people, eager for cargo, built ceremonial landing strips and airplanes made out of straw. By making these things, they thought to lure the gods into bringing back the goods.
Every year at this time the celebration of the coming into history of a radical alternative to practices of domination is transformed into a celebration of a fat guy in a red suit bringing consumer goods. At Christmas we decorate, celebrate and exchange goods in hopes of filling the desire for the happiness, connectedness, purpose and peace which often cannot be found in our day to day lives. The cargo cults tried to lure back planes filled with goods by building symbolic planes. Just as the straw planes had no chance of luring back real ones, so our exchange of goods has no chance of filling the void in our lives and community.
My web search of the definition of Advent came up with this: “The coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important.”
This is the season in the life of the Church known as Advent. The coming or arrival of something extremely important is a perfect way to talk about this season of the Church. It is both coming and here, this thing we yearn for, this peace on earth, and good will to all.
It is here when we are open to it. Here when we work for it. Here when seek it deep within.
And yet, alienation, loneliness, poverty, violence, war, fear, and hate are all around us as well. In these dark days it seems to be getting worse and worse for more and more people. We hunger for a better world, for something that has not yet arrived, for a greater peace, a greater justice, where good will is not just a feeling but a political and economic reality for all.
Something here, something coming.
It is important to celebrate the goodness that is here. The justice we’ve won. The places where there is peace, the joy of being a part of such a wonderful community. But it is important also to yearn for more, for it is in our yearning that new steps are taken, new risks dared.
This year let’s lean into the light of a new way of living. That new way is as close as our willingness to live in its light. That new way is as far as today is from that first Christmas. Seek and celebrate the wonder of existence; work, plan and build a better existence for all, as if it will take many generations to arrive.
Advent isn’t just a season, it is a way of life.
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FRIDAY MEANINGFUL MOVIES
All Events Free and Open to the public, but Donations are kindly accepted!

Friday, December 3, 7:00 to 9:30 PM
Film: “THE MEAN WORLD SYNDROME - Media Violence & the Cultivation of Fear” (51 min, Jeremy Earp, 2010)
A new film based on the late George Gerbner's groundbreaking analysis of media influence and media violence. For years, debates have raged among scholars, politicians, and concerned parents about the effects of media violence on viewers. Too often these debates have descended into simplistic battles between those who claim that media messages directly cause violence and those who argue that activists exaggerate the impact of media exposure altogether. THE MEAN WORLD SYNDROME examines how media violence forms a heightened state of insecurity, exaggerated perceptions of risk and danger, and a fear-driven propensity for hard-line political solutions to social problems. Please join us following the film for a facilitated discussion.
Friday, December 10, 6:30 to 9:30 PM (...Film starts at 7)
TRANSITION FRIDAY! Film: "WATER ON THE TABLE" (79 min, Liz Marshall, 2010)
Is water a commercial good? Or is it a human right like air? WATER ON THE TABLE is powerful new, character-driven, social-issue documentary that explores our relationship to our most precious natural resource. The film intimately shadows Canada’s own water crusader Maude Barlow over the course of a year during her term as the UN Senior Advisor on Water to the President of the General Assembly. While still giving voice to the powerful interests that insist that water is just another resource to be bought and sold, it solidly and factually lays out the undeniable conclusion that what is at stake is our very future, and potable water must be included as a human right. For more information on the film, go to: www.wateronthetable.com. Please join us for a facilitated discussion on local water security with Transition Settle and sustainable Wallingford, and others.
Friday, December 21, 2007, 7-9:30 PM
Film: "JOYEUX NOEL" (116 min, Christian Carion, 2005)
In 1914, World War I, the bloodiest war ever at that time in human history, was well under way. However on Christmas Eve, numerous sections of the Western Front called an informal, and unauthorized, truce where the various front-line soldiers of the conflict peacefully met each other in No Man's Land to share a precious pause in the carnage with a fleeting brotherhood. This film dramatizes one such section as the French, British and German sides partake in the unique event, even though they are aware that their superiors will not tolerate its occurrence.
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PEG NOTES
Food and Faith book study…
Peg will be leading the Broadview & Keystone UCC communities through the book Money and Faith: The Search for Enough. Coming out of “Earth Ministry,: this book contains writings from a variety of authors such as editor Michael Schut, Sallie McFague, Walter Brueggemann, Dave Barry, Henri Nouwen, and many others. The study guide integrates prayer with discussions of articles regarding abundance , justice, compassion, the myth of scarcity, and, of course, money. The study will begin on January 5, 2011, and will be held on the first & third Wednesdays of the month through May. We will meet at the home of Erv & Peg Faulmann (11718 12th Ave. NE in Lake City) from 7 until 9PM. Please let us know if you are interested so that we can order books by the beginning of December.
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Festival of Hope!!
Thanks to the many hands that made the Festival of Hope possible and such a rousing success!! For those who have not already heard, we raised a record $14,525! Nearly $4K of that consisted of donations made where no goods were received. We are extremely proud of this outpouring of generosity, both by patrons and by the volunteers who made it all happen. The atmosphere was lively and fun throughout the event, enhanced by the delicious baked goods that kept issuing forth from our beloved food tables!
Thank you for everyone who donated their considerable time and talents, and see you again next year!!
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Longest Night…
Traditionally a Winter Solstice event, the “Longest Night” worship service is for those who may find Christmas to be painful for various reasons, and for those who support them. Come and join the communities of Broadview Community UCC, St. Paul UCC and Keystone UCC in a service of prayer, scripture & music that acknowledge that God’s presence is for those who mourn and struggle. God’s light shines through the darkness. Everyone, regardless of religious background, is invited to St. Paul UCC on Sunday, December 19th at 7:00 PM.
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Holden Evening Prayer Every Thursday in Advent, starting at 7pm Service lasts for about a half hour. All are welcome.
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SCRIPTURE READINGS
12/05 Isaiah 11:1-10;
Matt 3:1-12
12/12 Isaiah 35:1-10;
Matt 11:2-11
12/19 Isa 7:10-16;
Matt 1:18-25
12/26 Matt 2:1-12
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sermon: "An Unlikely King"


Jeremiah 23:1-6

Luke 23:33-43

“An Unlikely King”

I.

This time of year we get to play around with the term “King.” This is Christ the King Sunday, or “Reign of Christ” Sunday if you want to throw out the problematic word altogether. Whether or not we can relate to the term “king,” or can relate to the notion of Christ being “King,” many of us are still vulnerable to the same notions of leadership that plagued the Israelites and the early church so long ago. Even after we have discarded monarchy, separated Church from State, and as Protestants rejected the notion of a Pope, we are still tempted to dream up the kind of savior-figure and authority that the new Messiah was supposed to be. We are still tempted to abdicate some of our responsibility and vision to human leaders, and we still fall prey to the desire for this leadership to vanquish our enemies. And so, at least once a year, we get to unpack this idea of kingship a bit.

I grew up with folk tales – and their subset fairy tales. Many of these stories, which we had bookshelves full of, wove their themes around the mainstays of goblins, witches, princes and princesses and of course, kingdoms. There were good kings, evil kings, weak kings and strong kings. But kings and their kingdoms were as much a part of the natural order in these stories as the sun coming up.

Perhaps you, like me, also grew up reading the Narnia Chronicles and bonded with the central character of Aslan. As a Christ figure, the lion Aslan is particularly appealing and accessible to the young mind. He is wise, benevolent and compassionate. He is mysterious, has special powers and demands faith from his followers. These are of course the elements of Jesus of Nazareth that many of us are drawn to. Yet Aslan, unlike the Christ we meet in the gospels, also has a daunting physical presence, and could, in fact vanquish his enemies with a swipe of one of his great paws.

It is cultural images such as these that can inform how we view not only leadership and ourselves, but the notion of savior. I wonder how many of us, like those contemporaries of Jesus who were expecting an Aslan-type figure to rescue them from their oppressors, still wish for the human or divine version of the benevolent dictator who will, if necessary, kick butt. I wonder how many of us, despite knowing better, give into the old notions of us and them, righteous and unrighteous, those worthy of salvation and protection and those who are not.

II.

The Hebrew Scripture notion of the new Davidic king, which we hear in today’s reading, is of one who will restore justice and protection to Israel. “Israel will live in safety” we hear in the Jeremiah text. The Israelites “…will not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing.” The longing is clear: Israel wants to return to a previous sense of security, a home pasture if you will, a return to justice, and to a leader who will hold them together against all enemies.

With this legacy of expectation, the early gospel writers faced a steep task in holding up Jesus of Nazareth as this very king. It was clear to them that the one who had been so long anticipated had finally come…but in the process had shattered the mold, or what they thought had been the mold. In all of Luke’s gospel, the only human to identify Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one, is Peter. So aware is Luke of the need to upset the old notions of the Messiah that he does not leave Jesus’ true identity up to human witnesses, but only supernatural entities and the resurrected Jesus himself on the road to Emmaus. Humans, with the one exception of Peter, cannot make room for a legitimate leader who submits himself so freely into the hands of the powerful. The jeers of the people, the soldiers, and the first criminal we meet in the Luke passage today call attention to the fact that indeed, as the kind of King prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures, Jesus seems to be doing a really bad job.

In fact he is, but of course that is the point. Throughout the gospels Jesus has been upsetting traditional notions of Davidic kingship: at one point in Luke he even denies that the Messiah could even be a descendant from the House of David at all. Now, in his final chapter of life, Jesus makes sure we do not confuse previous notions of kingship and the new ones on at least two points. For one, he refuses to play favorites with those who have followed him, and extends the kingdom of God illogically to his executioners and a criminal hung at his side. After he has been stripped, beaten and hung on the cross, Jesus does not seek out those who have followed him and loved him for comfort, nor to deliver last minute words of assurance to them. He does not circle the wagon around the faithful and familiar, but seeks entrance to the kin-dom for those who are its true lost sheep.

Secondly, and more shockingly, Jesus overturns the previous notion of power and victory, and indeed safety. Instead of protecting Israel from its military enemies, Jesus has been dragged helplessly in front of the authorities, his crucifixion a ghastly reminder of how vulnerable all of his followers are. Jeremiah’s promise that “Israel will live in safety” could not appear further from the truth, and could not appear more bitterly ironic in these moments. Disturbingly, what Jesus presents as victory is not a vanquished enemy swept aside by the paw of some giant lion. It is a more profound and far more costly laying bare of the system’s moral bankruptcy as it forces the suppression of one group by another. Rather than protecting Israel under a canopy of military or worldly “safety,” Jesus offers the only real safety of the kingdom of God: God’s all-inclusive love that exposes exploitation and stands for justice. Based on moral authority and relationship, this is a new kind of kingship altogether, in fact, a kin-ship.

III.

What Jesus turned upside down in his final moments of life we still struggle with today. Think about it: are we not still looking for our Davidic King? It is hard not to pin our deepest hopes and longings onto the leaders we send to represent us. Sure, we have a democratic system not a monarchy, but the ways in which we abdicate our own responsibility and attribute these leaders with power seem to suggest we are still a little hung up on old notions of savior-kings. How many of us elevated Obama to the status of savior? How many of us attributed this one person with the ability to overturn the wrongs of illegal war, poor health care, and political corruption? How many tears that were shed at his election and inauguration were tears for the reawakened dreams of MLK, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy? Whether or not the President has fallen down on his promises, whether he has squandered an opportunity that was truly held out to him, we have to face that what he represents for us is greater than any one person could fulfill.

Jesus’ message was essentially, we are all each other’s means of creating the Kin-dom of God here on earth right now. When its numbers have been humiliated, scattered and afraid, elements of the church have in fact done this for 2,000 years. We cannot wait for the power structures, which are too invested in the system the way it is, to do this for us. We cannot wait for an inspiring leader to hold out our vision for us. We are called, as unlikely kings, to turn to one another, pool our resources, and go out to serve our fellow humans preaching the Good News. We are called to toss out our pet vision of what a king and savior is supposed to be, and with the vision that Jesus has passed down to us, partner with God and with one another to do the work.

In this process, we must not narrow the Kin-dom of God only to those who are familiar, to those who have loved and supported us. When we are persecuted, we are not circle the wagon around ourselves and our loved ones only, but to extend radical love to those we sometimes do not even know, or those who are responsible for our pain. Truthfully, do we seek the kin-dom only in the company of and for the future of those who are like us: progressive, educated, comfortable? Would we include Tim Eyman or Sarah Palin amongst those we would ask forgiveness for, for they know not what they do? Or CEO Jeff Bezos of amazon.com who poured money into the campaign to kill Initiative 1098? To those who are dividing up our clothes as we are being slowly drained of life? Jesus is asking this very question from the cross, as the Messiah-king: Will you give up your old notions of power and leadership and follow me? Will you do as I do?

IV.

So this Sunday we work to cleanse ourselves of “kingship” baggage. If we do call Christ a King, we need to remember that this king will not do the work for us but with us, did not come to make us safe, and did not come to “kick butt.” Christ’s “kingship” is, indeed, about kin-ship. A radical, inclusive love that leaves no one safe, but also no one unprotected by God, and no one excluded. It is a love that does not vanquish oppressors, but holds open the door for all, for redemption and salvation.

The bad news for us may be that Obama and the Democratic Party have not vanquished the enemy or overrun the opposition. The good news is that they have not vanquished the enemy and they have not overrun the opposition. We are one people, and rather than winning short term battles, our work is of wholesale conversion, and of a new orientation toward God. Let us lay down our swords of division and hero worship as each of us work toward this radical kin-dom of love and of God. Let us all be “unlikely kings.”

Amen.


- S. F. Morse

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Holden Evening Prayer

Please join us at Keystone Congregational Church for Holden Evening Prayer during the four Thursdays in Advent starting December 2nd. The services will start at 7pm in the sanctuary and last approximately a half hour. You do not need to be familiar with the music or liturgy to come, just bring yourselves and enjoy the opportunity to celebrate Advent in a spirit of contemplation, prayer, and sacred music.
Hope to see you there!

Festival of Hope at Keystone!!

Join us for Seattle's oldest Alternative Christmas Fair that raises money exclusively for organizations that serve low income and homeless people. Now in its 32nd year, we expect a dazzling array of quality crafts, edibles, and recycled goods from vendors that carry out the vision of compassion and justice in our home state of Washington. Come visit, shop, and enjoy a compassion-filled pre-Christmas Bazaar in the company of others who wish to celebrate a vision of Hope for our world!

Where: Keystone United Church of Christ
5019 Keystone Place North, Seattle, WA
When: Saturday, 20 November 10am-4pm & Sunday, 21 November from 12-3pm.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

sermon: Resurrection

Pentecost 25 Year C 11/11/07
Luke 20:27-38
Resurrection
By Rich Gamble


The Sadducees were the elite of Jewish society. They were generally wealthy, well educated, socially prominent, and in charge of the Temple which was the heart of religious, economic and political life in Judea of the First Century.

The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. That makes sense. People who have everything going for them are not as inclined to need an alternative reality. They think things are perfect right here and now.

It is the people who are getting stepped on, who have seen their parents get stepped on and who know that their children and grandchildren will be stepped on- these are the people that need to look beyond the way things are and have always been, to a future where everything changes.

Resurrection speaks of a time when death will not be a factor. No death, no fear, no hunger, no intimidation. How are you going to keep people slaving away for you if they can’t be intimidated? For every abused worker who can’t afford to quit, resurrection speaks of the day when the boss has no power over you.

Now a pie in the sky bye and bye belief can be used to keep people slaving, life is hard and then you die and go someplace else. What do you care if nothing on earth ever changes, you are heaven bound.

But resurrection speaks of a new earth. A new reality on the earth. No death. No fear. Whose going to clean the Sadducees toilets? No, the Sadducees don’t like the idea of resurrection. And they don’t want their servants thinking about what things would be like if they were no longer cowed. Those same servants might start trying to hasten that new reality. A woman trapped in an abusive marriage may stay in the marriage and accept her lot if she feels that she deserves her treatment or if she can see no alternative. But if she meets someone who says that no one deserves to be abused or if she meets someone who shows her how she can live a good life apart from the abuser then she is much less likely to accept the abuse.

Speaking about an better reality undermines the present injustices.

Little wonder why the Sadducees would want to make uppity prophets like Jesus look foolish. Jesus is exactly one of those folks who tries to hasten that new day.

So believing that Jesus’ message centers on the promise of an afterlife they focus their intellectual powers to try to make Jesus look foolish and so lose favor among his followers. They use the form of argument called Reductio ad Absurdum.

They take an instance of a man who marries a woman and dies before she produces an offspring. Jewish law allows that the woman may then be married by the dead man’s brother. If that brother produces a child by the woman the child would be considered the child of the dead man and hence be his connection in name to future generations.

Ah says the Sadducees but the brother dies before producing an heir and so the woman goes to the next brother but he dies before and so she goes to the next and then the next and the next on and on through seven brothers. The last one dies and then the woman dies.

So the Sadducees ask, with a cheesy smile on their faces, in the resurrection to whom does the woman belong?

The Sadducees think that by painting this ridiculous picture of a bunch of resurrected brothers trying to figure out who has property rights over the life of the resurrected wife that they have shown what a ridiculous idea the resurrection is.

But there is a problem with the logic. They make the mistake of assuming that life beyond death is the same as life in the shadow of death. They make the assumption that in the resurrection wives will still be the property of their husbands.

Jesus points this flaw in logic out to the Sadducees. In the resurrection things will be different. Jesus, in talking about the dynamics of the resurrection, is talking about the direction of human existence. He is talking about human beings living in the light of God’s power for life.

In the ideal human community, women are not the property of men. The dynamics of the resurrection stands as a critique of life in the here and now. The Sadducees are shown to be so locked into the way things are (good for them bad for poor and working people) that they cannot imagine a world other than the current. Why should they? Everything is right for them in this world. But for the people who are hungry, homeless, without work and with very little hope of bettering themselves, the current world holds nothing but hardship and pain. The poor long for another reality and it is that longing which feeds their discontent with the way things are, and it is that discontent which can be the driving force for change.

If people believe that nothing can be done to change the conditions of the world around them they will simply accept things as they are and not try to make a change. Their belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In Tuesday’s election, the majority of the people voted their frustration. They voted their anger. They voted their fear. They didn’t vote with a vision. They didn’t vote for the world they want to see, only the one they don’t like, the present one.

So they voted and because they did not vote with a vision of justice for their homeless and hungry neighbors, because they allowed themselves to be seduced by the arguments of the well off, their votes contributed to a state that is substantially worse today than it was on Monday. Not worse for the well off, just worse for those who are hurting already.

On Monday a handful of religious leaders met with the Governor. She predicted the outcome of the elections and told us that there would be a storm of cuts to programs for the poor. She believes that she has no choice but to cut essential programs for needy people. She asked the religious community to step up and take on even more of a role in aiding those who will be in need of essential resources. Because the voters chose not to take money from those who have way more than enough, our state and local governments will be taking aid from those who have little or nothing. No doubt church groups will strive to do more to help but we will not begin to make up for the cuts that are coming. We need a bigger vision of what people of faith need to be about than slightly stemming the tide of suffering caused by the cuts. We are called to boldly take up the struggle for justice in creative new ways.

Knowing that our God has moved us beyond the power of death, can give us the power to resist the forces which seek our passivity. This is the power of the promise of resurrection. It helps us imagine another reality and helps us see that alternative as a reality for our lives and living out of the power of that promise we can speak up without fear. For us, the ritual of Baptism is the symbolic step into a resurrected life, no longer governed by fear. Resurrected life for us is not some distant promise but a living reality. That new world, free of those who use fear and greed to pacify us, is a present reality. We need only embrace it and live in it.

The fact that the cause of justice was largely defeated on Tuesday does not mean that we were defeated. It just means that our work is that much more important.

The last election merely highlights how much more work needs to be done. We need to find ways to inoculate our neighbors against misleading media. We need to find ways to spread the vision that a world free of poverty and fear is as close as our ability to wake up and live it. Just as Moses led a confused and fearful people, so we who have a vision of a better world and path to get there, must lead where we can, speak where can, and take the lumps where we must.

On Monday I worked, on Tuesday I hoped, on Wednesday I mourned. Today we pray and tomorrow we pick up the work again. If Crucifixion couldn’t keep Jesus down then Tim Eyman sure isn’t going to slow me.

When I used the example of an abused spouse before, it was with full knowledge that programs for abused spouses are right now horribly under funded and will soon lose even more funding. Others may shrug and say ‘the will of the people’ and abandon them to their abuse, but we know that this is not the way things have to be. There is another way we can be a community, a nation and a planet.

Those people who will lose their medications when the program is cut, those homeless people waiting for a place to live out of the rain, the abused women and children and mentally ill people waiting for safety, they cannot afford the luxury of our weariness. They cannot afford to be written off as government belt tightening or budgetary discipline.

There is a new day coming. There is a light at the end of this tunnel and it’s our job to lead our neighbors towards it. Every once and while, while I am waiting for someone to take the lead, it hits me that I am the one I’m waiting for. We in tiny Keystone, not the conference, not the denomination, not some large and well off congregation, we are the ones who are called to be leaders in the struggle for a better world. Not because we are so talented or blessed with resources but because we are willing to take what gifts we have and use them for the work ahead.

The income tax initiative was always but a small step in the long walk to a just world. Our vision was always bigger. Our work was always greater. Now we take the lessons of that struggle and move on to the next. That’s who we are. That’s what we do. And everyone who was moved by our work to vote for that initiative is a potential ally in the work ahead and so a victory.

Our God doesn’t want us to spend our lives in passive anticipation of heaven or passive acceptance of a fallen world. We are called to see that God’s power for life is stronger that all the powers wielding fear and greed; and with the courage of that conviction, we can be the people God would have us be. We can be the voice of hope, the source of strength and ones who see the coming light even in the darkest night. We are called to be resurrected people, raised to walk a new life in Christ. We are called to be living embodiments of a hope that transcends time and death, a hope that comes from the God of love, whose promise is as powerful today as it was 2000 years ago. And that is good news.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

UCC History - A Short Course

For all those in the Keystone family who would like more information on the history and origins of our denomination, the UCC, you can find a concise version on the national UCC website. You will learn some other exciting history in the process!

New Photo Directory!

Dear Keystone Members and Friends!

Keystone has been keeping up so well with the Church Directory, and most of you have a copy of the latest one from summer of 2010.

A few weeks ago the Communications Committee decided it would be a good idea to add photos to it. And guess what?! After taking pictures of obliging church-goers for the past few Sundays, we are more than halfway there! (For the Active Members and Friends at least). I will continue to take snapshots of those who we have not gotten pictures of, and of course am happy to accept digital copies from you if you already have a good head shot! The pictures are coming out great, and we are hoping for a Christmas delivery of the new and updated Keystone Photo Directory. Thank you for all your cooperation!

Cheers,

Sophie Morse

Sunday, October 17, 2010

It Gets Better: Sermon 10.17.10

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Luke 18:1-8

“It Gets Better”

In the past few weeks, the suicide deaths of seven teenagers have captured the attention of the news and so many of us: Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Billy Lucas, Asher Brown, Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase, and the most recent, Zack Harrington. As many of us know, these teens were targeted by their peers for their actual or perceived sexual orientation, bullied ruthlessly at their most vulnerable age, and mostly while the adults in the community stood by without interfering. Coinciding with the fate of these young men, a NYT article last week described the ritual beating and torture of a 17-year old gang recruit in the Bronx. He was suspected to be gay. After the man had been stripped, kicked and punched, he was given a choice between a bat and a pipe for the weapon for his further torment, which would last for hours. He chose the bat. The nine suspects that were charged with this beating, also beat and tortured three other men in connection with the first.

The shock of the teen suicides, the Bronx beatings, and other national news relating to homophobia has cast a new spotlight on our cultural intolerance toward sexual minorities. It has also galvanized a wide response. One response has been media host Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better Project” which he launched last month. This project invites members of the GLBT community and others who have suffered particularly harsh bullying to submit videos that communicate a message of hope to teens. Each person’s testimony is meant to communicate that no matter how bad or intolerable it seems now, that life does get better. The intense microcosm of the teenage years that breed prejudice and cruelty does in fact come to an end. So far there are over 800 videos that have been submitted, each broadcasting the message to teenagers who are suffering abuse and who feel hopeless and isolated, not to lose heart, the message that It gets better.

These stories seem particularly apropos during a week that the gospels speak to us of ‘not losing heart.' The parable we heard today is the gospel version perhaps of the “It Gets Better” project. Luke knew his audience was in danger of losing heart. Jesus after all was late. His return was supposed to have happened already and his followers had been waiting faithfully to witness the coming of the Kin-dom heralded by his return. Now the first generation of those who had actually been alive with Jesus was starting to pass away and the community was in crisis, a crisis of faith. The author of Luke was eager to reassure Christ’s followers that despite what they saw, despite their disappointment, despite the fact the Jesus had not returned on schedule, that God was indeed working amongst them, God had not abandoned them, and that God’s promises were still real. Specifically in this story Jesus highlights the promise of God’s justice. If a cynical and self-serving judge can make the “right” decision on behalf of justice for the wrong reasons, how much more gracious, caring and swift is the justice that will be poured out by God. How much more quickly and completely will God respond to us, when we allow ourselves to open up to God, to pray. God is not remote, anonymous, abstract, but real and concrete, and God has not betrayed the people’s faith.

The message in today’s reading strikes at the heart of this faith. If we do not believe that God is there we will lose heart, and our vision of what is possible will continue to shrink until it fits the flawed and often brutish world that we live in. What we see in the way of mercy, justice and compassion in this world becomes all that is possible, the measuring stick with which to gauge how much we can have. Jesus is reminding his hearers to throw away the world’s measuring stick. There is another measuring stick, God’s and the Kin-dom of heaven where compassion, justice and mercy surpass all that we could possibly imagine. When the crumbs of justice occasionally fall from the table of the powerful, as they did for the widow in this story, we cannot allow this meager reward to be confused with the Kin-dom of God. When our cultural intolerance (of sexual minorities) continues to allow teenagers to be bullied to death, when it continues to allow you to lose your job if you are gay, lesbian or bisexual in 29 states and in 38 states if you are transgendered, when continues to deny same sex partners the right to marry, when continues to deny GLBT women and men the ability openly serve in the military, we cannot allow this reality to be confused with what is possible. It is precisely from a lack of vision of a better life that these teenagers took theirs. It is precisely from a lack of vision of God's Kin-dom that causes us to lose heart, and not stand up for ourselves or for the least of our sisters and brothers.

Jeremiah echoes this message. The Israelites who have insisted on a king and military might to protect them, are now scattered by the forces that had opposed and are overcome. They are in exile from their city, their temple, their land. And now God is offering them a new relationship. Like the Oldsmobile commercial, God is telling the Israelites, this new relationship “not your grandfather’s” covenant. “Just because our relationship does not resemble what it has been for so many generations, does not mean that I am gone. Rather, I am here in a new way. Instead of a covenant that is formed through learning of the law, this new covenant will be etched on your hearts. The law is not thrown out, but out of your new intimate connection with me acting according to the law will follow naturally. I will love you so much and you will love me so much that we will be in harmony with one another.”

When we are losing heart, this harmony may seem beyond our reach, this promise may seem like cold comfort. What good is it to know that God has something more in store for us, when our despair, or our grief, is at its worst? When we feel abandoned and overwhelmed, what does this promise of mercy, justice and compassion really matter? What good does it do when again and again and again we cannot see the Kin-dom manifesting here on earth? I suspect that what drove the widow in Luke’s gospel to persist in asking for justice, was not an illusion about how sympathetic the system was to her. She knew it was stacked against her. But she knew what was right. Today’s message is not about ignoring what is around us; it is about abandoning it as the measuring stick for what is possible. These stories from today are God’s message that “It Gets Better.” And this relates to all of us. Not just members of the GLBT community of course, but to all us who for whatever reason are finding we are losing heart. The reasons may vary, but the message is that if we are losing heart, now is the time to pray. Now is the time to hear God’s assurance that It Gets Better, I have something more for you, and it is etched in your hearts where you can never lose it.

You may have noticed that we are being asked to pray. This message may seem hard to relate to precisely because it is a one we so desperately need. We live in a culture estranged from the God of Luke. The God that is introduced to us from our culture, is more often a God that is external, a God that is domineering, a God that is exclusive, a God that does not care about the goodness of our heart but about how often we perform the precise tasks needed to earn God’s love. When we are taught to pray we are taught to pray to a God that is “out there,” whose attention we have to fight for, to a God who stopped speaking 2000 years ago, a God who manipulates history, who spreads more terror than love, a God that will vindicate us at the expense of our “enemies.” No wonder we need this message so badly. This cultural God is not the God of the new covenant, and it is not the God of Luke’s gospel. Their God is a God that reaches out to us in the pit of our despair and does not care if we are “good Christians,” or whether we are straight or gay, rich or poor, whether we are alcoholics or drug addicts, or what mistakes we’ve made in our lives. This God reaches out to us through these words in Jeremiah and Luke and tells us “if you believe in me, if you trust me, if you cry out to me, you will believe that this is not all there is, not all that is possible, and this will give you heart. It Gets Better.”

Last month during a visit to the Bay Area I took a sojourn to #575 Castro Street in San Francisco. This is the address where Harvey Milk launched his political career over 30 years ago. As many people know, Harvey became one of the first openly gay men in the U.S. to be elected to a major political office. He was gunned down along with the mayor just 11 months into his term as city supervisor. Harvey had been a hero of mine for a number of decades and what I had been struck by all those years was not just Harvey Milk’s political persistence, or even his larger-than-life personality. It was his ability to galvanize and give voice to a community that was losing heart. He was the catalyst that inspired the gay and lesbian community (as well as others) who were criminalized and targeted by the law, to turn away from fear, to stand up, to demand a different world. Harvey’s motto in fact, was, “You gotta give ‘em hope.” He might have said, “You gotta give ‘em heart.” His gift was his vision, a vision so powerful it gained, not lost, momentum with his death. This vision did not depend on a change in circumstances, but a change in conviction. This is the message of the Good News today. As long as we have a vision of what might be, not what is, and faith that what God wishes for us is so much greater than what see, we will have heart, we can find strength, we can find peace.

I cannot imagine what is like to, at the age of 13, throw a rope over a branch and prepare to hang myself. I cannot imagine what is going through the mind of someone asked to choose between two torture weapons. All I know is that if such a person can keep from losing their heart, how much more am I called to not lose mine. If such a person is not able to keep their heart, how much more are we called to keep ours on their behalf?

And if we are losing heart, how much more are we called to turn our hearts to God and remember. God has a vision for us, not based on what is manifested in the world, but on what is possible, and what is guaranteed to come. And we might find comfort in the prayer the psalmist wrote:

I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come?

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

God will not let your foot be moved; God who keeps you will not slumber.

God who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil; God will keep your life.

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.

Amen.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Faces

In case you missed it we have some new faces at Keystone.

Sophie Morse is the new Associate Pastor. Sophie is a recent graduate (Master of Divinity) from Seattle University (where Peg goes).

Elliot Kraber is our new Cantor. Elliot will be leading us in song on those occasions when Peg is helping our sister congregation Broadview UCC.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sermon God's Economy

Pentecost 18 Year C 091910
Luke 16:1-13
God’s Economy
By Rich Gamble

Last week’s scripture had Jesus responding to the holy men of his day after the criticized him about hanging out with and even eating with “sinners and tax collectors.” In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus responds by telling a series of stories. This story is part of that response.

In Luke’s story the man in charge of his master’s investments knows that he is about to be fired. So in order to make sure that he has friends out there who look after him after he is fired, he starts forgiving part of the debt that various people owe his boss. In essence he is giving his boss’ money away in order to buy friends.

But there is a twist in this parable as there usually is in parables. The boss finds out about the loan and commends his employee for his shrewdness.

Jesus then goes on to make a comparison. We are like that employee. We don’t own anything. It all belongs to the boss, the big boss, God. It all belongs to God, so why not be generous with it and make yourself some friends. This is the exact opposite of American monetary policy. When we give out money, we use it as a tool to control. Our nation, our banks our corporations don’t give money away to people they loan money with an expectation of profit. Of ten we loan money to impoverished nations through the World Bank or other such organizations. Those loans are then used as a tool to get the impoverished nation to sell off its resources or allow the exploitation of its people as ways of paying off the loan. Loaning with the expectation of profit gives power to the one who makes the loan over the one who takes the loan.

The poor family farmers of Jesus day knew all about debt as a tool of exploitation. That is exactly how the Roman Empire operated. And in the distant memory of our Jewish spiritual ancestors sits a clear line connecting loans taken and the road to slavery.

But here everything is upside down. Here we are called to use money as tool of friendship and not exploitation. The shrewd employee partially lifts the burden of debt from people. He does so for his own gain, not as an act of charity.

Debt is a way to gain control over people. It is a primary tool of economies of domination. In our faith history, debt is a tool of exploitation and slavery. It is no surprise then that we pray every Sunday about the act of forgiving debts. Our God is the God who stands in utter opposition to the economics of empire and exploitation. The way of our God is the way of debt forgiveness, and because it is the way of our God, it is the way of those who choose to become followers of this God. We pray that God will forgive our debts and we commit to the economic process of debt forgiveness (as we forgive our neighbors).

The tool of imperial exploitation so often used against members of the Third World is now being used against America. We are in great debt. Debt caused largely by a transfer of our common resources into the hands of large corporations and wealthy individuals through massive military spending and the bailout of the banking industry. People, even compassionate people, are saying, “well we just don’t have the money to… Improve public schools, have universal healthcare, end homelessness, substantially reduce our carbon emissions. After that will come the calls to privatize things like social security and public lands and close down programs for the poor.

Yesterday I was at a public meeting held by the Lutheran Church about 10 blocks south. The church had recently opened up their building to a homeless shelter and many of the neighbors were upset by the fact that they did not have a say in the matter. For many, the presence of the homeless shelter in their neighborhood was the first time that they became aware that homelessness was an issue for people living in Wallingford.

The future of our current economic path is leading us to greater and greater cuts of programs for low income people as our city and county and state and perhaps even federal governments cut back on essential programs. That means that there will be greater pressure on places like this one to provide shelter and food. Living in Wallingford or Mercer Island is no longer proof against encountering desperately poor people and churches will be looked upon with distrust as possible portals for the poor into more well-off neighborhoods. I don’t think churches should be homeless shelters. I don’t think that there should be homeless shelters because I believe that there should be adequate sources of affordable housing for everyone; but when our nation's economic system leaves people hungry and homeless we must respond. And if our current economic system is inadequate to the task then we should do more than furnish the bandaids of a mat on the floor or a bowl of chili on the victims. We should find a better systems.

The solution is found in our faith: Constructing an economic order which is based on sharing rather than hording wealth. What’s good for people of faith is good for everyone whether they believe in God or not. Building an economic order whose primary goal is broad distribution of wealth rather than on the retention of wealth in the hands of a very small number of people is possible. There are lots of ways to move towards that goal. Utilization of income and inheritance taxes to finance programs for impoverished people is one direct step we can take. That is why there is a “Yes on 1098” sign in the window of this church. That is not just a political sign, it is a sign of our understanding of the will of God.

Like Jesus we have to find ways to change people’s thinking about wealth. Giving food away at Sacred Heart is a good thing, and advocating for things like Public Schools, and Universal Healthcare and non-profit housing are good as well. As the Body of Christ we are challenged to be as creative and daring as Jesus was in his day. Stories, poetry, song, worship, Facebook entries, letters to the editor, protests, painting, parties, and thousands of other activities can spread this vision of a compassionate nation and a just economy. In the midst of the suffering caused by the politics of fear and economics of greed, we know that there is another way and so we have hope, and that is good news.

Amen.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11

Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Parent in heaven; for God makes Gods’ sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

Loving (and the word here is agape) your enemies is the means by which we change the world. Loving does not meaning capitulating to those who practice evil, in the example of Jesus it means directly opposing them nonviolently. So that they may turn from their violence and oppression.

When President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize he sought to justify violence.

“We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations - acting individually or in concert - will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”….. “A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”

The president’s recognition of history is an interpretation of history, not a fact but a faith statement about his belief in the necessity and righteousness of violence. No one knows whether non-violence would have stopped Hitler’s armies. We do know that

“The Danish and Norwegian resistance to Hitler used direct action such as sabotage of rail lines and factory equipment. Their most important methods involved withholding support from the Nazis -- defiance by teachers, strikes by workers, public boycotts. By the end of the war, Nazi leaders were cabling Berlin to urge that the Germans withdraw -- the costs of staying outweighed the benefits! While thousands of protesters were killed and many more were imprisoned, the casualties were far fewer than would have been caused by armed resistance.” (Glen Gersmehl)

In 1989-90 alone, fourteen nations underwent nonviolent revolutions, all of them successful except China. These revolutions involved 1.7 billion people. If we total all the nonviolent movements of the twentieth century, the figure comes to 3.4 billion people, and again, most were successful. And yet there are people who still insist that nonviolence doesn't work! Gene Sharp has itemized 98 different types of nonviolent actions that are a part of the historical record, yet our history books seldom mention any of them, so preoccupied are they with power politics."(Walter Wink)

Often we resort to violence because we have devised no alternatives. If the only tool you have is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.

“The 2003 US federal budget again provides over 200 times as much money to military options and resources as it does to all our nonviolent responses to conflict combined, from US contributions to peacekeeping operations or State Dept. conflict resolution efforts to US Institute of Peace research and training programs. Even if you add all the money the US spends to address the roots of conflict and violence in the world – programs like the Peace Corps and development aid – nonviolent methods don’t receive even two percent of the money spent on military options! Contrary to popular belief about the extravagance of US foreign aid, the US trails every industrialized nation in the world in per capita spending to address the root causes of violence and conflict in the world such as hunger and extreme poverty!” (Glen Gersmehl)

In calling on us to love our enemies Jesus was showing us an alternative to the endless cycle of violence. To choose that path is just as much an act of faith as is believing that the use of violence will end the use of violence.


“It cannot be stressed too much: love of enemies has, for our time, become the litmus test of authentic Christian faith. Commitment to justice, liberation, or the overthrow of oppression is not enough, for all too often the means used have brought in their wake new injustices and oppressions. Love of enemies is the recognition that the enemy, too, is a child of God. The enemy too believes he or she is in the right, and fears us because we represent a threat against his or her values, lifestyle, or affluence. When we demonize our enemies, calling them names and identifying them with absolute evil, we deny that they have that of God within them that makes transformation possible. Instead, we play God. We write them out of the Book of Life. We conclude that our enemy has drifted beyond the redemptive hand of God.

I submit that the ultimate religious question today is no longer the Reformation's 'How can I find a gracious God?' It is instead, 'How can I find God in my enemy?' What guilt was for Luther, the enemy has become for us: the goad that can drive us to God. What has formerly been a purely private affair--justification by faith through grace--has now, in our age, grown to embrace the world. As John Stoner comments, we can no more save ourselves from our enemies than we can save ourselves from sin, but God's amazing grace offers to save us from both. There is, in fact, no other way to God for our time but through the enemy, for loving the enemy has become the key both to human survival in the age of terror and to personal transformation. Either we find the God who causes the sun to rise on evil and on the good, or we may have no more sunrises.” (Wink)


On this anniversary of a terrible act of violence, let us as a people of faith proclaim the hard truth of love as the path out of the cycle of hate, fear and violence.

Rich

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bright-Eyed People

At www.ucc.org on the web you will find a lot of good and useful ideas. One story was about a pastor and author who spoke at the national church setting. Here is part of that story:
“The Rev. Paul Nixon spoke with a passionate clarity during his visit to the UCC national offices in downtown Cleveland last week when he said bold vision and unwavering witness require an unmistakable sparkle.
“The bright-eyed people are the ones,” said Nixon, speaking before 75 people in the Church House Meeting Room during The Pilgrim Press’ presentation of The Igniting Leadership Series.
“Their eyes sparkle as you talk about it – whatever ‘it’ happens to be,” said a smiling Nixon. “They have a way of energizing you. When the bright-eyed people outnumber the rest, that’s when your church has turned the corner.”
Citing their ability to connect, nurture and empower, Nixon says they are great apprentices to others – invaluable allies during challenging times. “If you can get even five of these people, good things will happen. Your church will survive.”
Nixon, an ordained Methodist minister and pastor of Foundry Church in Washington, D.C., authored the best-selling book “I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church!” (2006), which was Pilgrim Press’ top seller in 2007. He also wrote “Jesus on the Metro: and Other Surprises Doing Church in a New Day” (2009).
“We’re moving toward new territory, a whole new place,” said Nixon. “And not just mainline churches – everyone. Evangelical, big and small, we’re all scrambling. In this decade, the churches that succeed will be those making active, intentional choices.”
Nixon cites “Six Key Choices” needed for churches to survive: Life Over Death; Community Over Isolation; Fun Over Drudgery; Frontier Over Fortress; Bold Over Mild; Now Over Later. “
On Sunday we celebrated (and completely surprised me) my ten years of ministry here at Keystone. It was a very nice, and very Keystone time, with lots of laughter and some tearful memories as well.

I know what Rev. Nixon is talking about. I see those bright eyes looking back at me on Sunday. We embody those “Six Key Choices.” We have turned some wonderful corner and we are off on the newest adventure in the life of Keystone.

Thank you one and all for your part in this journey.

With Love,

Rich

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Free Recycling Event

Free Recycling Event in Seattle's University District
Sunday 11:30-3:00


University Christian Church Parking Lot
NE 50th St. & 15th Ave. NE, Seattle
Sunday, August 8th, 11:30am - 3:00pm



The Washington Association of Churches will have trucks available for Free Recycling of many items that are typically hard or expensive to dispose of, as well as environmentally damaging in landfills. All items will be evaluated by 1 Green Planet for re-use and recycling.
Please share this with others who may be interested. You can download a flyer for this event here.

Bring your used:


All Electronics
Computers & Parts
Printers and Faxes
TVs - Any Size!
Appliances - Both Large and Small
Phones, Cell Phones, Chargers
Speakers, MPG Players, Radios, VCRs, Game Systems,

Lamps, Christmas lights, Record Players
Medical Equipment
Even Ink & Toner Cartridges.

All Scrap Metals like:
Bicycles, Tools, Furniture, Exercise Equipment, BBQs,
Lawn Mowers (please empty gas & oil)

If it has a plug - we'll take it!

If it contains metal - we'll take it!
Even Car Batteries & Computer Batteries


If you have questions about what items we will recycle please contact: sakahara@thewac.org call 206-261-7797. There is no charge for dropping off items. Free will, tax deductible donations to support the work of WAC will be accepted but are not required. If you are interested in hosting a similar recycling event in your area please contact sakahara@thewac.org.


Please call on us if you have questions or you want to connect with resources for this or other issues.

Alice Woldt
Washington Association of Churches
206-625-9790 ext 11
woldt@thewac.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Economics of Faith

In his book "Journey to the Common Good," Walter Brueggemann points out how the community of ancient Israel sought to institutionalize their experience of a God who took the side of slaves. This happens in the book of Deuteronomy.

• Debts owed by the poor are to be canceled after seven years, so that there is no permanent underclass (Deut 15:1-18). Debts are the way the wealthy control the labor and resources of poorer people and nations. A periodic forgiveness of debts would radically reduce the power of the few to control the many.
• No interest is to be charged on loans to members of the community (Deut 23:19-20). Imagine how many people currently losing their homes to foreclosure would be able to afford those homes if all they had to pay off was the principal.
• Permanent hospitality must be extended to runaway slaves (Deut 23:15-16). Traditional slavery still exists in the world but more often people are forced into poverty which then forces them to work for whatever meager wages are offered. This is sometimes referred to as wage slavery. Are we to extend this call to hospitality to those fleeing poverty and coming to our nation for a better life?
• No collateral is to be required on loans made to poor people (Deut 24:10-13). There are some groups out there making collateral free loans to poor people and such loans are making a an important impact in the lives of those people.
• No withholding of wages that are due to the poor (Deut 24:14-15). Does this extend to the practice of paying poor people inadequate wages? In a sense this practice of underpaying desperate people is a withholding of fair wages. If so then any wage which does not provide a family with decent housing, food, education, and healthcare is inadequate. In Seattle that would mean at least doubling the current minimum wage.
• No injustice toward a resident alien or an orphan (Deut 24:17-18).
• Regular provision for the marginalized (Deut 24:19-22). In Deuteronomy this meant leaving some of the crops in the fields for the poor to harvest. In our nation would it not mean taxing those with means to aid those in need?

To live into these provisions would require a complete restructuring of our economy. The question for those of us who believe in the God of the Exodus is: Should we change our participation in the economy to match our faith or should we change our faith to facilitate our participation in the economy.

Monday, July 5, 2010

sermon: Marching Orders 7/4/2010

Luke 10:1-11,16-20
Marching Orders
By Rich Gamble

The Fourth of July was a date that our founding fathers were quite proud of, and with good reason. They had managed to make a radically new idea into reality through the adoption of a document. A new nation was born. One dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal.

There is much to be proud of as an American. We enjoy many freedoms. We enjoy some of the blessings of living in a wealthy nation. We live in a land blessed with great physical beauty.

But as Christians we are called to take off the rose colored glasses and look at our nation, indeed we are called to look at nationalism itself, and ask the hard questions about whether our nation is aligned with the will of God.

In today’s Gospel account Jesus sends out his army to do battle with Satan. Before they go, Jesus gives them their marching orders. It is important for us to closely examine these directions because our faith tells us that actions define the meaning of the message Jesus has for the world. How these representatives of God act, reflects the words they proclaim.

First thing Jesus does is send others out to do what he has done. Jesus does the work and then calls others to do likewise. We can contrast this with our past two president who have sent our young people into war, something they avoided.
Next Jesus sends the followers out two by two. Jesus is teaching the disciples that the message is a communal one. The followers are called to work together. The message is not in the hands of one person but in the hands of the community. Jesus is not creating a cult of personality, though later Christians try to make the faith into just that.

Jesus says, “See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.” That is how Jesus sends his troops into battle with the evil empire. Unarmed. No helicopter gunships waiting in the wings. No shock and awe. Lambs generally don’t fair to well when they go forth to the land of wolves. But the wolves are not in any danger of harm. Harm is a distinct possibility for the followers of Jesus, but retaliatory defense is not an option. The war against Satan or the Domination System is a war fought without any of the stuff of a modern army.

Our Peace Corps is much closer to the image of Jesus’ army than the US military. If Jesus were to take on Saddam that is how he would do it. We know this because Pontius Pilate was the Saddam of his day and Jesus and his followers did take him and the whole Roman Empire on. And they died. But they did not kill. And in the end the Roman Empire was no more but the people of Christ lived on.

Jesus sends these unarmed soldiers of truth out into the world without provisions. In warfare, lines of supply are of utmost importance. It is said that an army travels on its stomach, in other words, without food the army does not move. But Jesus sends his people out to combat the Domination System with direct orders not carry anything, “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.” These followers of Jesus are sent into various communities in small numbers and in need of the compassionate assistance of the people of those communities.

Jesus instructs his soldiers to enter each house proclaiming peace. He instructs them not to shop around for the best situation but whatever house first takes them in, that is where they are to stay, accepting whatever level of hospitality is initially offered. Imagine if our soldiers were sent to Iraq or Afghanistan utterly dependent upon the generosity of the people who live there. Imagine if they were instructed to gratefully accept and be utterly dependent upon, whatever was offered them. How would that change the way the soldiers treat the people of these nations? If the soldiers understood at the most basic level the hardships of the people and shared those hardships, how would that change the way the people there treated by them?

And if the people don’t want to offer hospitality, Jesus instructs the troops to leave. How’s that for an invasion? If the people don’t want you there, if they offer you no hospitality, then just leave. Don’t curse them, don’t bomb them, simply let them know that they lost a precious opportunity to experience the Realm of God.
This is how Jesus sent out his troops to do battle with the enemy of God: in twos, unarmed, unsupplied, proclaiming peace, utterly dependent on the hospitality of others. This is how the Realm of God is established. The enemy to be fought is not flesh and blood but rather a false perception of reality, a spirituality contrary to that of God. People caught up in this false system of thought and perception are not to be harmed and forced to accept the right idea, they are to be converted through the application of compassion and the embodiment of truth.

If we were to apply this approach to our military it is doubtful that our nation would exist as we now know it. Nations are made up of arbitrary lines on a map, those inside the lines are friends and those outside the lines are foreigners. The whole of almost every nation’s national policy is to ensure that the people inside the lines fare better than those outside the lines; and hence, the lines usually have to be violently defended.

In the ministry of Jesus we see no borders, no lines to defend, no in-group who expects a better life than anyone else. The approach of Jesus did not, could not, would not create a nation. It can only convert people to a way of understanding the world through the insight of faith in a God of love.

The army of Jesus has no arms, no flag, no lines of supply, no overwhelming numbers. As the army of Rome sought to be invulnerable, so the army of Christ actively pursued vulnerability. As the army of Rome threatened violence unless their will was obeyed, so the army of Christ proclaimed peace and sought to heal.
As people of Christ we have to admit that our nation acts more like Rome that Christ. Our army uses force and violence. Most people in this nation would agree that a nation needs an army to ensure its existence, that the vulnerability practiced by the followers of Jesus, will not defend the borders of a nation and therefore is an impractical ideal.

And that is the point. Jesus shows us in this passage, what a true liberation movement should look like. If such an army is incongruous with our idea of nation, then perhaps, it is our idea of nation that should be shelved rather than Jesus’ ideas. Borders create nations, nations create violent armies, violent armies kill people to ensure the safety and prosperity of nation over nation. Jesus offers us a vision of a world without borders, without violent armies, without killing. Just as Jesus’ idea of how an army should operate is incongruous in the world of nations so our idea of a violent army is incongruous with the Realm of God Jesus proclaimed.
And so, on this national holiday, celebrating the creation of our nation, our faith calls on us to open our hearts and minds to something larger than that held within national boundaries. Our founding fathers proclaimed and established some noble ideals, but from the birth of our nation we have been dependent upon violence, we have been subjects of the Domination System. We have many things to be proud of as Americans, and many things of which we should be ashamed, but the ultimate point of this Gospel passage on this day is that we are called to a higher loyalty. We are called to tear down barriers between people. We are called to pound our swords into plowshares. We are called to extend peace through vulnerability. We are called to enlist into the cause of Christ and to understand that such an ultimate pledge of allegiance separates us fundamentally from the cause of Caesar, or any current political leader.

We are called to pledge our wealth and even our lives to extend the promise of peace, and the love of God. The age of kingdoms has passed, the time of nations is fading, the rise of corporate power is visible but the Realm of God remains wherever we awaken to the truth and follow the call to embody God’s love.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Grim Facts and the Great Commission

Below is part of a talk from Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. I found it on the Democracy Now website. Gloomy as they are, these facts are important for us to hear. They stand as the often hidden context of our lives.

Our faith in a God of self-giving love and the actions of compassion and justice that flow from that love is key to turning the world in a different direction. The truth we proclaim is not for us to simply consume and contemplate, it is for us to share in every way possible.

Keystone lives not for the services it can render to its members but for the vision it has to offer to the world (of course we care for one another while we proclaim our vision).

The facts as laid out by people like Ms. Barlow may well overwhelm many, but we are a people empowered by a power greater than humanity’s capacity for destruction. The world needs people willing to live out their faith in the God of self-giving love. This is our calling.


"On the eve of this G-20 gathering, let’s look at a few facts. Fact, the world has divided into rich and poor as at no time in our history. The richest 2% own more than half the household wealth in the world. The richest 10% hold 85% of total global assets and the bottom half of humanity owns less than 1% of the wealth in the world. The three richest men in the world have more money than the poorest 48 countries. Fact, while those responsible for the 2008 global financial crisis were bailed out and even rewarded by the G-20 government’s gathering here, the International Labor Organization tells us that in 2009, 34 million people were added to the global unemployed, swelling those ranks to 239 million, the highest ever recorded. Another 200 million are at risk in precarious jobs and the World Bank tells us that at the end of 2010, another 64 million will have lost their jobs. By 2030, more than half the population of the megacities of the Global South will be slumdwellers with no access to education, health care, water, or sanitation. Fact, global climate change is rapidly advancing, claiming at least 300,000 lives and $125 billion in damages every year. Called the silent crisis, climate change is melting glaciers, eroding soil, causing freak and increasingly wild storms, displacing untold millions from rural communities to live in desperate poverty in peri-urban centers. Almost every victim lives in the Global South in communities not responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and not represented here at the summit.
The atmosphere has already warmed up a full degree in the last several decades and is on course to warm up another two degrees by 2100. In fact, half the tropical forests in the world, the lungs of our ecosystem, are gone. By 2030, at the present rate of extraction or so-called harvest, only 10% will be left standing. 90% of the big fish in the sea are gone, victim to wanton predatory fishing practice. Says a prominent scientist studying their demise, there is no blue frontier left. Half the world’s wetlands, the kidneys of our ecosystem, have been destroyed in the 20th century. Species extinction is taking place at a rate 1,000 times greater than before humans existed. According to a Smithsonian science, we are headed toward of biodiversity deficit in which species and ecosystems will be destroyed at a rate faster than nature can replace them with new ones. Fact, we are polluting our lakes, rivers and streams to death. Every day, two million tons of sewage and industrial agricultural waste are discharged into the world’s water. That’s the equivalent of the entire human population of 6.8 billion people. The amount of waste water produced annually is about six times more water than exists in all the rivers of the world. We are minding our ground water faster than we can replenish it, sucking it to grow water guzzling chemical-fed crops in deserts or to water thirsty cities who dump an astounding 700 trillion liters of land-based water into oceans every year as waste.
The global mining industry sucks up another 800 trillion liters which it also leaves behind as poison and fully one-third of global water withdrawals are now used to produce biofuels, enough water to feed the world. Nearly three billion people on our planet do not have running water within a kilometer of their home and every eight seconds, somewhere in our world, a child is dying of waterborne disease. The global water crisis is getting steadily worse with reports of countries from India to Pakistan to Yemen facing depletion. The World Bank says that by 2030, demand for water will outstrip supply by 40%. This may sound just like a statistic, but the suffering behind that is absolutely unspeakable."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

We Did It!

According to their Facebook site the Yes on 1098 campaign submitted over 360,000 signatures today. This is well above their goal of 325,000. Even more impressive is that Keystone lived up to its challenge. We challenged churches across the state to meet or exceed our goal of 10 signatures on the initiative for each member. Barbara dropped off hers last night and officially put us over our goal. Thanks to all who gathered signatures. It truly was a community effort.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

And now a word from our sponsor:

At Keystone we speak of the Christian faith in a way unfamiliar to many. We focus our faith as an alternative to the ways of domination that have defined human civilization. Domination utilizes carrot and stick forms of control to get humans to conform to the norms set by those who have most of this sort of power.

Standing in stark contrast to this idea of power is the power of agape or self-giving love. Agape power utterly undermines Domination forms of power.

Everywhere in our culture dominators are extolled and fawned upon. In subtle ways we are called upon to emulate the richest, the strongest, and the most popular. Domination proclaims that those who have such power have it because they are blessed or have earned their privileges.

Agape calls on humans to seek out the needs of those who are most vulnerable and in their name challenge systems that allow wealth and power to accumulate in the hands of a few and misery to befall all others.

Most churches go so far as to define their God in terms of domination (all powerful, King, Judge) and their faith by the cosmic carrot and stick of heaven and hell.

There is another way, another understanding of the scriptures, another way of understanding God, another way of building human community.

Come by and join in. Changing the world is a big job and we could use your help.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The View

From the window in my office I can see the street in front of the church. This morning I watched the people coming into the pancake breakfast fundraiser for Nickelsville the homeless community of people who are homeless. As people from the neighborhood came and went from Keystone, I saw a group from the Taiwanese church which shares our building, gather and depart for some common adventure and I remembered all the people who came last night for the movies. Keystone is sacred space. Not because we have a cross on the front. It is sacred because of the people who gather here and the reasons they gather. Keystone is sacred space because a community of people have, for many years, quietly kept it as such.

On days like today, I wish you could all see what I see.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pancakes!


Our friends at Nickelsville will be holding a Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser on Saturday, June 19th at Keystone Church (5019 Keystone Place N., Seattle 98103).

The flapjacks will be hot off the griddle starting at 8:00a until 11:00a.

The Nickelodeons are hoping to raise funds to cover the cost of the Waste Management and Honey Bucket bills.

Come early for hot cakes and coffee and help out our friends at Nickelsville.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

25 out of 21

Keystone members moved forward on the plan to share meals with those in need. Recently the Keystone community cooked a meal for the residents of Sacred Heart Shelter. There was so much food left over that a second shelter, St Martin de Porres, benefited from all the food.

In the process of cooking, shopping, and sharing the meal, 25 people from Keystone were involved. Considering our active membership is 21 members, that is a percentage of participation (119%) that is hard to beat.

More adventures in compassion are in the planning stages. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's Full

When people ask me to tell them about Keystone I typically say, "Keystone's full. Full of ideas, overflowing with blessings, and rich with joy." That has been my experience of this community over the last six months. It is a time I have truly enjoyed.

Recently, there has been some significant news in my life. Not long ago I was offered the position of Director of Family, Youth, & Children Ministries at Plymouth UCC. I feel great excitement about stepping into this newly created position. Yet even more than the sense of excitement, I am filled with gratitude.

Keystone has been such a healing, nurturing, and forming place for myself and Janelle. Over the past several months Keystone has given my creativity space to roam free, inspiration to try new projects (the Keystone website is the first website I have ever made), an opportunity to work on timely justice issues (like tax reform in WA state) and throughout it all Keystone has been a loving, supportive community. The gifts Keystone has given me over the past several months will accompany me into every ministry of which I am a part. No matter where I am I will keep my eye on Keystone, watching for the next bold steps of faith the community takes.

This Sunday I look forward to celebrating with you the great amount of life and blessings we filled the last 6 months with.