Advent Devotions Week 2

Week 2 Sunday December 4 – Saturday December 10

Isaiah 40:1-11

This passage from Isaiah marks a break in the message of the book, where the focus is less on the iniquities of Israel and the subsequent punishment and more on the comfort that God brings to the people. In this passage God speaks to the people, telling them their “penalty is paid” and redemption is near. For a number of years, while the Israelites lived in exile after their Temple was destroyed, many believed God had left them and fled to the wilderness. This passages calls for a return of God to land of Israel as their redemption is near. In this time, God will make all things new and right. In this time of Advent, how do we see God absent in our world? In what ways is God returning? How can we work to “prepare the way” of God back into our lives and our world?


Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

The theme of assurance is a popular and important one for the season of Advent. Though we wait for God to arrive in our world, our waiting is not in vain. We do this with the assurance that salvation is coming. In this psalm Israel is assured shalom (peace) and hesed (steadfast love and loyalty) for God’s people when they trust and fear God. A Christian view of this psalm would be to read the promise of God’s peace and love in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In what ways does the advent of the Christ child speak to your hope for peace and love on earth? What is it about the Christmas story that sends this hope to the world?



2 Peter 3:8-15a

The second epistle of Peter ends with another reference to the coming reign of God, something for which the early Christians must keep a look out. Again, it instructs the people to follow in the footsteps of Christ, so that when the day comes, their hearts will be ready. By the time of 2 Peter’s writing sometime in the early second century, the early Christians had lived a number of generations since the death of Jesus and we still waiting his return. The author provides some comfort for the people, possibly very frustrated with the delay, that gives the reader insight into the nature of God. As we wait for Christmas, what does it mean for our world if, for God, “a day is like a thousand years?” What does God’s message of hope and justice mean if God’s sense of time is so expansive and transcendent? How do we live in light of this?



Mark 1:1-8

John the Baptist plays a central role in the early portion of Mark’s Gospel. John is portrayed as a prophet, quoting Isaiah and living an eccentric lifestyle with his clothes and diet. In his role as prophet, he calls the people to “prepare the way” for Jesus who will bring God back out of the wilderness and baptize with the Holy Spirit. With such an introduction to Mark’s Gospel, the author is letting the reader know that things are about to change! Exciting things are coming as the reign of God takes over the land! Last week we talked about God working in quiet, uneventful ways. What are some larger, more exciting ways that God is moving in your life? How do you see God’s reign making noise around the world? What major shifts must we see to realize God’s reign?

Advent Devotions Week 1

During this Advent Season, take time to read and reflect on the lectionary readings for the week. Take one passage a day, read its contents and the devotional, and spend time reflecting on the questions provided or questions of your own.


With each passage what words or phrases stick out to you as dramatic, thought-provoking, or contemplative? What message is the author trying to convey? How would the people of the time have heard this? How might people hear it today?



Week 1 Sunday November 27 – Saturday December 3

Isaiah 64:1-9

The later chapters of the Book of Isaiah speak of the restoration of Israel with the Persian Empire working as servants of God to fulfill this renewal. For years, the people of Israel and Judah were exiled from their homeland after the Babylonian Empire conquered them. In this passage, the author of Isaiah speaks about patience in waiting for God’s action, about seeing the restoration that God will provide in new, unexpected ways. Is God’s work of redemption always visible and extreme? Do the mountains always tremble? In this Advent season, reflect on ways that God is working in your life and in our world, that may be unexpected or hardly noticed. How can we use this time of waiting to discover the work of God for the healing of our lives and world?



Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

The Psalms contained in the Hebrew Scriptures are poems of worship for the people of Israel, through early Christianity, and even today. They were set to music, sung or chanted and they address God in a number of different ways; from praise and adoration, to lamentation and supplication. Much like the passage from Isaiah, this Psalm calls on God for restoration of God’s people. It is of important note that the Psalm begins with a reference to Israel’s history, that of Joseph and the other son’s of Jacob who would become the 12 tribes of Israel. These types of references are common in the Psalms, reminding both God and the people of their past and of the history of their relationship. How has God been present in your own history, that of your family, your country? In what ways has their been a break in those relationships? What events and stories can you call upon to refresh these relationships?



1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth opens with a greeting traditional of letters during this time period. This opening is one of assurance to the people as they look for the “end of the age” which many early Christians believed was close at hand. Paul recognizes how the people were “enriched” in living out the testimony of Christ. Reflecting back on the past year, how has your living out of Christ’s testimony been enriched? How has it lacked? What are some new areas of your life where you can live out Christ’s message of love and justice?



Mark 13:24-37

The Gospel of Mark is the earliest of the four canonical Gospels, authored around the time of the fall of the Temple in 70 CE. This historical context is very important for this particular passage. Jesus addresses his disciples’ questions about the “end of the age” and what will take place. There are many different themes and lessons one could reflect upon from this passage. One particularly important for Advent is the theme of “keep awake” for the Son is soon coming and our hearts must be prepared. After the destruction of the Temple, first Century Jews were looking for a sign of redemption and hope in the midst of this collapse. Where is the reign of God we were promised? If Jesus was our Messiah and promised us the redemption of God, how do we live in this time of destruction? Reflecting on Mark’s Gospel may give us insight into the problems of our own world. In what ways to we wait for redemption? What is the benefit of keeping watchful in a world of violence and destruction?

Rummage Sale Recap


First post from Guatemala! Yeah

¡Saludos desde San Lucas Toliman!  (that means greetings from San Lucas Toliman)

As we (Sophie & Charlie) type this, it is raining buckets and the rest of our group is figuring out how to spend our free afternoon when the town we’re in seems to shut down when it rains (or maybe just because it’s Saturday).

We arrived yesterday afternoon after very little sleep having arrived at the airport at 4:30 a.m. to catch our flight.  The drive from Guatemala City was about 3 hours and was punctuated by the occasional torrential downpour.  Our driver, Julio, was very kind to point out the various sights and since Sophie was sitting shotgun, she was able to translate for the rest of the group.  I think it was the first time most of us have smelled a rubber plant in action.

After we arrived, we were informed that the other 60 to 70 Americans working with the Mission had taken all of the small rooms, so the 13 of us are currently sharing 3 rooms.  It is very cozy.  We have been told that the bulk of the people will be leaving tomorrow morning and we’ll get to spread out a bit and be sleeping with fewer people per room.

This morning we went with some other people from the Mission (who are also from Minnesota!) to go help out on a local farm.  Half of us shoveled fertilizer into small bags to be used for future planting and the other half weeded spinach and carrots.  When we started, the entire bed looked like a jungle, but by the time we were done, you could actually see some of the carrots and spinach.  There is photographic evidence of this feat (to be posted later on).

Since then, we ate lunch and were assigned dish duty for the meal, which entailed Carl saying a blessing before we all ate and everyone pitching in to clean the dishes and eating area after lunch.  It felt like most of those 60 to 70 other Americans (and some Canadians) ate lunch with us today after the mess we had to clean.

We have the rest of the day off of “official” work so we’ll probably end up playing cards, staying dry, and spending more quality time as a group.  Tomorrow we are told we’ll be going on a boat tour of Lake Atitlan, so we hope the rain lets up by then!  Other people from the group will be posting daily (with pictures, hopefully) so stay tuned to hear more about our adventures in Guatemala!


Charlie & Sophie

Guatemala, here we come!

Our group of 13 departs at daybreak tomorrow morning!  We will be visiting the San Lucas Mission on the shores of Lake Atitlan.  (pictured above).   The core of our group is this year’s confirmation class – it’s a tradition for the youth to go as part of their confirmation experience.

Though the church has a long-standing connection with the Mission, this is my first visit. Last night, over supper, I sat down to read the journal from a previous trip.  What a neat glimpse into the small everyday moments and impressions that make up such a powerful journey.    The journal told tales of shopping in the vibrant markets, helping with reforestation projects, crushing rocks, learning to make wooden spoons, striking out on an early morning hike, attending a mayan ritual, and playing soccer.  Amongst the scribbled scores of card games and the sketches of the mountains and village were reflections about the simple goodness of community life in San Lucas;  about the pollution that accompanies the incredible beauty of the mountains and the lake;  about hunger among animals and hunger among people.

The materials from the mission emphasize the fact that we are going to Guatemala primarily to learn, not to help.  I am feeling incredibly lucky to get to learn from this experience and witness the processing and growing that takes place for all of us along the way.  Please check back with the blog starting on Saturday, as members of our group take turns posting their daily reflections.


“Sheep Suit” by Sylvia Taylor, from the “Laughing Bear” portfolio

This Spring, we exhibited the “Laughing Bear” Portfolio  in Pilgrim Hall.  Artist Diana Eicher put this beautiful show together.  She sent the “Laughing Bear” poem, by Katherine Tilton, to twenty some printmaker colleagues and asked them to make a print.  You can read the poem here:

We held a  reception for this exhibit on Friday May 13, which included a reading of the poem, beautifully rendered by Sally Wingert.  Since the poem addresses the subject of domestic violence, we invited representatives from area organizations to join us.  Carol Arthur, Executive Director of the Minneapolis Domestic Abuse Project, and Rebecca McLane, Operations Manager from the St. Paul Domestic Abuse Intervention Project both talked about their programs and gave a bit about the history of domestic abuse intervention in The Twin Cities and in Minnesota. The Twin Cities have been in a leadership role in this area since the beginning.  We were thrilled that purchases of prints donations raised over $700 for the St. Paul Domestic Abuse Intervention Project.

The “Laughing Bear” event inspired First Church member, Carol Cochran, to write this reflection:  


I wrote a God, hear our prayer article for Chimes [First Church newsletter] in 2005. My brother, a psychiatrist, was locked in an Arizona jail with a $1,450,000 bail. His crime—domestic violence. I was shocked, confused, angry, sad, and grateful. Our parents deceased, I, his big sister and only sibling, went to his trial in January 2006 to testify and find out more. The trauma of seeing him shackled and fallen from his throne where I, our family, and his community had placed him, was like a horror movie, not real life. He was a forensic psychiatrist with the Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC) and formerly for the Utah DOC, where he gained fame as the psychiatrist for Gary Gilmore, Utah’s first death row inmate, after many decades, to die by firing squad. Now, my brother was on the other side, without the keys.

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First Church’s architecture: pictures and video

Last week, our own Rev. Dr. Clyde Steckel gave a second-hour presentation on the architecture of First Church.  By popular demand, here are the slides he showed.  Click on each picture to enlarge.  Unfortunately at this time I don’t have the captions, but they are forthcoming!

At Brad Schumann’s suggestion, we also showed an incredible 8mm silent film of the steeple being taken down in 1967 and replaced in 1971 (video courtesy of Pete Norum).  Watch below, and be warned, it takes a little while for the action to start:




Protected: Church School Sunday: video of kids singing (same pw as Talent Show)

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Good Friday Resource for April 22, 2011

art by He Qi

Good Friday is the holy day on which we remember the crucifixion and death of Jesus. At First Church, we will observe this day with a simple time of scripture reading, prayer, and silence at noon. If you are unable to join us at church, we invite you to use this resource as a guide for observance at home. Below are just a few suggestions for practice, reading, meditation, and prayer; please draw from it as you see fit.

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