What Is Our Choice, Really? A Response to Sunday’s Sermon
a reflection by the Rev. Kate Wesch
By its very nature, a sermon is intended to be a conversation. It isn’t a speech or a lecture to be listened to and digested, given by an expert and heard by an audience. Rather, preaching and sermons are a conversation that happens over a period of time. It is the hope that this conversation between preachers and congregation is a lively one. The sermon response questions that have been printed in the back of the bulletin each week since Easter are yet another piece in this effort to prolong and spur the conversation.
And so, I am writing to continue the conversation Doyt began in his July 10 sermon entitled, “Choose: Death and Adversity or Love and Prosperity,” inspired by Deuteronomy 30:9–16. The sermon was authentic, and he spoke from the heart. It began by naming the victims of the previous week’s violence across our nation and focused on the identities and relationships of those men. We at Epiphany understand that relationship is primary, the loss of any life a tragedy, and so we mourn. The central message focused on ways in which we can mend and heal the dis-ease that exists in relationships, between neighbors, and in our nation as a whole. I won’t recount the sermon in its entirety because you can refer back to it here.
As I listened to the sermon, something didn’t quite sit right with me, and I didn’t know what it was until the last line. “And still we must choose. It is about us. Today God has set before us life and prosperity, and death and adversity. It is a choice.” We have a choice. We can choose between prosperity and adversity. We can choose between life and death. But, not everyone can choose, and that is the problem in our nation today. That is why people are marching. That is why people are crying out in frustration and despair. The freedom to choose comes with our privilege, and, if I may be so bold, I would say that the vast majority of us at Epiphany are people of privilege. I know I am.
I don’t worry about driving with a taillight out. I don’t worry about the police pulling me over. I don’t fear for the safety of my children in the same way that some of my friends do because of the color of their skin. I live in a privileged world in which I can choose life and prosperity, but I am painfully aware that it is not a universal choice. Alton Sterling did not have a choice. Philando Castile did not have a choice. And that, I believe, is where we are called as Christians. We are called to listen. We are called to be a voice for the voiceless. We are called to recognize our privilege and use it to evoke change until the system is remade and all are truly equal—until all do truly have the freedom to make a choice.
As I listened to the sermon, I couldn’t help but think about what we teach children about bullying. In a bully situation there are three parties involved: the bully, the victim, and the bystanders. Often, the victim is asked to stand up for themselves and challenge the bully, but that never works. The most effective way to end bullying is to educate and empower the bystanders to say something, to stop it, and to not allow it to happen anymore. Now, I’m not saying that any particular group of people are “the bullies.” Individual police officers may in fact be bullies, but they are individuals not stereotypes. Any individual has the capacity of being a bully.
We were bystanders while we were watching all the violence on the news last week. If we say relationship is primary, then we must act. We must form relationships with our neighbors who don’t look like us. We must stand up to bullies on behalf of the victims who aren’t in a position to make that choice or use their voice in the same offices, or buildings, or places that we are.
The choice as I see it is to use our privilege to choose life and prosperity not only for ourselves and our families, but for black lives, for the oppressed, the victimized, the marginalized, and all in society who are robbed of their ability to choose. The choice is whether or not we are willing to listen, to act, to love, to stand up to the bully and use our privilege to affect change.
Almost Thirty Years of Teen Feed
Teen Feed has been working with street youth for 29 years. It got its start when nurses at the University of Washington Medical Center noticed that many of the teens they treated suffered signs of malnutrition. They developed a meal program, and churches in the area opened their kitchens. Teen Feed has since grown into an organization offering not only meals, but case management, housing, and educational assistance. In 2015, 26,000 meals were provided, and over 900 youth received services.
The May 5 reflection in Forward Day by Day resonated with me as I gathered together my thoughts on Epiphany’s long involvement with Teen Feed. May 5 was Ascension Day, when Jesus went up into the clouds, and the disciples were caught staring heavenward. “We can stand around, waiting for Jesus to do all the work. Hungry people in the world? Jesus can feed them. Lonely souls lost and alone? Jesus can befriend them. Victims of injustice? Jesus can free them. Well, yes. Jesus does do these things. Through us.”
For as long as I can remember I have had this urge to feed people, so it probably comes as no surprise that Teen Feed is a special mission for me at Epiphany. When I read the reflection I thought of my loyal and dedicated band of volunteers who have been called into service. They have answered Christ’s call to “do things,” especially those things that may be out of their comfort zones, and they have done them with grace and compassion. They have also gain insights along the way. I know I have.
Epiphany has sent a meal team to Teen Feed since the early 1990s. Our mission is to prepare and serve dinner to 30–60 guests on the fourth Thursday of each month. We strive to offer a tasty, well-balanced meal served with respect and caring. I would say that for the majority of the team, homelessness is an alien concept. I am quite certain that I would not cope well with being hungry, scared, lonely, homeless, or any of the other many situations these young people face daily. So we watch and we learn. As the teens come through the dinner line, we have a brief opportunity to make a connection—to smile, banter, and joke about the lack of respect for green vegetables, the wonderful myriad of hair colors (purple!), the love of ranch dressing poured over everything, and if they would like extra sour cream and salsa on the side? Sometimes a voice will say, “Thank you, I haven’t eaten all day.” Then you realize the joy of heeding Christ’s call to serve and to be that witness. Epiphany does it with a cadre of amazing volunteers and plates of enchiladas! Amen.
—Ann Beck, Teen Feed Coordinator
It’s Time for the Fall Backpack Drive
September seems like it’s a long way off, but it’s time to start thinking about school supplies for teenagers at the YWCA! Every summer we collect backpacks and supplies for the residents at the E Cherry transitional housing facility who otherwise may not be able to afford what they need for the new school year. Our goal this year is to donate 60 fully loaded backpacks.
There is a full list of the supplies that will go in each backpack on our website here or you can download this flyer to print. Small groups may want to consider donating a few backpacks together. The due date for donations is August 21. When you decide what you will contribute, contact Ann McCurdy so she will know what’s coming.
Our Front Office Needs You!
We have been experimenting with a new format for our front office for the past year and have found it to be a success. Our front office has been open Monday and Friday mornings and Tuesday through Thursday from 9 am until 4 pm. We have been using a mixture of staff and volunteers to sit at the front desk, and their primary functions are to answer phone calls and attend to people who stop into the office for a variety of reasons. I am so thankful to our core group of volunteers: Mike Evans, Nancy Traina, Mary Jane Anderson, David Jones, and Mary Anne Howard. Some of them come as needed to fill in, and some have a regular weekly shift. Some days when you visit or call you will find a staff member: Judy Naegeli, Elizabeth Walker, Laura Sargent, or myself sitting at the desk. No matter who is sitting there, staff or volunteer, we know that you will get what you need whether by phone or in person.
We would like to expand our group of volunteers and are asking for your help. If you can take a shift most weeks (Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday mornings, or Thursday afternoons), would like to volunteer a few times per month, or would just like to volunteer as needed to fill in, all are needed and appreciated. We will be having a luncheon and training meeting for current and interested volunteers on August 10 at noon. Please contact me by email or by phone at 206-324-2573 if you are interested in signing up to volunteer or to RSVP for the luncheon.
—Diane Carlisle, Parish Administrator
Calling All Pokéman Trainers
This week my family discovered Pokémon Go, a new smartphone game that takes you around neighborhoods collecting virtual creatures. While playing in Madrona, we found that the Epiphany sign on Denny Way by the entrance to the church is a PokéStop—a place to restock on tools for the game. If you have visited the campus this week, you may have noticed the little PokéStop welcome station I’ve set up for neighborhood players of the game with a cooler of water and a sign. The Epiphany School statue on Denny Way is also a Stop.
If you and your family are currently playing, I wanted to let you know that I will be setting Lures at our PokéStop on Sunday during Fellowship Hour at 10 am and during Social Hour at 6 pm. You and your kids can run up and down the street between Stops catching Pokémon and having some coffee and lemonade. Some of our neighbors may come as well, so be sure to welcome them!
Parish Prayer List
Sunday Lectionary Corner
July 17, 2016
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Upcoming Events in the Life of Epiphany
This Week at Epiphany
July 15: Summer Concert Series – Your Favorite Friend
A Seattle-based soulful, driven, folk group, Your Favorite Friend plays songs to make you dance, sing along, and feel them feels! Judy Naegeli, your friendly Epiphany communications guru plays the bass in this band! Bring a picnic and enjoy some sun in the courtyard at 6:30 pm. RSVP on Facebook!
July 22: Summer Concert Series – The Onlies
Remember the musicians who were playing at the fall picnic in September? We’re bringing back The Onlies for a concert in the courtyard! Bring a picnic and enjoy some sun at 6:30 pm. RSVP on Facebook!
July 29: Summer Concert Series – Peter Benjamin Band
Slight change of plan to the lineup for the last summer concert of July. Peter Benjamin will bring his acoustic indie-rock show to the courtyard instead of DAD. Bring a picnic and enjoy some sun at 6:30 pm. RSVP on Facebook!
August 6: Flower Class
Love flowers but wondering what to actually do with them in a vase? Join Ann Kurtz in the Great Hall at 10 am to learn a straightforward process of creating a lush seasonal flower arrangement for your home. Cost is $40 for supplies. Bring a vase of your choosing and clippers. Space is limited, so contact Ann to reserve your spot.
August 6 & 7: The Annual Family Camping Trip
Join other Epiphany families for an overnight camping trip to Belfair State Park on the Hood Canal. There are adventures to be had—tide-pooling and kite-flying—as well as new friends to be made! Mark Rossow holds the reservation, so let him know if you’d like to come! Click here to download the flyer.
August 14: Music Guild Recital – Byron Schenkman and Friends
Pianist Byron Schenkman, along with flutist Joshua Romatowski and cellist Nathan Whittaker, will offer a recital of Classical and Neoclassical trios by Clementi, Haydn, and Martinu, featuring our newly acquired 1901 Hamburg Steinway piano. Join us at 6 pm in the Chapel. Find more information here.
August 27: Save the Date for the Annual MTS Princess Luncheon
The Mission to Seafarers-Seattle will be holding its annual celebration and fundraising luncheon on a Princess cruise shop. Guests will be welcomed on board with a cocktail reception and short presentation, followed by lunch and an auction. Read more and register here.