Wednesday Reflection – Pastor Amanda McGlynn (7/14/21)

Continuing in our summer series of exploring different Spiritual practices, this week I offer you a very simple one: the spiritual practice of reading. Even if you are not an avid reader, there are many different possibilities within this practice to allow you to find something that is right for you. 

One clear possibility is to read the bible. If you do, I would recommend the book of Psalms, the Gospels, Acts, Romans, or Philippians. Try reading even just a chapter or a page a day and see how it goes having intentional time outside Sunday mornings to dwell in God’s word. 

Another possibility is to read a devotional book, or one of many, many books written on topics of faith. Below I have compiled some recommendations for books of various topics that I have found to be especially meaningful, and think would nurture your faith lives as well. If you are looking for a book on a specific faith topic, please feel free to reach out and I would be happy to help you find the right fit.

Theology and Christian Living:

Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Written by a WWII martyr, a little heavier of a read, but a solid, deeply Lutheran Theological look at Christian living)

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (easy to read, yet very moving approach Christian living)

The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Bruggemann (A modern theological look at much of the Old Testament and the new things God is doing within it) 

Crazy Talk by Rolf Jacobson (a very witty yet helpful dictionary of theological terms)

Short Stories by Jesus, by Amy-Jill Levine (an in depth look at many of Jesus’ Parables)

Beloved by Henri Nouwen (a quick, meaningful read about the peace we can experience when we understand how much God loves us)

Memoirs/stories of the faith lives of others:

The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claibourne (an easy to read, story based, very moving book about really living how Jesus calls us to)

Pastrix by Nadya Boltz Weber (memoir of how a heavily tattooed, substance abusing, cuss word using comedian became a Lutheran Pastor and founded a community of those not typically comfortable in your average church.

Breathing Space by Heidi Neumark (moving stories of inner-city ministry)

Everything Happens For A Reason And Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler (a funny, emotional reflection on a young mom and Theology professor’s journey through cancer)

The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen (an easy-to-read reflection on faith and trauma)

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor (biblical reflections on light and darkness in day-to-day life) 


The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (a well-loved series, with many theological insight) 

Lamb by Christopher Moore (funny, fictional story about childhood Jesus)

Wednesday Reflection – Pastor Amanda McGlynn (7/7/21)

This summer as a part of our newsletter, I have been continuing to share a new spiritual practice each week. We as active church members are often good at living out our faith in a church setting, or even in a group setting, but are less comfortable living it out in our personal lives. This week I invite you to try the spiritual practice of borrowing something. 

Now you may be thinking: wait, how the heck is borrowing a tool supposed to help my spirituality? Well, let me explain. This practice is for anyone who wants a simple way to engage meaningfully with neighbors, and who is open to an experience of being vulnerable by being served rather than serving others. Christians generally see themselves as being called to serve others, but the Christian life is one of mutuality and vulnerability, which means that we are called to be served by others as well. If you remember our Gospel text from this past Sunday, you will recall that Jesus commissions his disciples to go out into new places and receive the hospitality of others. This practice allows you to be on the receiving end of hospitality, in a small but significant way. 

Here is how this practice works: Recognize a need for something simple: a tool, a rake, an egg, a cup of milk. Next, kindly ask a neighbor if you can borrow it from them.
Then, thank your neighbor. It is as simple as that. If you are feeling up for it, this is also a wonderful opportunity to get to know your neighbor and strike up conversation. 

Afterwards, notice how it feels to be served. Write down your reflections or share them with someone. And lastly, pray for your neighbor, thanking God for them, and for all those who serve us every day in ways we do not even realize. 

Wednesday Reflection – Pastor Amanda McGlynn (6/30/21)

Continuing in our mini-series of learning a new spiritual practice each week, today I’d like to introduce you to the practice of “Discerning God’s Presence from A Lawn Chair”.

Step one is to set up a lawn chair in your front lawn. A porch swing, rocking chair, picnic blanket, or anything like that will suffice. If you do not have a front porch or lawn, you may do this activity at a park instead. Wherever you are, simply sit, and commit to a regular practice of being there.

Step two is to pay attention. What’s going on around you? Who’s outside? What’s the neighborhood like? Get a feel for its rhythms.

Step three: ask questions, and notice God’s activity. What might God be doing here right now? Where is the Holy Spirit moving right here?

Step four is to try out variations. Get out somewhere new and observe. Spend regular time in a coffee shop, library, park, or somewhere else just to see where God might be showing up throughout your community. The more often you do it, the easier it gets.

Wednesday Reflection – Pastor Amanda McGlynn (6/23/21)

As promised in last week’s newsletter, we continue this week by learning another Spiritual Practice. Today, I would like to offer you the practice of Psalm writing. Psalms in scripture are a wonderful articulation of humanity’s relationship with God, in good times and bad. They speak into life’s disorienting moments and laments; they name pain and suffering for what it is. They also speak into life’s joys, and into our faith in the best and worst of times. 

In this week’s practice, we will be writing our own lament psalms. Laments are prayers that connect our lived experience to God. Laments are personal and contextual, as well as communal and universal. To do this spiritual practice, follow the instructions line by line. Your phrases for each line may be as short as a few words or as long as a few sentences.

I find that this practice often helps me to articulate the parts of my faith life that otherwise remain subconscious. It is a good, quick practice to do multiple times in a day (morning, noon, night) or daily for a few days to see how things change. However, you choose to do it, I hope you get as much out of this practice as I do. 

Here are the instructions:

PHRASE 1: Write a statement about God.

PHRASE 2: Write a statement about your life.
PHRASE 3: Write a statement about how you feel.
PHRASE 4: Write a statement of praise.

PHRASE 5: Rewrite phrase 2.
PHRASE 6: Write a statement about what you need.
PHRASE 7: Rewrite phrase 4.

PHRASE 8: Write a statement about what you long for.
PHRASE 9: Rewrite phrase 4.
PHRASE 10: Write something new about God.
PHRASE 11: Rewrite phrase 5.
PHRASE 12: End with a statement about God.

Wednesday Reflection – Pastor Amanda McGlynn (6/16/21)

How are you doing spiritually? Do you tend to your spiritual life multiple times daily? Is it something you have not considered much at all before reading this paragraph? Or perhaps, like many of us, you fall somewhere in between. Spirituality means different things to different people, but in general it is the word we use to talk about our connection to God, and our lived experience of faith. 

Tending our spirituality may look like a walk in the park, admiring God’s creation and our place in it. Or perhaps it may look like routine prayer, starting and ending our day and our meals by connecting to God. For some, it may be listening to music, others running, and others reading scripture or devotional books. There are so many ways in which to tend our spirituality, to invite God’s presence into our lives and uplift our own faith and wellbeing. For the next few weeks, I will offer some practices aimed towards tending our spiritual selves. Some of these may work well for you, others may fall flat. But the invitation is always there, calling us to experience God in new ways, opening us to all that God has in store. 

This week’s practice I invite you to “Prayer Stops”. In this practice, you choose one thing or time, that whenever it happens, you take that trigger as a reminder to pray, even very briefly. Some examples of what a prayer stop might be are stopping at a stop sign or red light, seeing a bird (or squirrel, or deer, etc.), brushing your teeth, using the microwave, or anything else you choose! 

Prayer stops should be things you know you will do or encounter at least once on any given day. You can choose where your stop is expected (like brushing your teeth) or unexpected (like seeing a squirrel). Try it out for a week and see what it is like for you. The longer you do it, the better you will get at remembering it, and the better prayer will become a well incorporated part of your spiritual life. 

If spontaneous prayer is intimidating or uncomfortable for you, may I remind you that prayers do not have to be long, or well thought out, or perfect. Many of my prayers throughout the day are among the lines of “Thanks God”, “Be with me, Lord”, “Help me to be patient”, “God you are so good”, etc. Short and Sweet. Other times, my prayers are whatever is most familiar to my heart, and on my mind, like “Our Father in heaven…” or like a few lines of a hymn stuck in my head. Whatever your prayers are, they are enough, and they will be yet another way to take a deep breath in our busy lives, and invite God in. 

I hope you enjoy the practice of prayer stops. I do. And I hope you continue to read next week as we explore another spiritual practice. 

Wednesday Reflection – Pastor Amanda McGlynn (6/9/2021)

This past year and a half has been challenging to say the least, and one of the many things that has been present more than usual is grief. Pandemic grief is often unnamed, unrealized, unarticulated. We know that we are more anxious than we once were, and we might experience frustration, anger, defeat, and similar emotions more often too. We use coping tools such as minimizing the threat, increasing precautions to reassure ourselves of safety, or just try to distract ourselves and not think about all that we have lost.

Things are certainly changing, mostly for the better. Stores are opening, restaurants are increasing capacity, youth activities are returning to normal, mask mandates are loosening as herd immunity is increasing. And yet, we still face difficult decisions about vaccinations, either for ourselves or for some of us, for our children. Some of us may feel guilty or conflicted shifting “back to normal” when we have loved ones whose lives have been lost or who still are fighting to survive. We are still postponing, limiting, or adapting events such as weddings, graduations, birthday parties, and more. With these milestones, and even with the everyday things like feeling safe at the grocery store, we mourn the comfort and security we once had. We have become so used to the grief we carry that we hardly even notice or name it anymore.

And yet, God is with us. God knows what it is like to mourn. Jesus wept. God knows what it is like to comfort those around us in an anxious, messy, grieving world. God knows what it is like to fear the unknown future ahead of us, as Jesus in the garden before his death. God even knows what it is like to lose a son, to mourn the death of a loved one that seems so unnecessary, so unfair. God is with us, knows us, loves us, in every stage and expression of grief that we have and will go through.

And lastly, God unites us with one another, woven together into one body with many members – the body of Christ. The body knows how to comfort itself, how to care for and heal itself. It is innate. So rather you are in the midst of healing or in need of it, you are not alone. You have support. Rather you are in the beginning stages of grief, the middle, the long term, or are fluctuating between them all, you are not alone. Your grief is valid. All of ours is. So whatever support you need or can give, may God empower you to do so. Whatever grief you carry, may you take comfort in knowing God knows that grief too. And wherever you are in this moment, may you take hope that no matter what is to come, God is with you, and so is the church, the body of Christ. Amen.

Wednesday Reflection – Pastor Amanda McGlynn (6/2/2021)

I love gardening, though the complexities of soil nutrients, or of why different crops prefer different seasons, are things I have never really understood. I am an avid hiker, and yet even on my favorite, most frequented trails, I do not know the placement of every little stone, every flower, every turn of the path. This Sunday I will graduate with a “Master of Divinity” degree, yet I don’t believe anyone ever fully a “master” of the divine, which is so far beyond the realms of human knowledge. I may not have perfect, total, and complete understandings of gardening, hiking, or divinity, but that does not diminish the love, understanding of, or relationship with each of those things that I have built over many years. 

This weekend we celebrated Holy Trinity Sunday, where we explore the age-old question: Is God one or is God three? And the answer is yes. Trinitarian theology is complicated, and hard to fully wrap our minds around. Nearly any way you try to simplify it, any image or metaphor you use, while often well intended, ends up falling under the category of heretical. Yet, we hold steady in our faith in our 3-in-1 God, remembering that like so many parts of our faith, the holy trinity is a mystery. 

We see a glimpse of the complex glory of our triune God, knowing there is more to God than we could possibly imagine. And still, we stand in awe of the Creation of God the Father. We take comfort in the presence and the grace of God the son, reconciling us to the triune God. And we follow the leadings of God the Spirit, who is with us as our advocate, our guide, our partner. However, we experience God, we take comfort in knowing that much like gardening, hiking, or even divinity, we do not need to fully understand something to know it, to love it, or to be a part of it.  

For those of you interested in a short and cheeky yet informative lesson on trinitarian theology, I leave you with a link to this video: 

Wednesday Reflection – Pastor Amanda McGlynn (5/26/2021)

What a joy it is to witness God’s abundance. This time of year, it is full of abundance for many – an abundance of rain and the green landscape it brings, an abundance of harvest from spring crops, an abundance of both tests and then relief that come with the end of a school year. Abundance is all around us. 

This week our church got to witness abundance through our Junk in My Trunk fundraiser. This event was one that gained traction slowly. I remember at its introduction, we wondered if we would have enough families participating to even make it worth doing. Yet, as word spread and time ticked closer, our church began to swell with the abundance of donations that came from members, family, friends, friends of friends, and even a business. By Sunday morning, we had more donations than we had room for. This sale we thought we would not have much to sell in, filled our church building with items, but also with fellowship, excitement, and many new visitors who would likely not have crossed our doorstep otherwise. We met some of our neighbors, practiced hospitality, raised over $650 for our youth, and had enough left over that we get to do it all again next week. 

When the church is passionate about our mission, abundance follows. Abundance not just in material matters, but also in time, energy, joy, excitement. Helping kids get to camp is an easy thing to rally around, because we know what an impact Christian education and faith formation have, and because we believe our children deserve that opportunity. What else are we passionate about, Joyful Life? How else can we find new opportunities to invite our neighbors in, to get out into our community, to spread the word and the invitation to come be a part of what the Spirit is nudging us to do? This week has made me joyful – first, because we came together and were met with abundance, second, because I am reminded of the potential for our little church to do big things, and third, because I am excited to see what the Spirit will do with us next. 

Wednesday Reflection – Pastor Amanda McGlynn (5/19/2021)

It’s been 8 years since I regularly attended Calvary By The Sea Lutheran Church – my home congregation. When I worship with them now on Zoom or on Facebook, I look around and notice that I no longer recognize at least three quarters of the congregation. Families that I grew up with have moved away, members who were once active or even on council do not seem to be there anymore, and the pastor, music director, organist, and office administrator who I once knew and loved so well have all moved on to new congregations too. I realized this recently and started to mourn how the church that I knew and loved seemed to be fading before my eyes. 

But then I reflected on the changes this congregation has endured in those 8 years. Declining attendance. Staff turnover. Major hurricane and Flood damage. Covid-19. Several member families moving out of state because of Hawaii’s rising cost of living. Most recently, and perhaps the hardest obstacle they have faced was their 3-year long call process to find a new pastor. That’s right, I said 3 years. This congregation is the biggest Lutheran Church in the state of Hawaii, they have a beachfront sanctuary with stunning ocean views, they run the second biggest foodbank in the state out of the old parsonage, they have many, many thriving ministries, and on top of it all they are genuinely lovely people. Loads of pastors were applying to come to this church. 

So why did the call process take three years? Well, because call processes and pastoral transitions are difficult for several reasons, even for the most idyllic of churches. The synod would give Calvary 10 applications at a time of pastors wanting to work with them. They would interview all 10, narrow them down, interview a chosen handful, keep narrowing and interviewing until they decided on one person to offer a call to. Finally, after months of time and energy, after building excitement about their wonderful candidate, after offering an official letter of call and even after a congregational vote to say “Yes! This is our new pastor!”… That chosen candidate would decline their offer. Their spouse decided they did not want to move. They were intimidated by the cost of living. For one reason or another, they were turned down at the last minute by 3 candidates in a row. 

The congregation was becoming exhausted. This was not the quick and exciting call process they had imagined and having interim after interim was causing their attendance to decline and energy to fade. But this Spring, after 3 long years, they called their ideal new pastor, he said yes, and he was worth waiting for. I have tuned in to online services recently to size up the new guy and see how old Calvary is doing. As I said before, there has been a lot of change. I do not recognize most of the families in the pews, but that does not make me sad anymore. You know why? Because instead of seeing loss, I see growth. New families, many of them, have started coming, and getting involved. The congregation’s mission and vision for who they are and how they are serving their neighborhood are clearer and bolder than ever before. There is new energy and new life that’s clear to see, even from thousands of miles away. I know the last several years have been difficult, but they are a stronger, more missional, more solid congregation because of it. 

My hope in sharing this story is not to intimidate or discourage you. Rather, it is to help you to take comfort in knowing Joyful Life is not alone in our longer than expected call process. My

hope is that in this in-between time, you will recognize not just the loss, but the learning, the change, and the growth. My hope is that you will believe me when I insist that whoever God has in store to serve as Joyful Life’s new pastor, will have been worth the wait. 

Wednesday Reflection – Pastor Amanda (5/5/21)

Throughout our lectionary readings in the weeks that follow Easter, we hear numerous passages from both John and Acts. While Easter does not have overarching themes as well known or consistent as those of Advent or Lent, this ambiguity opens the possibility up for us all to hear new themes emerging from our Easter texts, that speak to our lives here and now. A few themes that have emerged for me in the weeks past and weeks to come are these: understanding, time, terror, and awe. 

I bring up understanding for two reasons, the first of which is our dwelling in the gospel of John, where so many of the interactions and conversations between Jesus and others include Jesus answering with or explaining something that goes way over everyone else’s heads. In our faith, we do not always understand the depths of all that God is doing, yet we continue to follow and learn faithfully. I also bring up understanding because of our Acts readings – many of which depict the disciples acting in ways that seem radically incomprehensible to authorities around them. This understanding speaks into the same Christian living that we here are called to – living in response to the Gospel, because even if we do not understand it all, what we do understand truly changes us. 

The next theme that I mentioned was time. This stands out to me because of the zig zagging we have done through John’s timeline, and the interconnected ways throughout this Gospel that Jesus tries to prepare the disciples for what is to come, process what is happening, and prepare them for what is coming. One of the major themes in John’s gospel is “come and see”, or in other words, the invitation to be brought into faith, understanding, relationship with Jesus Christ, healing, and so much more. Many times, in these encounters with Christ, those around him do not understand what is happening in the moment but realize or remember it later. We too are called to be patient with time, reflective of all the ways God has been a part of our lives in the past, aware of God’s presence in the now, and willing to follow to all the ways God is calling us into the future. We may not understand it yet, and it may feel like things are moving slowly, or like God is absent, but John reassures us of God’s continuous presence with us, and reminds us of ways that God is, has been, and will be at work in ways we do not yet see. 

Lastly, we have come to terror and awe. This may sound familiar, as it is a repeated phrase used to describe people’s reactions to encountering Jesus after he had risen. This is also something that congregations face quite commonly and yet naturally. We may not understand everything yet. We may not see God’s activeness in our past, present, or future. We may be terrified or uncertain of what is to come. And yet, we stand in awe of our God, and of the life together which God has called us to. We linger in the awe of the gospel, the resurrected Christ, the promises of God, the hope of resurrection, the commission of the disciples, the evangelism of the early church, and so much more. We find ourselves much like the women at the empty tomb, terrified and awestruck, yet trusting that God will continue to reveal God’s self to us, be present with us, and offer us peace  

in the midst of terror. We have faith, which moves us forward in the midst of it all. 

With globalization, the internet, and the increasing connectedness of the world, our reality today has and continues to rapidly change. So, it is no surprise that things are changing when it comes to evangelism as well. It is easier than ever to do what the early church was told to do in the beginning of Acts, to witness in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Long gone are the days when we need to hop on a boat or plane and spread the news about Jesus to places that had never heard about Christianity. Now, and after decades of foreign missions, news about Jesus has spread to the ends of the earth. The number of Christians in places like Ethiopia and Nigeria have out surpassed the numbers of Christians here in the United States.

There has even been an interesting shift where while the number of Christians here have been waning, numbers elsewhere have exploded. Some places that first heard of the gospel because of Western missionaries have now even started to send missionaries here back to us to spread the good news in a place where Christianity is not as prevalent. Long gone are our days of sending professional missionaries out to bring the gospel where it has never been. Now, our mission field is right where we already are and we are all called to be the missionaries, the evangelists. An Easter church looks like a people unafraid to share the good news they know.

On Phillip’s journey to spread the good news of Jesus and listening to the direction of the Holy Spirit, he came across someone reading from the prophet Isaiah, an Ethiopian eunuch. Someone who, by Old Testament law would have been barred from full participation in the Jewish temple. Someone who was searching for meaning and trying to make sense of the writings of a Jewish prophet. In other words, someone both in need of and open to the good news of the gospel, right in Philip’s midst, yet under old circumstances, someone who would not have been fully worthy of it.

Phillip was driven by the Spirit to someone right in his own community who was searching, looking for belonging and something to make sense of the world. Phillip had, early in the book of Acts, gone into Samaria and started to preach the good news publicly, but here he encountered someone right in front of him in need of that message and perfectly receptive to it. In this moment, Philip was faced with a decision – to continue with what was comfortable, bringing the gospel to foreign lands as he had become used to, or challenging his plans, his ways of doing things, and the boundaries he would have grown up with regarding who is and is not worthy. 

An Easter church knows the gospel is good news for all people without exception. The gospel spreads and people establish relationships with Christ not because of anything we Christians have ever done but because the good news of Jesus is good news. It changes things. It changes people’s lives. It lets us experience divine love and lets us share that with others both afar and in our midst.

Justo L. González, a historian of the early church writes that, “In studying the history of the Church and its missionary progress, we repeatedly see that the great movements, the most notable discoveries of unsuspected dimensions of the gospel and of obedience to it, usually appear not at

the center but at the margins, at the periphery.” I wonder if this is because we who feel at the center have become content with the assumption that the work has already been done, will be done by others, or is being done in ways that do not need us. I wonder if this is because we who feel at the center have become content with the assumption that the work has already been done, will be done by others, or is being done in ways that do not need us.

The Ethiopian reminds us that those of us who situate ourselves around ecclesial “centers” might be inclined to expect too little from the good news or to underestimate its capacity to bless and include others. Our imaginations grow rigid and unresponsive. Our sense of evangelism grows tired and content in assuming that everyone has already heard everything, and the good news no longer needs to be shared. In this, we forget how the Gospel can impact us differently throughout our lives. We ignore the yearning of those around us who seek to know God, who know relationship with God is missing in their lives, and who do not know how to begin rebuilding it. We underestimate our own capacity to bless and include others through the gospel, because we assume that the rest of the church is taking care of that on our behalf. 

May we in our lives of spiritual contentment be moved to new people, new needs, new possibilities in our own midst. May the old assumptions we carry be let go of, so we can be moved to include everyone as worthy of the gospel, exactly as they are. And may we have the courage and the imagination to encounter those who wait right in front of us, as willing and eager recipients of the good news of the gospel. 

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