Friday, April 30, 2010

Pass the Gift

Eliza Penick, Heifer International's Community Volunteer Coordinator and Keystone Church member was in Peru for this exciting ceremony earlier this month. Check out the video.

Heifer International "Pass on the Gift" Ceremony. Thirty families, original recipients from the Acomayo and Canas Heifer International Project, each gave six male sheep from their own stock to 180 families. This was their first Pass on the Gift Ceremony. Watch. Inspire. Share their Story.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pancake Breakfast

Our friends at Nickelsville will be holding a Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser on Saturday, May 1st 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 $2,000 to cover the cost of the Waste Management and Honey Bucket bills as they prepare to move to their new location.

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

Friday, April 16, 2010

New UCC Ad

The Language of God from United Church of Christ on Vimeo.

What do you think of it?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

God Flooring

We have a sanctuary that needs updating. One of the things we need to do fairly soon is replace the flooring. So the question arises, what is faithful flooring?

Faithful flooring would hopefully be durable, so that the sanctuary can be a flexible asset to the broader community and the cause of justice. It should strive to limit the amount of toxins produced. It should come from renewable resources. And it should be cost effective.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

We Have Met the Resurrection and It is Us

Easter Year C 2010
Luke 24:1-12
We Have Met the Resurrection and It is Us
By Rich Gamble

This is Easter, the most important day of the year for Christians. It is also April 4 one of the most important days of the year for Americans. The Convergence of the two makes this day a powerful one indeed.

You probably know the Easter story. Jesus, following his calling to speak truth to power, goes to Jerusalem. There he confronts the rulers of his part of the world. He challenges the Jewish leaders of the Temple who served the empire of Rome. And he received what he expected, he was executed by the Roman military, in a fashion all too familiar to Palestinian Jews of the time: as a dissident prosecuted for resisting the “occupying authority.” He was crucified, a slow, painful, humiliating, public execution. The means by which the Roman Empire sought to terrorize its subjects into submission. Jesus died.

Jesus’ death led to the death of the dreams of those who saw him as the messiah. They had hoped that he would raise up an army of the faithful, who, supported by the power of God, would crush their Roman occupiers and secure the borders of Israel against all invaders forever.

Jesus’ followers had lost their dreams, lost their leader, and were now fugitives from the authorities. In the midst of this loss, the women, having waited until after the Sabbath to tend to Jesus’ body, come back reporting that the body is gone. This leads to confusion and fear, but eventually the followers of Jesus believe that Jesus was resurrected, meaning that through God he had been moved beyond the power of death.

April 4th is the anniversary of two of the most important events in American history. The first is the 1967 speech made by Martin Luther King Jr. in the Riverside Church in New York City. Rev. King had become a household word for his heroic non-violent struggle against racism in the United States. He had gained the support of many powerful people, including the president of the United States, Lyndon Johnson. But Rev. King’s vision was broader than this one cause. He saw in the Vietnam War, an evil which was consuming the resources and the soul of his nation and he felt compelled to speak out against it.

He was warned by his supporters that speaking out against the war would put him on the wrong side of many of his supporters. He would make an enemy of the president, he would cost his organization much of their financial support, he would incur the wrath of the corporate media which had largely been supportive of his work, and he would stand out against his nation in a time of war. Parents, wives, and children of soldiers want to believe that their children are risking their lives for a noble and important cause. To denounce that cause is question the meaning of their sacrifice.

Rev. King was strongly encouraged not to get involved in the issue of the war and yet he could not ignore the evil he saw in that struggle. On April 4 1967 he gave a powerful argument against the war in Vietnam and a powerful denunciation of the Powers which ruled the nation.

Early in his speech he said

As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.

He then went on to make a clear sighted denunciation not only of the war but also of the political, economic and social direction taken by his nation. He called on the people of the nation to turn to the better angels of their nature and participate in a revolution of values.

As expected, he was denounced by the media, but he was also denounced by members of his own organization. His popularity ratings plummeted. Even Walter Fauntroy, his loyal Washington representative, called King a “ spent force. ” That previous fall King’s literary agent had been unable to find a single magazine to excerpt his latest book.

But Rev. King did not stop. In May 1967, he told workers in New York City that the movement needed a second phase, an effort to change not just racial laws, but the unjust allocation of national resources that upheld poverty and economic division. Throughout 1967 he worked on planning a poor people’s march and encampment in Washington DC in which he hoped to push for that more just allocation of resources.

On April 4, 1968 one year to the day, after he gave his speech which challenged the military and economic agenda of the nation’s leadership, Martin Luther King was shot on a motel balcony in Memphis Tennessee.

Jesus challenged the rulers of his day and he was crucified on that first Good Friday. Rev. King challenged the rulers of his day and he was shot on April 4. But this April 4th is Easter and the story has changed from Friday. Friday Jesus was crucified, dead. Sunday, he is among the living and that is the heart of the story and the heart of our faith.

Resurrection means different things to different people. For some it is a myth about a man rising from the dead. For many it is proof that Jesus was the Son of God and proof that through his death they will have eternal life. But resurrection is not confined to a past event; it is an active principle.

Remember that Jesus put himself into the hands of a violent empire, with only the thinnest of hopes that anyone would understand why. His followers continually proved that they did not understand what he was talking about. They continued to interpret his life through the lens of domination, which sees power in terms of violence and wealth in terms of greed. And if his followers who had been with him day and night did not understand how could he hope that strangers would? If we believe that Jesus was fully human, then we are called to see how he risked torture and death with little or no visible sign that he would be understood or his sacrifice remembered.

The Powers that Be believe that if they shout a lie long enough it will become truth, if they offer someone enough money they will go along, and if they cannot bribe or intimidate someone then death will shut them up permanently.

But on Easter morning we celebrate that the power of self giving love, the power of God’s truth, the power of compassion and justice will not be silenced. Resurrection is the promise that against all odds, with not one shred of evidence on our side, with the power of those who rule the state, the economy, the media and even religion against us, with public opinion against us, that in some way we cannot predict or even understand our efforts to embody the love of God will not be lost to the world.

The disciples on that Easter morning did not know what the resurrection meant but they knew that the truth that Jesus lived and died for was not locked away in a tomb. The stone of force and ignorance was rolled away and power of love and justice had triumphed over the imperial might of Rome and the even over the System of lies upon which Rome and the hopes of those who sought to overturn Rome rested. The disciples didn’t yet know the meaning but they knew that their ideas about everything were overturned with the stone that sealed the tomb of Christ.

When they did awaken to the meaning of Jesus’ life and teachings and the power of the resurrection the followers of Christ went on to follow Jesus’ example and spread the truth over the known world. Centuries passed and when the power of Rome failed to frighten these followers, Rome enticed Christians with power and wealth.

The truth of Jesus was twisted and turned to meet the needs of those who seek to dominate and exploit. The image of Jesus became a gentle endorser of the whims of mighty. Cornel West cause it the “santiclausifcation” of Jesus.

For most of the world, today is not a celebration of a vision which overturns the Powers that Be, but a vindication of their religion, nation, race and class. Rev. King too, is not remembered for his call to do away with the evils of militarism, materialism and racism. He too has been santiclausified to be a smiling endorser of American values, a man with a nice dream, and an antiquated notion about the power of non-violence. President Obama in praising King went on to say that Rev. King’s notions of non-violence were not practical in today’s world.

Once again the thin thread of hope is strained. The truth of Jesus embodied by Rev. King rests in the hands of misunderstanding world.

If the truth of the vision of a world where all are loved, all are housed and fed, educated, cared for, where all have medical care, and opportunities to contribute and thrive; if the truth of the vision of world without the violence of war, and pollution, where all are free from oppression, if the truth of the vision which claimed the lives of Rev. King, and Jesus is to be a living force, then we now must be a part of the miracle of resurrection. The truth of the vision, the power of self-giving love lives or dies with us.

We are the thin thread upon which the God places this hope. That the spirit which moves through the universe would be so vulnerable as to place this most precious vision in our hands is as incomprehensible as the resurrection of Christ. And both are sign of the unique power of God: power that brings life from death, power in vulnerability.

If Christ (not the Santa Clause version but the world changing savior) is risen then it is in us, when we choose to roll away the stone of fear and greed and reach out in love and justice.

We are called to see in the vision of man nailed to a cross, a vision of the power of God. As Jesus loved in the face of ridicule and forgave those who tortured him to death; as the truth of Jesus hung on the thin thread of his confused followers, so we glimpse the amazing power of God. This day is not the celebration of long ago event but the celebration of life changing world changing vision entrusted into our hands. It is an awesome calling and shockingly overwhelming, we are the resurrection of Christ and it is good news.

Easter Service Lives On

I am still enjoying the lingering sense of joy from last Sunday's Easter service. The morning was filled with good news. A definite highlight from the morning for me was the confirmation of Tom's membership (Rita suggested we should confirm him every year!). Tom's story of his faith journey was very moving and I am pleased to post the full version of his story here.

BONUS - After Tom's story be sure to read the community blessing that was shared by Rita.


While growing up, I often wandered lonely as a cloud, as I was a Catholic living in an overwhelming Protestant town (just over 3000 people and about 12 churches.) Every Friday at school, it was fish sticks for hot-lunch and serious heat for the Catholic kids.

We attended St. Joseph’s in Yakima and I went to CCD classes every Saturday. Despite being baptized, taking first communion, and being confirmed in the Church, I always had a sense of disconnect or doubt about the reality of it all. These doubts began at a very early age. For instance, my mother would tell me the candle hanging from the ceiling meant that God was in the house. This left me to wonder, if I blew the candle out, does God leave?

The Catholic Mass seemed such a mysterious ritual that I had trouble accepting the message. For one thing, until I was about nine years old, it was said in Latin. For another, the priest had his back to the congregation while he was performing some elaborate ritual on the altar so I had little idea of what he was doing. This would change later on, as would the No-Meat-on-Friday rule, but by then it was too late for me to have formed a deep commitment to the Church. I suspect that I was not alone in this. As evidence that my friends and I weren’t taking things as seriously as the priests and nuns would have liked, the three most popular confirmation names in the year I was confirmed were John, Paul, and George. Also, there many jokes made about the possibility of a Saint Ringo.

As I was growing up, I noticed that my older siblings stopped going to CCD and to Mass when they reached their mid-teens. I followed suit, but for reasons I really can’t defend and don’t subscribe to now. You see, from about second grade on, I knew I wanted to be a scientist. The scientist as atheist was the prevailing message in the media and it was reflected in the popular opinion of the town that you can’t believe science and believe in God. So I bought into this. In college I would describe myself as an atheist, but I’m not sure that I ever truly was. If I were really an atheist, would I have been so deeply disturbed as I was by the movie “The Exorcist”? I mean, if there’s no God, then there’s no Satan, right? Shops selling occult supplies were popular in the 70’s, and I felt really uneasy every time I passed one.

On the flip side, every time I found myself among ancient trees or in a quiet space away from people, I felt something. At the time I just assumed it was me feeling an appreciation for nature, but looking back I think I was feeling the Spirit. There is certain spirituality about an old growth forest. For many years that is where I would go to seek refuge and renewal. When I would visit these places with Penny and her family, they would invariably begin talking and laughing loudly and I would invariably turn and say: “Penny, you’re talking in church”.

In 1994, Penny and I took a trip to Asia, which included four days in Bali. Bali at the time was like Shangri-La (except for all the vacationing Aussies.) The sense of the spiritual was undeniable and ever-present. The people were totally plugged into their religion and into caring for the earth. I never again described myself as an atheist, but I was not sure which spiritual path I should follow. I began an investigation into a number of different teachings and became confused by most of them. At the time I formed the opinion that there were a number of paths to the “top of the mountain,” spiritually speaking; all that really mattered was that your journey was a sincere one.

Also, at around this time, I was deeply interested in Archeology (actually from the late 80’s on.) I was a member in the Archeology Institute of America for twelve years. As such, I became very interested in Biblical Archeology. In particular, I became fascinated with Jesus the man. The more information I uncovered, the more I grew to respect this man. I wasn’t necessarily thinking in terms of divinity, but his courage and compassion really impacted me.

In 1996 my mother passed away; another life claimed by cigarettes. Most of the family was there in vigil at the hospital when Dad had to excuse himself to run home to feed the dog. Penny and I accompanied him. It was a short trip, but the phone rang almost as we entered the door with the news that mom had passed. The priest who had given her Last Rights the day before told us he had seen this many times before, that a spouse will wait for their life partner to leave the room before they pass. It’s as if they want to spare them the pain of watching when it happens.

Shortly thereafter, something extraordinary happened to me. Its most commonly described as a “visit in a dream”; except I don’t think I was dreaming. Mom’s visit was too real. It’s strange that I can’t describe what she looked like, but then, I was seeing the whole thing through her eyes. I knew what she had felt as she moved toward the light. She was almost laughing and wondering why she had ever feared death. I sensed the presence of other souls, and I sensed the overwhelming presence of God. From then on, all doubts about the existence of God or the afterlife were gone. In the immediate aftermath of this experience I could feel God everywhere and in all things.

Another consequence of this experience is that I began to pray, I mean really pray, from the heart. I feel in my heart that some my prayers produced some extraordinary results, especially at work. I was pretty good at raising monoclonal antibodies, but suddenly I was getting results five times better than what I was used to. As I say, I was good, but I wasn’t that good. Something clearly was happening, perhaps even a small miracle. It led me to the conclusion that small miracles are still miracles, so perhaps the larger miracles described in the Bible could be true as well. How else can we explain all the thousands of crutches left behind at Lourdes?

So far I’ve only been talking about how I found my way to God, now I want to tell you how I found my way to Keystone in particular. It began with the war in Iraq and the moral outrage I felt as a consequence of the war. It should be remembered that on the eve of war Seattle was witness to its largest demonstration ever. The papers said 10,000 people were there, but it was at least 50,000. I know this for a fact, I was there. Worldwide, 15,000,000 million people took to the streets to say, “No” to war. War came anyway.

It should also be remembered that in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks many, many people became very fearful and paranoid. Certain politicians played upon this fear to generate support for an invasion that had been planned months before the 9/11 attack. We were lied into a war. Those of us opposed to the war knew this up front. Those who supported it would not acknowledge that this was the case. I continued to go to many demonstrations, and at every one there would be people screaming that we lacked patriotism or worse, that we were traitors.

After a time, I discovered the Green Lake Peace Vigil. It actually began immediately after 9/11 as an appeal not to respond to violence with more violence. It began small but had grown to a sizable number by the time I became involved. To gather with a group a people and pray for peace had a greater appeal for me than to surround myself with a bunch of angry people shouting through megaphones into my ears. By this time a significant number of people had realized that the Iraq war was a grave mistake, so many of the cars driving by our group honked their horns in support. Others, however, became angry at our presence and on occasion would try and run their cars into the crowd.

The war dragged on and on. Months, actually years, passed and the task of organizing the event became too much of a burden for the original organizers. It was decided to hold a potluck to honor all who had organized or participated in the vigil and to make an appeal to anyone who would take on the responsibility of organizing the weekly vigil. It was held in Battson Hall. This was my first introduction to Keystone. Prior to the event I printed out a list of prayers for peace from every major religion around the world. When I got up to try and read some of them at the potluck I was completely overcome with emotion and started to cry. I wasn’t alone. As long as I live, I will never forget that moment.

I hope this doesn’t seem like I’m shifting paradigms without a clutch, but the other thing that made UCC stand out in my mind involved an Ad that the networks refused to run.

For some time now, there have been a number of conservative religious “leaders” who have been using sections of the Old Testament to condemn those of the GLBT community. A few years ago, UCC wanted to run an Ad during the Super Bowl which made it clear that everyone was welcome at our church. The networks refused to run the Ad, but it did appear online. The concept of universal inclusiveness had great appeal to me. So, UCC became fixed in my mind.

Now as you all know, in 2007 I lost my job at Trubion. This was really a traumatic event in my life, to say the least. You also know that my wife is Chinese. In Asia, the notion that you can simply be laid-off for no apparent reason is a foreign one. She was totally stressed and very upset emotionally. She sought refuge in her Chinese language Bible and in prayer. She also suggested that we start going to church. I agreed, provided that I got to pick the church. With Keystone and the UCC lodged in my memory, I showed up here. When I heard Rich give a sermon for the first time, I knew in my heart that I had made the right choice. When we prepared the meal for the folks at St. Martins, a voice inside told me this something you need to be doing. Yes, we are each other’s keepers.

I want to reveal to you the great gift that you all have given me. Since joining this community, I have learned how to see God in people’s faces. It’s easy to do as I look around this congregation, but now I see God in places and faces where I never expected. Thank you all.


Community Blessing


You have called us by name and we are yours!

On this day of Resurrection we confirm what we have known and appreciated for a long time--your enduring presence and commitment to your God and us, your community of faith.

Thomas, you are Good News and you are etched in our hearts! On this day of Resurrection we confirm and celebrate the many gifts you share with us:

-A passion for peace
-Your concern for the poor and a desire to help lead us in service to the poor
-Your prayerful heart and love of knowledge
-Your open and seeking heart and the eyes to see
-Your laughter and Oh, that reverence you have for all Creation!

Tom, your gifts strengthen and encourage our gifts. We are grateful for your compassion and your friendship. Thank you for choosing to be with us as we strive to live the fullness of the Gospel Call and the Easter Promise. As a sign of our solidarity and support let us now lay our hands on Tom as we bless him with joyful affirmation.

Let us pray:

Loving and gracious God, Creator of forest cathedrals. You who give us the eyes to see You in every face and in every leaf, we ask your special blessing on Tom on this day of deepening commitment.

May Tom continue to grow in Your love and, with our encouragement.
May he continue to live his call of peace-making and home-coming for others.
May Tom's compassion enhance our compassion for all people--and for our beautiful earth.
May our walk, together with Tom, as followers of Christ, boldly proclaim an "On-Going Alleluia" of Holy Belonging and Abundance for everyone!

Tom, may you know now and always the love and support of all of us, your faith community here at Keystone.

Thomas, clothed in our Creator's dream and wrapped in the cloth of your community here in this we celebrate your presence with us.

May your "Yes" to God's Call and your "Yes" to us be good joy, good light, and good bread, for Penny, for your family, for us, and for our world.

And let us all say, AMEN!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Rise Again

The best song written by the late folk singer Stan Rogers was one titled, “The Mary Ellen Carter.” The song is about sailors who are on board the boat the Mary Ellen Carter when it sank due to the incompetence of the leadership. Once it rested on the bottom, the owners and insurance company decide that it is cheaper to declare it a total loss. But the sailors who had worked and lived in the boat felt a special kinship with it and refused to abandon it. So they went into debt, gave up their time and risked their lives to raise the boat from the bottom. It is a guy’s song filled with basso testosterone but it expresses something that resonates deep within many who hear it. The chorus goes like this:

Rise again, rise again
That her name not be lost to the knowledge of men.
All those who loved her best and with her to the end,
Will make the Mary Ellen Carter rise again.

The Church has often in its two millennium made the resurrection of Jesus something between Jesus and God, or just between God. When we do that we make ourselves passive bystanders whose only calling is to believe in what God has done and try to get others to believe it as well.

But Resurrection isn’t a past event it is an active principle in the lives of those who embrace the path of God’s love. The life and death of Jesus shows us that living a life guided by the love of God is not easy. We are called to use self giving love as a tool to combat violence and hate, fear and greed. Not only is our task difficult it almost insures that we are going to get knocked down, literally or figuratively. This does not mean that we are masochists; it means that our faith calls on us to be realists. The Gospels show us that the path of Christ is filled with hostility and conflict. Getting knocked down is a part of engaging the world around us with agape love. That is where resurrection comes in.

We are called to be people who accept that the cost of following our faith will be the hostility of the World (Domination System), we expect to be knocked down, but we also expect to rise again, and again and again. The love of God as experienced especially in a loving and supportive community rolls away the stones that would keep us down. The love of God empowers us to rise.

Resurrection is what we do.

The last verse of Stan’s song goes like this:

“And you to whom adversity has dealt a moral blow
With smiling bastards lying to you every where you go
Turn to and put out all your strength in arm and heart and brain
And like the Mary Ellen Carter rise again.”

Give Credit to Jesus

This came in the mail the other day. I was disappointed that they forgot to include his middle initial, "H." Hmmm...I wonder what Jesus' credit score is.

What did Jesus buy in Lynnwood? And how long do I have to wait before it's legal for me to open his mail?