Touching Memorial Service – Karen Brownsberger Gordon

During my years of writing this blog, I’ve rarely attended funerals or memorial services. Those I attended were, for the most part, for people who touched my life in significant ways. This past Wednesday evening, a memorial service was held for Karen Brownsberger Gordon at Trinity Presbyterian Church. Karen passed on June 29 after a courageous battle with cancer. Trinity’s large sanctuary was packed with Karen’s family, friends, and aquaintences.

I first became aquainted with Karen and her husband Steve at this same church when they were active members there. I attended many of Trinity’s services for a while and blogged some of them in my Anchorage Daily News blog and column. Once, I attended a men’s retreat at her father’s, Dr. Keith Brownsberger, Kenai Lake cabin. At this time, I also met her husband, local artist Steve Gordon, who did much of the cooking for the retreat. A strong spiritual thread ran through their lives which was quite noticeable. This was attested to by so many of those offering euologies and remembrances at this service.

After retirement, I began teaching as a substitute teacher for the Anchorage School District. I discovered Karen was a kindergarten teacher at Northwood Elementary School, and worked with her and the adjoining kindergarten teacher during some assignments there, and in other departments such as library and music. Her warmth and personal contact with her students was a joy to witness. She always greeted me with a smile and a word, more than any other staff member.

As I continued to visit churches and document my visits, I would see her and husband Steve after they migrated from Trinity Presbyterian to Clear Water Church. She would always go out of her way to welcome me and have a kind word with me, before rushing off to care for the children in her ministry to them.

Her pastor, Mike Merriner, in one of his scripture quotations, captured the essence of what that evening meant vis a vis Karen’s life when he quoted John 14:1-4.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Karen walked the talk and was an inspiration to me. I was so happy to be a witness to a life well lived, and a person who touched me deeply by her patient, loving Christian walk. I will miss her.

A memorial fund has been set up to purchase books for Northwood Elementary School and snow gear for children in need. If Karen touched your life, I urge you support these works she personally supported from her own resources. This link will take you to GoFundMe to make a donation. https://gofund.me/690dbc46

Thank you for gracing my life Karen! Heartfelt condolences go to the family and friends of Karen and Steve Gordon.

ct

He is Risen!!!

What a thrill it must have been for a few of Christ’s disciples, and the women, to discover that he was no longer in the tomb some 2,000 years ago. That very act became the focal point of history and still persists. Hope is now available to all who express faith in Jesus Christ, align their lives with his teachings, and share the good news of his resurrection. Christianity allows believers to be Eastered every day of the year, without having to wait for this one special day of the year.

At Easter time, I love to share this beautiful N.T. Wright quote from his book “Surprised by Hope”. It inspires a true re-examination of the way we celebrate Easter.

Easter week itself ought not to be the time when all the clergy sigh with relief and go on holiday,” Wright says, “It ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom?”

It is an uneasy time in this country and the rest of the world right now. Maybe it’s time to unplug, and reconnect with the ultimate source of power and love.

Happy Easter 2022!!!

ct

What’s Good About Good Friday?

In a world where famine, disease, war, and the ravages of climate change are consuming our senses, it is only natural to say, as Holy Week concludes, “What Good is Good Friday?”.

I take solace from the words of theologian NT Wright as he wisely observes.
“We are summoned by the most powerful love in the world to live by the pattern of death and resurrection, repentance and forgiveness, in daily Christian living, in sure hope of eventual victory. The “problem of evil” is not simply or purely a “cosmic” thing; it is also a problem about me. And God has dealt with that problem on the cross of his Son, the Messiah. The cross is the place where, and the means by which, God loved us to the uttermost.” N.T. Wright

Clearly there is much anti-Christian rhetoric floating around. And, we appear to be in a period which has come to be called “Post Christian”. There are many reasons for this which will not be the focus of this piece. However, Holy Week, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday epitomizes the nexus of belief for Christians worldwide.

My favorite theologian mentor is Walter Brueggemann. His Prayer for Good Friday keeps me centered during this day.

Holy God who hovers daily round us in fidelity and compassion,

     this day we are mindful of another, dread-filled hovering,

     that of the power of death before which we stand

          thin and needful.

All our days, we are mindful of the pieces of our lives

     and the parts of your world

     that are on the loose in destructive ways.

We notice that wildness midst our fear and our anger unresolved.

We mark it in a world of brutality and poverty and hunger

     all around us.

We notice all our days.

 

But on this day of all days,

     the great threat looms so large and powerful.

It is not for nothing

     that we tremble at these three hours of darkness

          and the raging earthquake.

It is not for nothing

     that we have a sense of our helplessness

     before the dread power of death that has broken loose

     and that struts against our interest and even against our will.

Our whole life is not unlike the playground in the village,

     lovely and delightful and filled with squeals unafraid,

     and then we remember the silencing

          of all those squeals in death,

     and we remember the legions of Kristy’s

     that are swept away in a riddle too deep for knowing.

Our whole life is like that playground

     and on this dread-filled Friday we pause before

          the terrible silencing we cannot master.

 

So we come in our helpless candor this day…

     remembering, giving thanks, celebrating…

     but not for one instant unmindful of dangers too ominous

     and powers too sturdy and threats well beyond us.

 

We turn eventually from our hurt for children lost.

We turn finally from all our unresolved losses

     to the cosmic grief as the loss of Jesus.

We recall and relive that wrenching Friday

     when the hurt cut to your heart.

We see in that terrible hurt, our losses

     and your full embrace of loss and defeat.

 

We dare pray while the darkness descends

     and the earthquake trembles,

     we dare pray for eyes to see fully

          and mouths to speak fully the power of death all around,

     we dare pray for a capacity to notice unflinching

          that in our happy playgrounds other children die,

               and grow silent,

     we pray more for your notice and your promise

          and your healing.

 

Our only urging on Friday is that you live this as we must

     impacted but not destroyed,

     dimmed but not quenched.

For your great staying power

     and your promise of newness we praise you.

It is in your power

     and your promise that we take our stand this day.

We dare trust that Friday is never the last day,

     so we watch for the new day of life.

Hear our prayer and be your full self toward us.

Amen.

-From Walter Brueggemann’s collection of prayers, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth

A Christmas Prayer

Dear Lord

On this special day we pray for peace
Not an ordinary peace for an unordinary time
But a peace born of the Spirit
Separating us from the false adoration of the season
Based on self-love, greed, and seeming care for others.

We ask for deliverance from the spirit of consumerism
That blinds us to the true spirit of Jesus
Who allowed Himself to be given to the world
First as a babe, then as a lamb to atone for the sin
He did not bring into the world.

Give us the insight to understand that all the Legos,
TVs, and other consumer goods in the world mean
Nothing in the eyes of God
As the birth of His Son was never intended to be an occasion
Of self-gratification (it’s not our birthday, but Jesus’).

We pray for strength to reach out to others as did Jesus
To feed, heal, bless, and uplift others 
Who have lost the vision and hope of a better world
A world based on dignity and love for our neighbors
Desperately needing a reason to carry on.

Quiet our hearts O Father, that we may hear you
Still our anxieties that we may share Your love
Banish our feeble, misguided understandings of
Your plan for humanity
That we may prepare to live with You forever.

Amen

Chris Thompson
December 25, 2021

It’s Advent…must be a conspiracy!

Has Advent & Christmas become an un-Christian burden?

It’s hard to believe it’s the season of Advent once more. Starting today, November 28, it marks the beginning of the church year, and leads up to the second-most important Christian holiday, Christmas; the first being Easter.

Celebrated by the Western Church since the 4th or 5th century, it has grown in practice to incorporate activities not envisioned by the early church fathers. Take for example the sale of Advent Calendars which now embrace almost everything the heart could desire. Yep, growing from their 19th century origin via German Lutherans, marking the days with special calendars until Christmas, they have grown to be a spendy little pre-Christmas tradition of their own.

Now anyone can celebrate Advent by purchasing spendy Advent calendars featuring
beauty items, candy, kids toys (think Legos), wine, liquor, and almost anything ones heart desires. This has become so much like Christmas, as anybody can celebrate it without out believing in it.

The folks at Advent Conspiracy have wonderful tools to direct us all to a better way to lead us to Advent and Christmas celebrations that are totally Christ focused. They challenge us to “Make Room for Jesus”. It’s not your Advent we are honoring, it’s Jesus’.

ct

2021 Hunger Print Now Available – Don’t Delay!

The 2021 print is titled “Friends in Christ” and measures 7 3/8” X 6 1/4”. The cost of this year’s print is $30. Prints are available for pick-up at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 8427 Jewel Lake Road, Anchorage, AK during office hours Monday – Friday 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Phone: 907-243-2301. Correct change is appreciated or checks made payable to Gloria Dei Hunger Prints. A variety of prints from previous years are also available . They are also available in the church office.

Backstory
In 1979, Anchorage artist Marianne Wieland attended a Bible study at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church where Pastor Rick Halvorson spoke about world hunger. In an effort to make a difference, the first of what was to become known as the “hunger prints” was created.The embossed prints, hand produced in her studio with the help of volunteers, follow a different biblical theme each year. The entire proceeds of these yearly prints are designated to hunger projects both locally and worldwide. The money raised through 2020 has totaled nearly $300,000.

I’ve collected a number of years of these prints. These prints make wonderful spiritual pieces for your home, and thoughtful gifts for Christmas and other special occasions during the year. Type Wieland in the search window to see other prints and past writeups of this meaningful ministry.

Thank you Marianne for your service to mankind!

ct

He is Risen! Risen Indeed!

what is easter, easter meaning

As Christians celebrate Easter, it’s important to remember that Easter is the fundamental truth upon which Christianity rests. As such, we Christians should be Easter Christians daily, and not rest upon one day a year to celebrate our hope and salvation. Many have suffered losses worldwide during the Covid pandemic, especially losses of loved ones. Our strength lies in the blessed hope we shall see them once again in the earth made new, and Easter emboldens that hope.

At Easter time, I perennially share the beautiful N.T. Wright quote from his book “Surprised by Hope” for it inspires a true re-examination of the way we celebrate Easter.

“Easter week itself ought not to be the time when all the clergy sigh with relief and go on holiday,” Wright says, “It ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom?”

A beautiful poem, Easter Us, by renowned Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann is attached. Click here to view.

Blessings to all this glorious Easter!

ct

Good Friday – 2021 – Time to Reflect


It’s Covid Good Friday again. So many of us have been through the terrible scourge of pain, deprivation, lack of family contact, death of friends, and all the other disturbances that have marked our year plus of Covid. As we journey through Good Friday, it is important to reminisce about the terrible exile we’ve endured this past year as we contemplate the exile from the Father Jesus endured on our behalf.

Exile
(Poem by Walter Brueggemann from Prayers for a Privileged People)

Like the ancients, we know about ashes,
and smoldering ruins,
and collapse of dreams,
and loss of treasure,
and failed faith,
and dislocation,
and anxiety, and anger, and self-pity.
For we have watched the certitude and
entitlements
of our world evaporate.

Like the ancients, we are a
mix of perpetrators,
knowing that we have brought this on
ourselves, and a
mix of victims,
assaulted by others who rage against us.

Like the ancients, we weep in honesty
at a world lost
and the dread silence of your absence.
We know and keep busy in denial,
but we know.

Like the ancients, we refuse the ashes,
and watch for newness.
Like them, we ask,
“Can these bones live?”

Like the ancients, we ask,
“Is the hand of the Lord shortened,
that the Lord cannot save?”

Like the ancients, we ask,
“Will you at this time restore what was?”

And then we wait:
We wait through the crackling of fire,
the smash of buildings,
and the mounting body count,
and the failed fabric of
medicine and justice and education.
We wait in a land of strangeness,
but there we sing, songs of sadness,
songs of absence,
belatedly songs of praise,
acts of hope,
gestures of Easter,
gifts you have yet to give.

Paperback

Kindle

Great Pandemic Read for Christians & Free Class!

This powerful book by noted biblical scholar N.T. Wright, offers help for Christians thinking through their reactions and responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. By reflecting on scripture, prayer, and teaching from Jesus’ life, Wright offers help for Christians to think differently about disaster and their reaction to it. Unfortunately, the pandemic has divided many Christians and pulled them out of the arc of their spiritual progress.

Studying this book can help you answer these questions:

  • What should be the Christian response?
  • How should we think about God?
  • How do we live in the present?
  • Why should we lament?
  • What should we learn about ourselves?
  • How do we recover?

Free Zoom study class of God and the Pandemic
I am prepared to lead a class in a study of this wonderful volume. If you would like to study this slim book in a group format using Zoom remote meeting software, email your name and phone number to me at churchvisits@gmail.com. You will receive confirmation, study dates, and access information. If you do not have a copy of this valuable book, you can order it in Amazon Kindle or Paperback form. Links to do so are provided below. Just click on the format you would like. You will need the book in order to start the class.

Paperback Version

I look forward to this journey together!

ct

Kindle Version

Twitter Users Post “Give-ups” for Lent 2021-How Do You Compare?

source: https://www.openbible.info/labs/lent-tracker/2021

It’s always intriguing to view what Twitter users report what they are giving up for Lent each year. To my way of thinking, it’s foolish to think of giving up so many of these popular items as a way of penance and focusing on a Lenten journey. Many conflate Lenten give-ups with doing right for the sake of a spiritual experience.

For example, what good does it do to give up lying, hate, smoking, stress, sleep, power, and junk for the 40 days of Lent, when you will likely resume them after Easter.

The entire list of give ups is HERE, thanks to the Open Bible folks.

One rarely hears of taking up a new, encouraging habit during Lent, but my attention was drawn to one denomination’s practice which gives Lent a refreshing direction.

UMC Photo-a-Day
The United Methodist Church (UMC) has created a daily photo. Their website describes this project.

“Will you join this photo-a-day challenge and share with the community how you perceive each word of the day? No explanation needed. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. Tag us on your Instagram or on Twitter with #rethinkchurch. 

You don’t have to be a great photographer. This project is more about the practice of paying attention and being intentional. If you don’t have Instagram or Twitter, we’d still love for you to share your photos. Just share them on your Facebook page and tag us, or post them on our Facebook wall, in the comment section for each day.

Need a daily reminder? We’ll share them every morning on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Let’s start this 40-day journey together, sharing glimpses of our lives with one another. Let this be an intentional time, even for a few minutes a day, to pause, remember and reflect.

https://www.umc.org/en/content/lent-photo-a-day-2021

I applaud this approach and look forward to seeing what results from it.

ct