On Sunday, September 15, Paul Sanchez will be baptized. In our baptismal liturgy, we will welcome him, the newly baptized, saying:
We welcome you into the body of Christ and the mission we share:
join us in giving thanks and praise to God
and bearing God’s creative and redeeming word to all the world.
But this time, it feels like our roles are reversed. Even before his baptism, Paul is inviting and welcoming family and friends to Zion. In giving thanks and praise to God, he has enhanced our worship by including “The One Voice Community Choir” to sing in the worship. He has helped me to look anew at our baptized community of faith through the lens of joy. I asked Paul to share a comment about baptism for this article. Instead, he sent this beautiful confession of faith:
“As an openly gay man, the journey back to Church came with some serious hesitation. Some might argue that because of my sexuality I have no business attending Zion, or any other credible religious institution. But I had come to a point in my life where I needed, even craved change, and I felt the only impactful place to do that would be in a Church setting.
A quick Google search led me to a few other Churches in the valley, but when I came across Zion’s message of inclusiveness I felt like this could be the right place for me. Zion has made me feel valued as a person, and what I've learned on Sundays at Church has spilled over to daily scripture study and prayer throughout the week. Which in turn has allowed me to become a better version of myself that allows me to treat myself, and others better.
Because of this newfound joy and purpose in my life, there have been many transformative daily miracles in my life. I am now more at peace, I am calmer, my anxiety levels have dropped, I feel safe and protected, and am a much happier and content person. There was a deep-seated level of worthlessness that has all but disappeared. I feel connected to the source of abundance that I have never experienced before. Professing love and appreciation for the teachings of Christ isn't any-thing I expected to be doing in this lifetime... especially for someone with my background.
The impact of what is happening at Zion is truly remarkable, and something I didn't expect to see in my lifetime from any Religious Institution…when Pastor Steve says all are welcome he means it by his words and actions. I hope that others in my community, circle of friends and family are open to hear the words of hope I am gifted daily. I am excited to share with others that there is a safe place regardless of your sexual orientation where you can be lovingly welcomed in a community of faith in Jesus Christ.
Thank you so much for setting the stage where I would want to become baptized, for creating an environment where I can connect with God, and for the opportunity to join a Church that promotes messages of tolerance and acceptance. I thank God daily for Zion Lutheran Church.”
Paul, it is my privilege to be your pastor, even as it is my highest privilege to serve as the Pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church.
In and through Christ,
God’s Work. Our Hands. That is how we are known through our ELCA church body’s slogan. As slogans go, I love the image. The broken piece of bread placed on our hands in the Holy Meal is God’s holy work in us, transforming us to become the body of Christ. Our hands are the sign of God’s gracious presence in the world. As we say in Zion’s slogan, we are connecting through grace.
Summer is often a time to step back and give our hands a rest. Still, God continues to be at work and thankfully, our hands are not all resting at the same time. See how God is working through us in this month’s Sunday worship.
Sunday, August 4
God is working through the life-giving waters of baptism, for Eva Elizabeth Gebhard.
And, for those who gather at the Guinavah Unita-Wasatch-Cache-National Forest for Zion’s annual camping weekend, the Spirit is at work, calling us to open our hands in gratitude for God’s good creation.
Sunday, August 11
We will celebrate how God has been at work through our Vacation Bible School music camp, nurturing and teaching children, as well as encouraging the leadership gifts of our camp counselors.
On this Sunday, we will celebrate some of the music camp’s songs and stories.
Sunday, August 18
God will be at work as we welcome Rev. Monica Dobbins as our guest preacher. She is the Associate Pastor, First Unitarian of Salt Lake City. Pr. Monica recently led their youth in a trip through Alabama, exploring African American/slave history and civil rights landmarks. “Monsters in the Closet” is her sermon theme.
I hope you can join us for the forum, which follows worship, 11:15-12:15. We will roll up our sleeves to do the hard work of confronting the sin of racism. Pr. Monica suggests a subtitle for our forum:
“Moving Forward from Racial Terror in Alabama and Utah.”
Sunday, August 25
We pray the blessing of the Holy Spirit, to be at work among Sunday School teachers, helpers, and for faith coaches in Faith Formation Development (which used to be called “confirmation”). The installation of teachers will also call to mind God’s blessing with those who head back to school.
These are just a few of the ways God will be at work in our lives.
Remembering Christ’s saving work, speaking, “Peace be with you” --- and the blessing of our hands in worship, “Go in peace. Serve the Lord.”
Thanks be to God!
--Pastor Steve +
Prophets were notoriously humorless characters. You would never want Jeremiah, Obadiah, or Ezekiel at a party. But I have invited Jonah into our Sunday worship in July. Maybe it would be easier to swallow his message with some alleged humor, offered in the following story.
Mildred, the church gossip and self-appointed monitor of the church's morals, couldn’t keep from sticking her nose in other people's business. Most members did not approve of her vigilante activities but feared her enough to maintain their silence.
She made a mistake, however, when she accused Frank, a new member, of being an irresponsible drunk after she saw his old pickup parked in front of the town's only tavern one afternoon. She emphatically told Frank (and several others) that everyone who saw it there knew full well what he was doing.
Frank, a man of few words, merely listened, looked Mildred in the eye, turned and walked away.
He didn't explain, defend, or deny.
Later that evening, Frank quietly parked his pickup in front of Mildred's house... Walked home... And left it there all night.
In the person of Jonah the writer holds up a mirror in front of us and asks, “Do you by chance recognize yourself?”
Come and meet Jonah. Come and see yourself in this recalcitrant prophet. Come and explore God’s relationship with you in this twisting story. And, come and see God’s relentless compassion --- “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
CONNECTING THROUGH GRACE
We are a Reconciling in Christ community. All are welcome!
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Rocky Mountain Synod
ZION EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
1070 Foothill Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84108
Every Summer Sunday:
10 am Worship