Uncle.

We are growing! Praise God. Can you even imagine this community without that person sitting next to you last time we gathered? Me, either. It’s like they have always been around—like the Holy Spirit just knew we needed one another—and we are all richer for it.

We don’t have official new members anything because…we don’t have membership. If you show up, you are in. However, we do have an informal way of integrating newer folks. I usually meet you for coffee and hear about your life and answer any questions you have about the community. Guess what? I’m woefully behind in these coffee dates.

We also have a growing list of folks who ask for community prayers throughout the week. Guess what? We don’t have a formal system for this so I text a group of folks who I know pray—and I happen to have their number—and they happen to pop into my head. It’s not a great system. 

Guess what else? We need a budget for 2017 and an opportunity for financial commitments from folks. Jen is our volunteer treasurer (God bless her). But it’s too much for her to carry alone—and it’s too important to just have the two of us paying attention to our finances. It’s definitely not my area of strength to begin with—and because I can’t keep up most weeks just trying to do the basics, I don’t give this the attention it needs. 

Here is what I can do: I can preach, tend worship life, provide pastoral care, do most bar events and continue to help listen for God on behalf of the community. That’s about it. That’s the limit—and most weeks, even that list is well beyond a part time role. 

So…uncle. I need help.

Might you feel a spark of life when you think about being…

1.  A prayer collector. A point person who rounds up a team of people who commit to pray for people. The point person receives the request—and then alerts the rest of the folks through a group text (or other means you find more helpful). Requirements: confidentiality, care, tenderness and follow-through. Being asked to pray for someone is an honor and a gift. 

2.  Connectors. We need a handful of people who will go on an occasional one-on-one coffee date with new folks. These dates are a joy—because humans are fascinating and dear. Requirements: ability to ask good questions, ability to listen well, have a general sense of Humble Walk in order to answer questions (or be able to make crap up on the fly), follow through. May also be employed to meet with people, “Who just want to meet for coffee to hear more about HW." (These are typically other clergy or seminary students)

3. Financial team. We need a couple other people who will pay attention to our budget (but, um, first help create it for 2017). Do you see hope and possibility in numbers? Have you just been waiting to be asked to help interpret a spreadsheet? Honey, this is your jam. Requirements: meeting with Jen and I to get a sense of our previous budget, help create a budget for 2017 and then…help us meet it. Easy like a Sunday morning. 

4. Community Care. We need a couple other people who are available to provide one-on-one care to people in need. These meetings often mean sitting for an hour to listen (and resist, resist, resist giving advice or fixing). Requirements: tenderness, ability to listen, follow through, confidentiality.

Still with me? Great. Think on those things and go on and email me your hopes, dreams and questions. pastorjodihouge@gmail.com

New Life in Hard Places

 

The volume from the singing in the back room of Shamrock’s Pub could not be contained. We tried. We kept closing the pocket doors behind every late arriver, behind every server carrying a tray of food. The singing was just plain rowdy. Finally, I went into the space next to ours to apologize to the other patrons. Who did I find next door but a gigantic table full of St Paul police officers eating a meal together. I froze, because it’s complicated. During this particular season, officers had just been killed at an demonstration in Texas. And our city was mourning another man with brown skin who had been shot by an officer. Humble Walk has dedicated activists who march, protest, show up. This table of officers looked exhausted and wary. I said, “I’m sorry that singing is so loud. We keep trying to close the door.” And one quickly said, “It’s okay. Leave the door open. We need it.” Right. Of course they do-we all do. 

Catrina is a PhD student studying our community. She is a researcher—which means she pays attention to details, takes notes, asks good questions and then offers theological insights. I LOVE her and all her work because so much happens so quickly that I often cannot quite keep up much less take time to reflect. This fall, during a conversation with Catrina she paused and said, “I think Humble Walk is growing because it’s Jesus working and healing wounds—wounds from damage that the church has done to it’s own people. Christianity is hurting it’s own people.” I know too many who have been wounded by church. I also know many who are healing from that damage because they are hearing God and experiencing church in a new way. Jesus is always working near wounds—bringing about new life.

The Prophet Isaiah tells us a shoot will grow.  A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 

Like all those annoying feral trees in every single alley in this city. Those shoots come up through the cracks in the pavement. We cut them back. And they come back, relentlessly. Jesus is like that. Relentlessly, persistently coming up through hard places—bringing about life and propping open the door. 

This church is bringing about new life in hard, tricky places. The persistence of God’s new life is evident all around us. Thank you for your faithful financial support of Humble Walk-it enables us to keep doing this work on behalf of church universal.

Wheat. Chaff. Alley Trees. Shoot of Jesse.

cover tree.jpg

Advent 2
December 4 2016
Matthew 3: 1-12

1 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." 3 This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.' " 4 Now John wore clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9 Do not presume to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 "I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”


It’s the 8th annual John the Baptist Second Sunday of Advent tradition to eat some locusts and wild honey together. I know that sounds cult like. But why not engage another one of our senses as we think about these words from John. I put some wild honey for your bread and some sweet and savory locust snacks downstairs to be enjoyed along with the soup after worship.

John’s my favorite. Because I love the weirdos and like speaks to like. He wore weird clothes and ate weird food and said things that made people nervous. I imagine that when he was growing up no one wanted to invite John to their birthday party because he would say things like, “Yes, thank you I would like cake. And also, repent you brood of vipers.” 

There were others—like John—who said things that made people nervous. People claiming to be the Messiah. Others who were itinerant preachers. Others who gathered a crowd and said things that people listened to. Some snake charmers, cult leaders, sooth sayers. 


But no one like John. He was different because he told the truth. And it was the sort of truth that would eventually make people free—but first it was going to mess them up quite a bit. Even the religious people came to hear what John was saying. The professionals—the super faithful people who spent their lives tending Scripture and faith practices. The priests. The church folks. Me. You. John had a word from God for everyone and the word was this: bear fruit worthy of repentance.

This sticks out. Because it seems that there is some work to do before we even get to the repentance part. Bearing fruit—inner work—that leads to repentance. That’s an invitation to being open for a change of heart. The openness has to come first. Let that settle in for a minute. Bearing fruit worthy of repentance. Might your heart be ready change? Might you feel yourself open to that direction?

John leaves us with strong farming imagery. Since I’m just fresh off the ND potato truck—I just eat that sort of imagery right up. 

“Jesus winnowing fork is in his hand, and Jesus will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Wheat. My family also grows wheat. My husband spends his time turning wheat into bread for me to eat. I’m never far from the role of wheat. Wheat grows on long stems. When it’s harvested, it has to be crushed so that the outer shell—the husk—might be discarded so that we can get to the kernel. The useable part. That shell—the outer husk is a protective layer that is useful for a while. And then, it isn’t. It’s discarded. It becomes dry papery husks that easily blow away in the wind. During wheat harvest—the chaff is what blows out the backside of the combine. It fills the air—this dust. Makes the air hazy. It smells like bread and dirt and heat. 

Chaff.
Shells. 
Outer layers.

Think about the outer layers around us. 

What have we convinced ourselves that is protecting us? 

What has outlived it’s purpose in our lives? What is ready to be crushed? Burned away? Might your heart be open and ready to discard a few layers?

John invites us to consider what that might feel like. Like any change—it will be unsettling for a bit. Because we are used to those layers of security. But maybe they aren’t serving us so well anymore.

And, like any change—If we can hang in there long enough—through the uncomfortable part—something will be uncovered. Something new will spring forth. Because that’s how God works. Jesus is always working near the tender spots. The places that need healing. We will feel so exposed and naked—like turtles without shells—like wheat without it’s hard outer shell.

But then a shoot will grow. 

The Prophet Isaiah tells us a shoot will grow.  A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on you, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

A shoot will grow. 

Like all those annoying feral trees in every single alley in this city. Up through the cracks in the pavement. We cut them back. And they come back. Relentlessly. Jesus is like that. Relentlessly coming up through hard places—bringing about life. 

Many of you feel like this country has lost it’s freaking mind. That we need to change everything. John the Baptist is asking us to begin here. To start close in. And trust that God will bring forth a shoot.

Want to change the world? Start close in. And watch for the shoot.

“Start Close In”

by David Whyte

Start close in,

don't take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step you don't want to take.

Start with

the ground

you know,

the pale ground

beneath your feet,

your own

way of starting

the conversation.

Start with your own

question,

give up on other

people's questions,

don't let them

smother something

simple.

To find

another's voice

follow

your own voice,

wait until

that voice

becomes a

private ear

listening

to another.

Start right now

take a small step

you can call your own

don't follow

someone else's

heroics, be humble

and focused,

start close in,

don't mistake

that other

for your own.

Start close in,

don't take the second step

or the third,

start with the first

thing

close in,

the step you don't want to take.

 

It's Advent. Thank GOD.

The most wonderful time of the year...maybe? Do any of you feel the tensions of this season? The tension of being people of faith and turning on the radio and hearing O Holy Night sandwiched between Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bell Rock? The tension of being told it’s the most wonderful time of the year, yet feeling slightly deflated? The tension of wanting to have a holly, jolly Christmas, but finding your depression or loneliness or grief heightened so you just pretend? The tension of seeing images of happy family gatherings on TV Christmas specials, but your collection of people is...um...not that. 

Then we come to worship, expecting to hear bits of the Christmas story, and we are hit with apocalyptic Gospels. It all feels minor. And so serious. Where are the upbeat, mood lifting Christmas songs?

Perhaps we could think of Advent less like a four-week pre-Christmas tailgate party and more like a shelter from the cultural storm of Frosty and Jingle Bells. 

Advent is a season tension. The tension of uncertainty and hope. Of fear and longing. Of the now and the not yet. Advent gives us a container for longing, for patient (but not passive) waiting. Huddling together in the dark and the cold. We embrace minor songs and examine our lives, repenting and preparing for the most holy Christ child to come.

We stay vigilant because we know that God will come (has come, is coming), and that "the peace of God, which surpasses understanding" (Philippians 4:7) is always seeking a place to be born.

Advent means there is something on the horizon the likes of which we have never seen before…a revolution that means the world is being turned upside down, one small step at a time. What is possible is to not see it, to miss it, to turn just as it brushes past you.

So stay.
Sit.
Linger.
Wait.
Behold.
Pray.
Repent.
Wonder.
Hope. 

There will be time enough for running. For rushing. For worrying. For pushing. For now, stay. Wait. Something is on the horizon. Let’s begin again.

Swedish elders on trains lead to kindness

We popped up the 3 quick steps onto the city train. Zip zip zip. Bodies that move with ease. I grabbed the handle above my head for support and glanced out the window, eager to catch a glimpse of Gothenburg in the daylight. A couple weeks ago, I traveled with my friend, Nadia, to Sweden. One of our hosts, Daniel, came to get us at our hotel and escort us to the next place were were supposed to be that day. I glanced back to watch the other passengers board this little train.

Just behind us, an elderly gentleman with a walker tried to get in the door. The walker had a basket attached which made it too wide to easily lift up the steps. Plus, the man was quite unsteady on his feet. Without hesitating, another man jumped out of his seat to assist the elderly man. It became quickly apparent that one person wasn't enough. So the first helper called to two of us to take the walker while he encircled the elder from behind and supported him with his own body to assist him up the steps. Then it took some convincing to get the elder to sit while others tended his walker/basket. Within minutes, we were at our stop, which happened to be the elder's stop, too. So the whole thing was reversed down the steps.

It all happened quickly-without hesitation. The first helper is definitely in an indie band-or perhaps just an average Swedish citizen-it's hard to tell around those parts. Beyond appearance, what we glimpsed in the short interaction was a well spring of kindness. I thought, "That guy had good parents." Maybe or maybe not. What I know is that beyond the elder getting on and off the train safely-the kindness he showed changed me, too.

I keep thinking about the this trip to Sweden. It was absolutely transformative-because I got to see new things, meet new people, spend time with Nadia, have a break from election coverage, be surrounded by beauty. All of those things are definitely true. But as I look back through the week, I now see an undercurrent of kind people. At every turn. In every interaction. It was the prevailing tone.

Kindness changes people. It arrives like grace-often unexpected, unannounced. It creates something new in us. Softens our edges. It isn't niceness or pretending or being polite. It's something else entirely. I'm taking this experience into the coming season. Because Lord, have mercy--the cultural climate is hostile. It feels like we are turning on one another. I want something else. I want to be the person who jumps up to support the person who needs it. 

 

Sermon: Trust, Rise, Love

Luke 21:5-19

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

 

My friend Kara is a Presbyterian pastor at a little church in Minneapolis. They have been practicing sabbath intentionally for 8 years. Sabbath retreats, cultivating sabbath practices, writing about it, talking about it, reflecting about sabbath. 


This week in the wake of the election, Kara said to me: Jodi, worry is practicing fear. Worry is practicing fear. Sabbath is practicing trust. Practice trust. 

When she said it, I felt my shoulders release a bit. My hands unclench a little. My heart rate go down a few beats. I want to practice trust.

Sabbath is resistance. 

It’s resisting the illusion that we are in control. That the world is in our hands. That the mess we are in is all on our shoulders. If this is entirely on us—if the world is in our hands—if this mess is all on our shoulders—than what of God? Sabbath reminds us that we are not God. HW-you are not God. I am definitely not God. Thinking that everything is on your shoulders—that you are in charge—that it’s up to you to fix everyone and everything (and believe me, our list of things to fix just seems to be getting longer)—is a lie. It’s making yourself God.

When we begin working on behalf of the world and our neighbor, it seems that there are two ditches we could fall into. 1. Do nothing/ignore your neighbor 2. Work so hard on their behalf that you don’t come up for air and eventually begin to believe that the whole world is riding on your shoulders. Although well intentioned, this is another reiteration of works righteousness—of putting your salvation in your own hands. 


Which is counter-intuitive to a gathering of HW folks. Because I know your hearts. I know how hard to work to make this world better. I know how intentional you are—I know how deeply you care. I see all of that.

I also know your fear and your worry. I know two who have been in the ER this week because of stress.

The Gospel from Luke today Jesus’ followers are admiring their nice temple. “Hey Jesus-look at this gorgeous building! Look what we made! Didn’t we do good for the glory of God?”

And Jesus responds with absolutely no mincing of words— it can and will be torn down in a heartbeat. Poof. All the projects you pour yourself into. All the monuments. All the systems. All the retirement funds. All the people. All the political candidates. All the pastors and wisdom speakers and Rumi quoters. Poof. In a heartbeat, it can and ultimately will be torn down. It’s not permanent. None of these places are where our ultimate hope lies. None of these things or people or places deserve our ultimate trust. 

Our trust and our hope remain in Jesus. 

As long as we are tearing things down—perhaps we might want to throw in some of the most problematic and damaging human projects. Bigotry. Idolatry. Racism. Patriarchy. Let them burn. 

In today’s gospel, Jesus also names the worst possible things that could happen:

war

arrest

persecution

betrayal

hatred

following false prophets

death

nation against nation

famine

earthquakes

Into the midst of this terrifying list of possibilities comes the illogical, “Do not fear.”

That feels irrational given the list. But that’s the word from God—that’s Jesus coming to us. Do not fear. Because the very worst thing is never, ever the last thing. This is the promise given to us in baptism. We come from love and will return to love. Do not fear.

Fear is not our orientation. God is. 

Danger doesn’t go away with faith. Faith isn’t the removal of danger—it’s love, belonging, warmth. Faith creates a storm home—a shelter in the midst of danger. 

Where does that leave us this week?
I have never ever said this before—or this directly. But I want you to come to worship. Usually I say things like: “Well, when you need it—we are here. When it’s time—we are here.” Honey-you need it and it’s time. Because this time together is where we remind one another that we not God. This is where we remind one another what we are—and that is God’s beloved. In this space—we are going to practice trust together. We are not going to practice fear here. We are going to practice trust.

I saw some other places where we have practiced trust this week. On Wed AM, I put out a call that I would be hanging around Brake Bread for an hour if anyone needs to be with another human. I sort of thought—maybe one or two of you would show up and we’d have coffee. Instead, six people from all the ends of the social media world emerged. Everyone cried. Everyone said how scared they felt. Everyone learned one another’s name. Someone said, “Well, it’s only 4 years. That’s not that long.” And someone else responded, “Actually, I’m in recovery. And can only truly think about today. We only have today.” These strangers trusted one another enough to say all the hard and true things. They trusted a random social media pastor to convene. And Jesus was with us in our fear and worry—creating shelter.

Then throughout the day, I sat with people-both in groups and individually who said how very scared and worried they felt. And we trusted one another with the terror and concerns and lament. And Jesus was with us in our terror—creating safety.

Then we gathered at Shamrock’s Pub for Beer and Hymns Post Election Edition. And it was standing room only. My boss showed up with his son. Our bishop showed up because she needed to be there. You did, too. And there was space to cry and sing and to feel held by our shared humanity. We trusted one another with public grief. And Jesus was with us-creating warmth.

Do you feel stuck? Too afraid to move from the fetal position? Rest up. God is at work whether we see it or not. God is at work whether we are able to participate or not. The world is indeed turning—God is arriving in 1000 quiet ways every single day—and God in Christ’s arrival is trustworthy.

How do I know this? Because you are in the world doing your thing. God is working through you. Ever single time you act in love-that is God. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Could there be more fertile ground than right now? Last week, I read a blessing to you that included, “Blessed are the kids who step between the bully and the weak.”  

When you are ready—rise up, HW. Rise up in love. Step between the bullies and the vulnerable. The list of vulnerable includes: people of color, women, those who identify as GLBTQ, immigrants, the weird kids. 

Would you like this in Harry Potter terms? I know many of you speak Harry Potter. I basically stay on Twitter for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tweets—and the occasional, once a month brilliance from some other human. I found this one today and it made me think of you. 

Ravenclaw: get ready. It’s time to be smart, to be resourceful, to be prepared. Remember ravens untangle the worst knots.

Gryffindor: get ready. It’s time to be brave, to be stalwart, to protect what’s yours. Remember that lions roar for those whose voice hasn’t been given a chance.

Slytherin: get ready. It’s time to be ruthless, to be cunning, to be loyal. Remember that snakes protect who’s ours.


Hufflepuffs: get ready. It’s time to be kind, to be industrious, to get your hands dirty. Remind everyone that badgers dig in.

Jesus is with us in our rising.
Love will always and forever be the most trustworthy thing. Amen.

Wandering Church

Wandering (CC BY-SA 2.0) Aaron Jacobs

Wandering (CC BY-SA 2.0) Aaron Jacobs

Last night, Humble Walk gathered to decide where we are going to worship this year. We collectively voted (Head's Up 7 Up style) to move into the Art House North beginning September 11. On September 4, we will gather for our final worship at Sholom—and paused to give thanks for all that we have witnessed during our time at Sholom. Below, you can read what I shared with those who gathered last night.

Wehave a decision before us. And I've been thinking a ton about our last 8 years together. For 8 years, we have been becoming church. A church. A quite particular church. Traveling together. Using available spaces. Relying on God's provision. The funniest question people ask me is how does Humble Walk survive financially? The answer? We don't.

We don't just survive, we actually flourish. Every single idea or thing or need or event is provided for. We have moved ahead in faith and trust every single day since the Holy Spirit kicked up dust and ashes and hope and broken hearts and formed us together. We've had enough. Not a lot. But enough. We are always on the edge—and then manna arrives. It's one miracle after another.

We have our own gorgeous Humble Walk story living within us. But it's not the only one. We have the Israelites, too. Who God rescued from slavery and sent into the wilderness to wander and to heal and to kick the grip of slavery out of their systems. It took a couple generations. It was affective. 2 generations of wandering later—the kids and grandkids knew wandering. They heard stories of the slavery—but their own lives were marked by walking in circles, making camp and going out every morning to collect manna for the day.

During this time, God gave them the 10 commandments. Since our decision about worship space is directly linked to the 3rd commandment—that's where I want to focus. The 3rd commandment is remember the sabbath to keep it holy. Sabbath. Even in the wandering years—God commands and gifts us with rest.

These Israelites had to learn the practice. Every single time they stopped work and gathered to worship, they remembered they were created in God's image. They were not created in Pharaoh’s image. Pharaoh’s rule meant brick making—that your worth is only about how many bricks you can make. God's image-in whose image we are created-means we have worth because we are human. Which levels the playing field and flattens any sense of hierarchy where our worth is tied up with productivity and able bodies. Every single human has worth. This is the gift of sabbath-this reminder.

Just as these Israelites were about to enter the Promise Land—to hang up their hiking sandals and build a permanent camp—Joshua recounts their own story to them.

Joshua tells them their own whole story—recalling how God rescued them from Pharaoh and provided for them. God gives them the commandments once again. Which are the same except for one commandment. The 3rd commandment about remembering the sabbath changes. It expands to neighbors and the sick—to include everyone. God is telling the Israelites to extend their power to the entire society. This life in freedom—the gift of rest and remembering who they are—of God who has cared for them throughout the wilderness is extended to everyone in fairness.

I wonder if HW has wandered enough. Fresh Grounds, rotating living rooms, Pilney, Highland Park, Acme Scenic Arts, Highland Park, Sholom Home, Art House. That's 8 places.

Might the Art House North be the place where Humble Walk has arrived?  We have wandered long enough that the old ideas of institutional church have been kicked out of our system? We have healed and witnessed miracles and relied on God's provision and trusted and now we might be able to extend that gift to a wider circle?

No matter where we gather on Sundays- we come together to remember who we are and whose we are.

We likely all have stories of how it feels to feel isolated in Christian community. It's why you came stumbling into Humble Walk. There are so many other people who still feel isolated. Might it be time toextend our welcome to a broader circle so that we might share that gift? Not the special church. Not the cool kids church. But a place where we remind one another that we are created in the very image of God—and our worth comes from not how many bricks we produce but because we are God's beloved.

As your pastor, I'm ready. I'm tired of wandering. Of tracking worship bins and carrying them in and out of my car. Of trying to find a space for the sheep to gather on an annual basis.
 
What would you like to know about the details of AHN?

Physical property:

  • Sundays.
  • Other bankable hours which we can schedule (youth group, prayer group, seasonal worship services, storytelling event)
  • A kitchen.
  • A yard.
  • People won't have to work so hard to find us. (We are currently hard to find. I hear this routinely.)
  • There are further improvements to AHN coming soon-including AC in basement and a new accessible bathroom.

We do need more money each month to sustain Humble Walk and the things we do. Specifically, we need $1000 more each month.
That's 15 people giving $67 each month.
Or 20 people giving $50.
Or 30 people giving $33 each month.

Might that be you? We have a convenient online giving option-which you can set to do automatically each month. https://www.razoo.com/us/story/Humblewalk  Or go to our website and hit the donate button. Then, shaaaazam! We have freed you from worrying about that money and we get to continue doing all the great things we do in this corner of the world.

Sing a new song (what's wrong with the old ones, anyway?)

Psalm 96:1-9

Humble-bumpers
Humble-bumpers

O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.

Drawing theme: joy.

I used this Psalm during my approval essay at the end of seminary. During the faculty interview, I got nailed to the wall for it. Every other interview along the way had been filled with delight. No one questioned me or asked me to defend myself theologically. This one was different. In response to my claim that this Psalm (along with a host of other Psalms) invites us to write new songs and tell new stories, my prof wrinkled her nose and said, "Why does it always have to be new? What's the wrong with our old songs." I was unprepared for that response and couldn't actually find the words in the moment. I did, however, begin to sweat. 

The Book of Chronicles tells us that when David brought the ark to Jerusalem, David appointed Asaph and other Levites to sing praises to God. So, singer/songwriters commissioned to write new songs that told the stories that they were in the middle of—their real experiences. I wonder if they were paid a living wage?

Do you think some of those Levites said, “Nah, were good with the old songs. Why do they always have to be new hymns of praise?”

We aren't just talking about songs, of course, but the ability to see God doing something new. Perhaps resistance to it—like my old professor's reaction-might be the inability to see God doing new things. Or maybe it's sentimentality about the way it was or the good old days which actually weren't that good. Or maybe it's grief that things can't stay the way they are. Not ever.

Because if we aren't growing, we are dying. 

Because some of those old songs are actually crappy.

Because we have new stories to tell.

Because we are death and resurrection people. 

Because somewhere along the line, Bono told me I have a new song to sing.

Because before Bono said it, a bunch of Levites said it.

What are the songs we would like to let go of? (Actual songs?) Call them out.

What about metaphorical songs? Stories and tunes that seem worn out.

The story that I'm ready to rewrite is that one where we have manage to embed racism deeply into our lives as people of faith. Maybe you, too, watched in horror as the gun that George Zimmerman used to kill Trayvon Martin was auctioned off and sold. Remember that story? Where the middle aged white man shot an unarmed black teen because he was scared of him? He just sold the gun he used for $250,000. To a mother who bought it for her son.

Maybe you, too, watched the video of a giant St Paul police officer brutally take down a young man outside Central High School this week. It's hard to watch and hard to argue that it was unnecessarily violent. I shared a really well written essay by another parent of Central High School student. I encourage you to read the whole thing. Here's a portion:

"I don’t know the police officer in this video, Bill Kraus. I can’t say what he was thinking or feeling in that moment. He may have been exhausted or frustrated. He may have been calm. He may have been afraid. He may be a racist. He is a victim of a racist society – we all are. He may be poorly trained or sadistic. He may be a sociopath. He may be none of those things. He may have acted in line with his training (the police have released a statement essentially defending his work). He may look at this video with pride. He may look at it and feel sad and sick like I do. I don’t know. I probably won’t know. This is what I can tell you: I don’t want that kind of policing in my community. I want something different. I want something better. “

I want something better, too. I want a new song.

Laura and I represented this church at the annual synod assembly last Friday. I looked around that room of 500 people—representing churches all throughout the St Paul area. And remembered once again that we are overwhelmingly white.

I don't know how to fix it. I don't know how to write the next song. And I'm a little afraid that if I start writing a verse that the social media spin cycle will reign down on me and have all sorts of opinions about how to do it better. But I don't care. I'm willing to try and to fail and to try some more because I want a better song.

As we write these new songs, we don't need to change the chorus. The chorus has been the same since the beginning of creation. The chorus is the truest thing we know. We belong to God and we belong to one another. And God is making all things new.

We could choose to sing the same old sad songs of hunger, poverty, patriarchy, violence. We could sing those songs for another whole generation. We know them so well. But they are songs of death. Those are songs that give privilege to some at the great expense of others.

Let's be done with those tired anthems.

We belong to God and we belong to one another. And God is making all things new.

God's will is that the whole world be set right. Not just for the church folks but for all of creation. If we look, we can hear songs of life, too.

If we pay attention to today's Psalm, we'll see that the whole world is being new-God is setting the world right all around us. All creation gets caught up in praise—the heavens, sea, field. All of creation wants to sing these new songs. And even if we don't sing along, it's happening all around us. It does not depend on us. It is inevitable—God is making all things new. It doesn't depend on us, but I sure want to be a part of that action.

We glimpsed it this week through Obadiah's Teddy story. Which seeped into the world at a small hum. And the hum grew and grew until 1000's of people were singing it. You know it's a song about life and the world being set right because it's bathed in irrepressible joy. And an entire community continues to get swept up in the chorus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=API-5sU9CBs

Some new songs are quieter than Hey Teddy. I glimpse it in this delightful dad that I see at Elsa's school who wanders around outside at school pickup...playing his ukelele and talking with people. Every day. Wandering around, singing his song, being a human.

It seems he knows the chorus by heart. That we belong to God and we belong to one another. And God is making all things news.

We also glimpsed it around a house fire. Remember Emily from our bar community? Remember her house burned down on Christmas Eve? Well, this week she heard about another house fire. So we ran to Target and filled 2 huge tote bags full of things that this family of three would need. Things that they didn't know they would need: a binder to keep all the insurance papers in, toothbrushes, good chocolate, soft Kleenexes, fresh fruit, etc. Emily delivered them to the hotel they were just moving into. Emily knows because she lived this death song. And now she is writing a song of life. This is beauty and compassion born out of disaster.

Let's write some more songs of life together.

God will not stop until the house is full.

Luke 14: 16-23

Too Much Love
Too Much Love

Then Jesus said to him, ‘Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.” So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” And the slave said, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” Then the master said to the slave, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.

Drawing theme: Feast

God will not stop until the house is full.

Someone is giving a dinner party and the first string of invites went out. People RSVP'ed, which is no small thing, but as it turns out, they all declined the invite. They were busy—with actually some rather legit things. New real estate property, taking a new team of oxen for a test spin, newlyweds caught up in the whirlwind of setting up a life together.

So, the host sends out a second round of invites. The host tells his servant, “Fine, go out into the streets and round of those who are poor, crippled, blind, lame.” And in a surprising twist, the servant says, “Yeah. I already did that. They are here—ready to party—and there is still room.”

So the host sends out a third round of invites. The JV list. This time, he tells his servant to go out not the roads and the lanes—go beyond W7th street—beyond Randolph. Find some people and compel them to come. So that my house may be filled.

God will not stop until the house is full.

Can you imagine what it looked like to compel people to come in? I think of kids running lemonade stands in the neighborhood. The ones who jump up and down and zealously point to their stand, waving down motorists driving by. Smiling, eager, charming, earnest. Daring each passerby to ignore the opportunity for a mediocre glass of tepid lemonade. Who can resist, though?

I'm guessing sitting at that feast table wasn't comfortable at first. The guests were not well planned group dynamics—seating like you might do for a wedding. “Oh, we'll put grandma and grandpa with the pastor cause grandma will be nice to the pastor.” This is all sorts of unlikely guests mushed in together. The poor, crippled, lame. Those with the least amount of power become central to the feast and the story. Because that's what Jesus does. Takes power and turns it upside down. Takes those on the very outside and brings them into the center.

Have you ever been to party where you walk in cold? Not knowing anyone except maybe the host? I've been to a few of those. After scanning the room and realizing I don't recognize ANYone—and seeing most people are already engaged in lively conversation—I usually saunter over to the food and drink table. Because it gives me something to do. And then look around and think, “Crap. How long do I need to stay?” Breaking into a new social group—even figuring out the small talk banter that necessary to move beyond “Heyyyy. How do you know the host?” takes so much energy.

Every single person who walks into a HW gathering (bar, worship, summer wild things) has to work through the same thing. It takes such courage to try something new. It takes so much energy to walk into the room. Let's pause there for a moment and consider the miracle of each gathering. Of this gathering, today.

And yet, God will not stop until the house is full.

Which means, a big part of our work together is to receive people well. Our ability to create spaces for people to enter is what we do. We need to be intentional about it. Which is why we need a greeter every week at worship and host for every bar event. Someone who says, “Hi. Welcome. Here's what you need to know.”

This summer, we are taking a giant leap in our worship and summer wild things life. For six weeks in a row, we will not gather for worship on Sundays. For six weeks in a row, we will not gather here at Sholom Home. Instead, we will host art making events in the park on Sundays. No agenda. Just art making for all ages.

Then on Tuesday evenings, we will gather for a meal liturgy at the Art House North. If you have been to the Meal Liturgy called Too Much Love during Holy Week, you get the idea. Although, you won't have to leave in silence like we do during Holy Week.

Worship will feel like a banquet feast that we are throwing for all those along the highways and byways.

A team will arrive 2 hours early to cook for us (yes, we will need volunteers) under the leadership of Emily Hennen, Head Cook. Then we will arrive and break bread together. On real dishes. At set tables. Served family style.

When was the last time you walked into a meal that was prepared for you? A couple weeks ago, Nate was out of town and the girls and I were invited over to a friends house for dinner. I had worked all day long on a garden project and I was physically spent. When we arrived, she said, “Come in! Sit down. Let me get you a cold drink.” And then I got to sit in her kitchen while she prepared a feast. It felt so good to be taken care of. Trans-formative, actually. I thought about it for the entire next week. It changed me. It felt and tasted like grace.

This is the gift we have this summer. We are not inviting people to hang out on Tuesday nights. We are not inviting them to a program. This is a feast. A table that belongs to Christ that will be stretched wider. It will not be comfortable. But anytime things are starting to feel too comfy cozy is when it's time to be stretched. Prepare yourself to be stretched.

God will not stop until the house is full.

Meal Liturgy. Wild Feasting. Art Making.

Too Much Love 15
Too Much Love 15

Remember back in deep winter when we listened where God might be leading us in the coming season? And we talked about a six-week shift in our worship life in July and August? It's beginning to come together. And it's going to be good. Also, it's a risk, which is what we are so good at taking. During this six week span, we will not gather for worship on Sundays (at Sholom Home or otherwise).

Our gatherings will look like:

Meal Liturgy at the Art House North Tuesdays at 5:30PM July 12, July 19, July 26 August 2, August 9, August 16

Imagine Too Much Love at Claddagh Coffee--but instead it's Tuesday evening at the Art House and you don't have to leave in silence. And you get to help with cleanup. Emily Hennen is our Kitchen Manager for Meal Liturgies. There will be volunteer prepping and cooking spots available each week. Team effort! Julie and Joel Heaton are going to be clipboard managers--people who manage the details and tell the rest of us what to do.

Art Events in the Park Erin DeBoer-Moran, serving as our Artist in Residence, will gather all God's creatures great and small at community art-making events in the out of doors. Erin might pull other artists to lead some of these events. These are bring your friends and show up and make art events.

I'm wondering what you want to do with Sunday, July 3. It's the one date--just hanging out there--looking for direction. Your Humble Walk staff will all be leading on location at Outlaw Ranch in Custer, SD (I'm leading Bible studies, Vanessa and Jeremiah are leading music/theater--and bonus: Erin is leading art sessions). Get back to me on this one, will you?

Sparkling Water Happens

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I recently went on a hospitality tour with my bread baking friends (one of whom I'm married to, btw). The plan was to spend a day hopping from shop to shop--evaluating our experiences as customers. I am a GREAT eater and drinker, so I begged my way into this rolling feast. At each stop, we looked at signage, how we were greeted, vibe of the space, cleanliness, menu and finally, product. Guess what matters a ton? To not be treated like an idiot when you first enter a shop. And by that, I mean...you walk into a shop for the first time and wonder what the rules are--it feels like the person behind the counter has the power and the info and it's up to them to impart it or not. I like to be welcomed and then given the tools to make my way. I don't want to be fussed over---but a genuine welcome is essential. Then I want to be told anything that would be helpful (daily specials not listed on the menu, etc). Also, anything that seems above and beyond is wonderfully memorable. One coffee shop automatically offered a glass of free sparkling water with every espresso drink. What?! Delightful. Of course I want some sparkling water. We talked about that experience for a long time.

What does this have to do with us, Humble Walk? We are not in the baking industry. We are not offering goods to a carload of consumers. But. We do want people to feel welcome and included and met the very first moment they walk into our gathered space.

All of this is to say, we need a Welcomer. A Julie McCoy. An Usher. A Pointer. Someone who volunteers to come early and stand at the door and say, "Hi. Welcome. I'm (your name). You will need this bulletin today. And here is a snack if you are hungry. And would you like to lead a part of the liturgy? Take one from this pile."

Prepare yourself. I'm doing an altar call this very Sunday. I will have a clipboard to sign up. But wait. There's more. Because we are resurrecting other places to sign up to lead (communion, bringing a snack). Clean up will still belong to everyone.

Are you wondering what our sparkling water--above and beyond at HW is? Oh mercy, that's you. You are our complementary sparkling water which comes as such a delightful surprise to every single person who arrives at the service. Above and beyond in every way.

Epiphany Glimpse of Jesus

For the entire month of January, we have paused in worship to ask: Where have we glimpsed Jesus? And who are we right now (as a community)? Where are we being called?  

Here is what we have heard:

Who are we? [Welcomed as, not welcomed to. We often say that “the church is the people and not the building.” Less often do we actually act that way. Humble Walk does. And it's not just the "members" of the church but anyone and everyone who comes. They strongly believe that the community is made up of anyone who is gathered at that particular place and time. The church is those assembled -- and as a visitor, this made a big difference. I wasn't welcomed to Humble Walk. I was welcomed as Humble Walk.] (Keith Anderson)

We are all ages together--full participation We are people who have chosen a hard way (fulltime artists, nonprofits, risk takers, leaders) We are people for whom a hard way has chosen them (mental health, people in recovery, adult children of alcoholics) We are fully open and affirming to those who identify as GLBTQ We are a Storm Home for those seeking a place to rest, heal, find shelter (a last ditch effort for many) We are a learning community and have welcomed a gaggle of seminarians (Michelle Walka, Amy Hanson, Peter Clark, Nathan Johnson, Eric Worringer, Katie Parent, Laura Slezak...who did we forget?) and sent 3 people off to seminary (Jessica Olson, Justin Rimbo, Katie Stever) We are a community who retreats together every six months. We set aside work and screens and production to practice sabbath as feisty resistance in a world that glorifies busy-ness. We are a community that sends their pastor off on a 3 month rest. Even though we might feel anxious, we take risks as a community. We aren't afraid to fail. We are almost always flirting with disaster financially. And we don't let this control us. We respond to ideas with, "Yes, let's." We create spaces where explosive joy can take place Our community feels fragile/vulnerable and strong. We see our unpredictability as a gift

Where have we glimpsed Jesus this month? Helping our neighbors (chopping ice, shoveling show) and finding out it's fun to do. Throwing parties every month in the back of an Irish bar and inviting everyone. And they come. Sometimes, people will wait in line just to get in the door. By supporting artists (and by being supported as an artist) We found out that dancing can us around (Youth Group) By patiently waiting for markers in worship (click, click, click) in a world that waits for nothing Praying through health reports from our doctors Doctors taking extra time and care with our loved ones "My process is to make chaos on the canvas" Guest Artist DeAnne Lilly Parks "Don't judge. Do the work." Guest Artist DeAnne Lilly Parks

Retreat Glimpses at Bay Lake When we pause to give thanks, it's a firehose of gratitude Seeing God in outside play in creation Seeing God in attentive conversations Seeing God in all the sharing (of food, supplies, time, ideas, play, prayer) Remembering that everyone is "in" without a "but" or "œexcept..." In Laura's wrestling with the text (for hours) listening for the Good News for our community In taking risks during the school play In anti-racism workshops In a drag show--with a queen's mom dancing and cheering from the front row In our ability to create places where explosive joy can happen

Where are we being called? To continue to create spaces where explosive joy might happen To use good words, kind words, loving hearts and respectful love To keep our community safe (Child Safety Policy) To grow together (GLBTQ ally training) To be more overt in the ways we welcome and communicate that welcome We are being pushed to be even more public in our life together A men's group is forming July/August brings six weeks of midweek meal liturgy and Sunday art in the park events

It's not about the money.

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On Monday morning, I woke up with my jaw clenched and a substantial headache. It was one of those nights of sleep where my subconsious was working hard-troubled and worried. All of the muscles in my face and neck were tense. In some ways, it didn't make sense. Worship on Sunday evening was robust-as always, a mixture of new and familiar faces. Hope, bread, longing, prayers, milestones and grace were shared. Then we gathered at my house for soup and bread. Advent Season within Humble Walk is simple, holy, dear. But underneath, my nocturnal head was spinning about our budget. The hour before worship, a trio of us met to talk about finances. It's clear as day that in order to end the year well, we need to do a year-end appeal. Where will it come from? Where will the energy and time to launch it come from? How on earth do you fund a church where most of the people involved never make their way into worship on Sunday? Humble Walk is a church where the majority of those who belong are not involved in weekly worship.

These were my first Monday thoughts as I drank coffee, stretched my neck and jaw, talked myself in and out of going to yoga class. Finally, a text from Heather-asking me to pray for her as she enters into a dream job interview. For me, it was an invitation. This text-this invitation-was exactly what I needed. It snapped me back from the ledge. Because it's not about the money. It's never been about the money. We need it, of course. Funding enables us to connect with hundreds of people outside of bricks and mortar buildings in surprising and delightful ways. It pays for a part time pastor. It pays for all those bar events and summer meals in the park. It pays for a litany of guest artists.

Over the hour of yoga, I prayed for Heather-who dreams of being a hospice nurse. And as I prayed, I felt myself unclench. What a gift it is to be in relationship with one another and to be invited into new possibilities.

Invitation is what Humble Walk is all about. We invite people to gather-to break bread-to remember that we belong to God and we belong to one another.

How do we fund a church without membership? Easy. We fund it through you. You who are with us physically, you who are with us online. You who come and learn from us, you who come and rest with us. You who sing with us. You who come to be reconverted to a life of faith. You who believe that Humble Walk is needed now more than ever.

We invite you, your congregation and your checkbooks to join us in raising $15,000 between December 16-23.

Find us: Sundays at Sholom Home East 740 Kay Avenue St Paul 4:30PM Shamrock's Pub Dec 21 All Ages Christmas Pub Pageant 5:30PM Beer and Carols 7PM

Online giving via Razoo

Mail checks to:
Humble Walk Lutheran
PO Box 16363
St Paul, MN 55116

Humble Walk Monday Nights.

Humble Walk Monday Nights

A pastor's sabbatical is a weird time.  It's both quieter and noisier than usual.  We ask questions we don't normally ask, like "Who brings snack every week to worship?" (hint: it was Jodi).

But we ask some of the same questions, too, like one of our favorites:  "Why not?"

Parents and kids and parent-less kids and kid-less parents and people of all walks of life in between have been asking for more fellowship time.  More time together.  More messy hands.  More open hearts.  We're a neighborhood church; let's get our toes rooted and our feet dirty.

So here we go.  Welcome to Humble Walk Monday Nights (jazzier title pending).

We're going to try gathering weekly in a non-worship way (but in an old church building, of course).  Games, art, fresh fruit, a homework station, and periodic Bible talk are all on the loosely sketched agenda.  5:15-6:30pmish.  We're booked at Art House North (793 Armstrong Ave W) right between theater rehearsals and yoga class, which feels about right.

For our introverts, our tired ones, and our kids with homework, we'll have extra stations:  an art box full of Stuff to Make, a carpet square stocked with Legos, and a table set aside for math and reading and whatever else you might not be able to ignore for an hour.  It's OK.  Bring it with you.   Bring your kids, bring your parents, bring your friends, bring whatever you've grabbed from McDonalds on the way home from work.  We'll find space for all of it.

If you've wanted to invite your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even people you don't like that much to check out Humble Walk, here's a time for them to meet us in a slightly less rowdy element than Beer and Hymns.  (But only slightly.)

Here's the calendar.

September 14, 5:15-6:30pm:  Bingo night.  With highly desirable prizes.

September 21, 5:15-6:30pm:  Board game night.  Bring your favorites, we'll bring ours.

September 28, 5:15-6:30pm:  Bible night.  We'll read a Bible story together -- one of the classics -- like Elisha getting teased about his bald head by some kids, and siccing two she-bears on them (no, really).  Then we'll break into groups and wrestle with the story.  There'll be a discussion group for people who want to talk, ask questions, challenge the text, decide if this matters for our lives and how.  We'll bust out the art box and the Lego space for those who want quiet tactile reflection.  Maybe we'll have some prayer time, if it fits.  We'll definitely have Humble Walk Art Sharing Time (TM) because it's just wrong to read a Bible story and not get some art out of it.

October 5, 5:15-6:30pm:  Busy night.   Lace up your walkin' shoes.  Part of being community is caring for our neighbors.  We'll hand out plastic gloves and trash bags, and roam West 7th picking up litter.  We're made beautiful; let's make our world a little more beautiful too.

October 12, 5:15-6:30pm:  Spontaneous Talent Show.  There's no sign-up and no auditions.  We grab the sanctuary space and fill it with fun.  Glorious awards to be had.

October 19 BEER AND HYMNS, 7pm, Shamrock's Pub.  We do our normal thing and it is glorious.

October 26, 5:15-6:30pm:  Bible night.  We try that Bible thing again, improving on wherever we were last time. We reflect on two months of hanging out.  Do we want to keep going?  Maybe.  We'll find out when we get there.

Do you want to come?  Great.

Do you want to help?  Also great.  We'll need art supplies, bingo callers, and just about everything else.  Can you let me know?  Thanks.

Scenes of abundance.

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This is the final post before I sign off. We have experienced such abundance lately. At Bay Lake Camp, with Wild Things in the park, waffle party at Claddagh Coffee. Overflowing grace. Cups running over. Here is last Sunday's sermon (preached at Bay Lake). It's a story of great abundance--where Jesus meets us where we are over and over. Then we forget. So Jesus does it again. I have the great honor to witness this sort of thing every single day around Humble Walk. I pray that you do, too.

MWAH. See you All Saints Sunday, you crazy sinner saints.

John 6:1-21

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost."

So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world." When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

We call this story the feeding of the 5,000. It's actually more like 20,000. Because back in those days, they only counted men. Women and children didn't count. So, let's say a small prayer of thanks for progress.

20,000 people strong. A good sized crowd. Last Saturday, I found myself in an actual crowd of 20,000 people. A friend invited me to a music festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. On a river bank, out in the woods on the grass. 20,000 beating hearts. Sweating (it was really hot) and singing along to amazing music. My nerdy preachers' heart looked around and thought, “Huh, five barley loaves and 2 little fish in this crowd? I don't know, man. That would take a miracle.”

In our Gospel story today, no one brought any lunch or provisions. There were no food trucks planned for this event. No vendors. No pop up shops. No island cafes. No camp cooks. No picnic baskets.

Just a huge, hungry crowd. Hungry. Word of Jesus had traveled from mouth to ear from mouth ear. Like it does. Like it's always done and continues to do. Through stories. Of healing. Of hearts lifted. Of demons cast. Of thirst quenched. Of life given. Of dead raised. Of paradigms blown apart. Of new stories given again.

All that good news. People were buzzing about it. And so they came looking for more.

Jesus was unfazed. Jesus went up a mountain to pray and rest. But that crowd found him. I wonder what it looked like to have this crowd coming toward him?

The disciples looked at that crowd coming toward them and immediately assess that it's big. And they are huuuuungry. Spiritually, perhaps. And definitely physically. Do you feel your own belly rumble? Now imagine 20,000 others around you.

Jesus sees it all. Jesus sees them all and asks his disciples, “Well, now what?”

Philip gets out a pencil and paper, pushes up his glasses and quickly does a bit of math and calculates the actual cost of feeding this crowd. I thought I was the nerd in this story.

Andrew offers “Hey, what about this kid? His mom packed him a lunch.” Everyone rolls their eyes and says, “Thanks, Andrew. Five loaves of barley bread and 2 fish. What's that to this crowd. It's nothing.”

That little boy panics because he's the one who planned ahead. “Hey, that's my lunch.”

Jesus tells everyone to take a load off. Sit down in the grass, in the shade of the mustard shrubs. Then Jesus gave thanks and he broke that bread. Jesus takes the five loaves and the 2 fish and feeds the whole crowd. Everyone was filled with good things. Not just a little bit, but until they were all satisfied.

Not only was everyone filled, but there were left overs. 12 baskets left over. Jesus instructs his disciples to go out and collect all that's left so that nothing is wasted. Gather up the fragments—the bits, the crumbs, half-eaten loaves.

Gather up the fragments so that nothing is lost.

Gather up the fragments so that no one is lost.

Can you imagine this scene of abundance?

We have weird ideas of abundance. We think of Chinese buffets. Where there is food piled as far as we can see. So much that we can take a bite of something and if we don't like it, we can throw it away and get a new plate. We think of abundance as being able to have enough to waste.

But Jesus is different.

With Jesus, nothing is wasted. No one left behind or out. No one is lost.

When we feel like all we have is nothing. A bit of bread. Crumbs. Surely not enough. Actually, nothing. God in Christ Jesus, laughs and says, “I'm really good at making something out of nothing. Remember you are dust. Life from dust. Abundance from scraps.”

In ancient times-the time from when this story came—all the good, rich soil was used for wheat. Because wheat leads to delicious bread. Bread fit for kings and queens and for people with money. The scraggly land-the left-over bits of land was used for barley. Barley can grow in crappy soil. Bread made from barley is the bread of poor people. Of peasants.

Don't miss that detail in this story. These were barley loaves.

Jesus takes this peasant bread and feeds the world. Abundance from scraps.

That story is enough. But then there's a little more. This experience of abundance was life-changing, this crowd immediately wants to make Jesus their king. By force. Which strikes me as funny and also deeply human. You show us amazing miraculous beauty and love abundance? We want MORE. So we will take you force and make you our king!

Jesus slips away. Back up to the mountain to pray.

Evening rolls around and the disciples go down to the sea, get into a boat and start to make their way across sea. Across Bay Lake. It was dark. Maybe they should have been in bed. A storm whips up and swirls around them. They continue to row, waves beating against the sides of their boat. They were terrified. Not of the storm, but because they look up and Jesus is walking toward them. On the water. It terrifies them.

No matter that they just witnessed Jesus feeding a crowd with scraps.

No matter everything they have witnessed up to this point.

They forget it all in an instant and absolutely freak out.

Jesus says, “It's okay. I'll come to you. Again. I'll come to you. I'll meet you right where you are. I know you forget. You forget about the abundance and the life and beauty and love and feeding. I know that about you. So, I'll come to you.”

And Jesus does. And when Jesus meets them, they arrive on the shore.

When Jesus meets them, they immediately arrive.

When Jesus meets you, you arrive. You begin.

We do often want what I call the Cancer Miracle Story. We think, “If this miracle happens, then I believe.” “If Jesus heals this cancer, then I will believe.”

Today's story gives us a reorientation. It changes that direction. When we trust, we witness miracles all around us. Right now, this moment, every minute, we are being met by God. Right here, today, we are invited to trust that Jesus holds you, holds everything. We have in this very minute, a full connection to God. And that is when we arrive. That is where we begin. Again. Welcome. Welcome back. Welcome to this story of abundance. Amen.

From Jerusalem, With Love

IMAX-Old-City

My friends and colleagues, Jeni and Collin Grangaard (and their sweet nearly 2yo, J) just up and moved to Jerusalem. Yes, that Jerusalem. They are working with Young Adults In Global Mission (YAGM)-which is a hope-filled program now in the hands of brilliant, skilled pastors. I'm guessing at some point, we will send off some of our own youth adults abroad for a year of service with YAGM. God-willing. In the meantime, people like the Grangaards are there--planning, mentoring, pastoring, receiving and walking with young adults. Jeni and Collin are some who have prayed for Humble Walk all along the way. They have also offered all sorts of other support to us. How about we do the same for them? Let's pray for Collin and Jeni. For the transition and the work they do on our behalf.

Below, is Jeni's latest post (with her permission). It's gorgeous.

A little update.

Today we went to the zoo. J's daycare is closed because of the Eid al-Fitr holiday. We have been so happy to have bonus family time, especially while so many are celebrating. The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo was fantastic. Elephants, all sorts of Monkeys, Tigers, Syrian Bears. We didn't get through all of it, but we will be back. They are even open on Saturdays, a big deal here. We made up a soundtrack as we walked and rolled through. Walter Martin's "We Like the Zoo Cause we are Animals Too," and "Colonel Hathi's March" from The Jungle Book were the most memorable. To be expanded.

I am also making a soundtrack of songs that do not make sense here. So far, I have Easy Like Sunday morning (as Sunday is really Monday), Manic Monday (again because Monday is Tuesday), and It's Friday I'm in Love, because Friday is prayer and family time. Suggestions welcomed.

Prayers have been ringing like music here in Jerusalem. We live close to a couple of mosques, so the call to prayer and mellifluous muezzins are resonant in the air. We walk by shrines and domes and walls and holy places on a daily basis. Isn't the whole world holy though? Here as there, we think of our friends and family and communities we have been and will be a part of, lifting up special prayers for some.

As mentioned above, it is Eid al-Fitr, the celebration marking the end of Ramadan. Ramadan brings a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset. It is a pillar of the Islamic faith. We have bumped into many Muslim families as they celebrate the holiday, including our generous neighbors. They brought us flowers and we made them homemade chocolate chip cookies.

For Eid, and even a bit for Ramadan, many have been granted permission to travel out of the West Bank. That is a big, positive, deal. It means increased flying checkpoints and road closures, but it also means more access to places that are usually cut off, like family, places of prayer, and the sea.

Because Jerusalem closes down on Saturday for Shabbat, we headed to the sea. There we met many people celebrating life and Eid al-Fitr. We saw mamas in hijab wading in the waves with their toddlers. We saw swimmers and runners and paddle boarders and puppies and pda.

The best thing we saw, the most beautiful encounter of the day was coming upon a family of four, a mom and dad and two children. One child swaddled in mama's arms--an infant, too small for the flowing waves. Mama was in her hijab, protected from the sun. The other child, a boy, was in his father's arms, smiling through his soul. His dad picked his son up from his wheelchair and carried him and his smile down the craggy stairs, across the melting sand, and into the green-blue sea. He set his boy down in the water, holding him up under the arms so that the boy could use what muscles he had to walk in the water. Joy. Then as the waves got bigger and bigger the dad picked his boy up so he could feel the waves and jump over them. Beauty. Then, the father helped he boy float in the blue-green sea, feeling the water up to but not over his ears. Wonder. We sat and watched for ten minutes, engrossed in the gift of family and care and kindness and adaptability we can carry within us. I am telling you, it may be the best thing we see in this place, but it is too early to say.

On Sunday we were with the saints of the Lutheran Church of Beit Sahour, where we were warmly welcomed by every church member. Josie tried to climb on each and every pew, but was still doted on at coffee quarter-hour. We were prayed for in the prayers of the church, and, after a sermon on loaves and fishes and bread enough for all. We were served sweet anise bread at coffee quarter-hour. Seriously, it lasts for precisely 15 minutes and then everyone gets up. Introvert's dream. In that brief time, we shared bread, coffee or tea, greetings and some really nascent Arabic.

Tomorrow, we return to somewhat normal patterns, day care and planning. Our YAGM come in a little more than a month. Cannot wait!

Boundaries for Sabbatical

campfire

A year and half ago, we sat around the big executive table at Acme (our former worship space in the art studio) and talked about the possibility of a sabbatical. A year and half in the life of this church is a lifetime--we are in a different worship space-people have moved, new faces have joined us, our kids are two grades older, jobs have come and gone, I started to like radishes and we applied and received a fat sabbatical grant.

It's all happening.

Specifically, my sabbatical begins August 1. I know that should be followed with a “sigh,” but it actually feels like more of a “gulp.” When my friend, Kara, began a sabbatical-she had this lovely image of putting her church in a boat. She stayed on the beach—and launched them off. They patiently shifted their legs around to make room for some of her baggage and then off they sailed. Way off on the horizon, Kara could just barely see the sail being raised for worship each week. She knew it was happening-but she wasn't a part of it. Because she had to stay on the beach. To rest.

It's a good image.

What it feels like to me-as the pastor who started this church seven years ago-is that I'm sending my kids off to sleep away camp for the first time. Up until this point-it's been me. I've been the main influence-the person tending to the needs and the dreams and questions. And now, you are going to have other influences and people to tend you. Now, there are amazing camp counselors who know things. Different songs and ideas swimming in heads and hearts. A whole different rhythm to the week. Teeth brushing and showering? It's camp-do whatever you want. (No really-do whatever you want to). You will change and grow-and I'm going to change and grow and it will be beautiful. A tiny bit scary, and mostly beautiful.

I've been thinking about sabbatical boundaries for myself for the last 18 months. Let's just say that it's complicated. I was a at party last week, and the host introduced me as, “This is my pastor. Well, and friend. And neighbor. Oh, and boss.” I laughed, because it was all true. It's true for most of us—we have multiple layers of relationships. So, a few clear guidelines for August-Oct are necessary.

1. Social media: I'm taking a full on break from facebook. You'll all keep the fb dream of memes alive while I'm gone.

2. Email: all work-related email (pastorjodihouge@gmail.com) will get an auto response that says I am unavailable-give the names of the people who are available-and instruct you to resend it in November. These emails will also automatically delete on my end. Doesn't that sound terrifying? What if people don't resend it? What if I miss 1000 opportunities? Well, yes. Those things will happen. But my work is actually stopping for 3 months—it's not just on delay. I am fully setting it down.

3. Will I be at worship or Wild Week or Beer and Hymns in the Fall? No. But you will be and it will be amazing.

4. What if there is a crisis? What if someone needs pastoral care? We have two amazing pastors who are covering for me and they are available. Pastor Angela offthegridpastor@gmail.com Pastor Phil pastorphil@epchurch.org. Also, you can do this for one another. Look around you-this community is filled with skilled listeners and prayers. Lucky us.

5. Can you still talk to me when you see me? Yes, of course. I'm traveling nearly the entire month of August (Enneagram 7's dream). So, this won't really be a thing until September. Invite me to social events? Etc? Yes. Sure. Just no business talk.

6. What about my family? Well-they are their own agents and this community is such a vital force for them, too. You will likely see them at worship and events.

7. Texting me or calling me. Don't. Not even to ask me a question.

8. I am doing two speaking events that are 100% business. These are exceptions and extraordinary and just happen to fall within the sabbatical. In August, I am traveling to Iceland for a pastor's event-they asked me to talk about the theology that supports Humble Walk and how we do experiential worship. They other is Why Christian? in September.

9. Periodically, I will send a blog post about how things are going on my end. Remember, I am not dead. I am just on break. And I am coming back (it's actually written into the grant agreement that I return for a minimum of a year).

Like Ross and Rachel, we're on a break. Like Ross and Rachel, we will get back together.

10. Pray for me. I will continue to pray for you.

Thank you notes in our PO box

thank you

One of the best things about having our own PO box is that it seems to attract thank you notes. Honestly. They just keep coming. I look through that little window and my stomach does a little flip (as I relive my college PO box days). In a digital world of text messaged thank yous, these hand written cards shine. Someone actually took the time to sit down with a pen and a card. They found a stamp-looked up our address-put it in the mail. Here are two for our whole community to enjoy.

Dear Humble Walk, Thank you for Laura's Bible! It's such a lovely translation for kids and so thoughtful of you. Gratefully, The Nordenstams. (Yellow crayon drawings by Laura, who is a fan of Spark Story Bibles).

Humble Walk Lutheran Church, (Jodi, Michelle and Slade)

Please accept this donation for the youth program. Valerie and I were very appreciate of the support you all gave us. We wish to pay it forward to the youth of Humble Walk for camp or gatherings or how you deem appropriate. Peace, Jean and Valerie Hyde.

3 years ago, we sent two youth (Val and Brylle) and two adults (Michelle and Slade) to the ELCA National Youth Gathering in New Orleans. This gathering happens every three years-and moves locations.  Maybe you know this already because our Rachel Kurtz is one of the Big Deals at the Gathering. This very week, it's happening again in Detroit. Once again, thousands of youths from all over the US will converge. The next time it rolls around, we will have another set of youths old enough to go. It can be life changing and powerful. It's also expensive. So three years ago when we talked about sending our two teens, it seems insane. No one had any money. Then we decided we would make it happen anyway--about $1000 per person--and trust that we were doing the right thing. Off they went with two super adults and the risks paid off.

Fast forward three years and financially, things have changed for Jean. So, she sought us out as a place to be generous. I KNOW. Grace upon grace. (She also gave me permission to share this story).

So, our youths have $1000 to begin dreaming about a trip or camp for next summer.

Beyond the shelter

summer

Early Spring, after we gathered for worship--we shared a meal together. I asked people how the worship community might be met this summer. In the past, we have moved from the shelter of a building to a park, lake, yard, playground. Because it's summer. And we have been focusing on sabbath. Real sabbath. Taking deep breaths and setting down all of our "shoulds." What if we embody sabbath for the month of July during worship? What would that look like? Likely, it would mean being outside. Someone said, "The beautiful summer days come and go so quickly. It's hard to stop whatever outdoor things we are doing to come in for worship at 4:30PM."

4:30PM in January feels like nearly evening.*

4:30PM in July feels like the middle of the afternoon.

So, we decided that in July, we would take a break from our fine shelter at Sholom Home. We are a community that meets people where they are at (pub, park, coffeeshop, yard). Why wouldn't our worship community do the same?

Last Sunday, people gathered for a BBQ next to our Humble Walk garden. Tomorrow, we gather for a Blessing of the Animals in the school park behind Adam's Elementary School (which is also the location of our Wild Events). Next week, we'll gather for a potluck picnic at Lake Josephine (where we did all those amazing baptisms last summer). Finally, our last Sunday in July will be at the end our the retreat at Bay Lake Camp. Glorious sabbath summer.

If you hate this-no worries, August will be here in no time and Sholom Home awaits.

*I think we should have this conversation in January, too. Because what if people want to meet outside in January?

Cat herding

cat-herding

Cool cats. This is our most scattered season-spread out over the city and globe, doing our things. I know this--this is every single summer. And every summer, as your pastor, I wonder if everything is coming undone. Then I take some deep breaths and think about those mustard seeds out there growing in and among us in ways that cannot be contained. The Spirit tending and calling us in mysterious, unseen ways. It takes some internal work--letting go. Reminding myself that we are constantly being born and reborn. Dying and rising together. It feels out of control because it is out of control. And yet. There are places where we need one another to show up. Want to be of service to this community? The world? Here are real live places to serve.

*An actual garden with real vegetables which need tending. Can you take a week? Or split a week with someone? Water, admire, pick vegetables for your dinner. Head Farmer Emily: empoweredme@yahoo.com    https://www.volunteersignup.org/RJEBF

*Summer Bay Lake Retreat. If you plan to come to Bay Lake, register so that we can plan for you.  We want everyone to come. That means YOU. Email Hospitality Guru: julieamanda@gmail.com

*Theater camp at the Art House North. We are supporting this good thing by providing and serving snacks each day. July 13-17, July 20-22. Snacks for hungry kids changes the world. Kids who are learning to respond to one another's ideas with, "Yes. Let's." Show up at the Art House, serve snack, marvel at youths, clean up snack. (You don't have to provide the snack...just serve it). Email Wild Director Casey to volunteer: caseylinstad@gmail.com

*Worship set up. Weekly at 4:15PM, beginning August 2. (Sabbatical pastors Phil and Angela will not do this for you) Sign up at worship or contact emmy.kegler@gmail.com.

*A potluck picnic this very Sunday at the Hennen House, right next to our community garden. This is what worship looks like: a yard party/potluck. If you plan to come, let Emily know so she can be prepared for you. Head Farmer Emily: empoweredme@yahoo.com

You make this thing go round and out.