What is heresy?

Formally defined, heresy is anything contrary to orthodox teaching.  That leads to a question on what orthodox teaching is…which depends on which denominational body you are talking to.  And some may even be reluctant to use the word ‘heresy’, being more comfortable in the land of mystery.  (I’ll let you guess which one sounds more like our denomination!)  We all want to understand how God works, why things happen, and what we need to do.  The challenge is to live into these questions leaving space for mystery and movement.  Living things don’t do well in tight containers- how can we make space for our faith to thrive? – Pastor Trudy Stoffel

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 What is the origin of Pentecost?

Pentecost comes on the 50th day after Easter. Knowing Greek root words can help you to parse out the ‘pente’!  Like many Christian holidays, its roots are in another tradition, in this case, the festival of Shavuot occurred 50 days after the sheaf offering that occurred during the Passover.  Even for Jewish people the holiday had evolved to be a celebration of the giving of the law.  Now we celebrate it as the birthday of the church, but that doesn’t fully capture what it can mean to us today.  The Spirit continues to move, and we are moved by and with it.  Maybe we could go back to the idea of it being a day of offering, offering ourselves to the continued movement and work of the Holy Spirit. – Pastor Trudy Stoffel

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How do we celebrate Mothers’ Day (or Father’s Day) at church?

Neither of these holidays has any real connection to church or worship and as I get older, I encounter more and more reasons to be thoughtful about how we acknowledge these days.  I remember being told by one woman that she avoided coming to church on Mother’s Day for complicated reasons. The very good news is that we have a Gospel that can bridge the tensions and challenges we face on days like this.  This means that we will celebrate mothers and those who have provided motherly care (even if they were never mothers) AND name the pain of those who wanted to be mothers but could not AND name the sometimes conflicting feelings moms have about their own parenting AND name the challenges of those whose mothers were absent or abusive.   All of these experiences and more will be present this Sunday in worship and I am confident that the Gospel will have a message of encouragement to us, wherever we find ourselves.  – Pastor Trudy Stoffel

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When the resurrection comes, will we see our family and friends…and will we recognize them?

It doesn’t sound very heavenly if we aren’t with the people we love and miss, does it?  No single scripture tells us exactly what we can expect, so we have to do some imagining.  I think about people who travel to the country their family immigrated from, even if they’ve never lived there, they often describe a deep connection to the place and people there.  I imagine heaven being like that.  Revelation 21 describes a world with no more crying, and no more pain.  1 Thessalonians 4 describes a great cloud where we meet those who have died in the resurrection.  In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul describes that our bodies will be transformed.  The Gospel of John describes a dwelling place with many rooms.  When we put all of these together, it seems like our connections are deeper than the bodies we currently inhabit and when we have completed our earthly journey,  we will feel connected and like we are home.

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Why did Paul’s letters become such an important part of our scriptures?  Who put him in charge?

Paul was a well educated Roman citizen in addition to being a faithful Jew.  This allowed him to travel freely and to be able to communicate in many more places than Jesus’ other disciples.  This led him to plant/start many churches.  It was natural for them to reach out to him for support and advice, which he gave through actual letters.  We read them because it is the first record of how diverse groups of people can find common ground in Jesus.  Still, he was writing to particular communities with particular challenges.  We have to do our work to discover which parts of the letters speak to our churches today, and which parts need to be understood in their context. – Pastor Trudy Stoffel

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Why does the message about Jesus cause trouble?

It doesn’t cause trouble for everyone.  When Jesus proclaims that the poor in Spirit are blessed, that the peacemakers are blessed, that the grieving are blessed, it is very good news for those who are struggling.  But for those who have come to believe that the things they have are the sign of their blessing or that they are blessed by good things happening, it causes some discomfort.  But when you boldly say that death doesn’t have any power any more, then you have stepped into an entirely new way of being in the world. – Pastor Trudy Stoffel

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Are there solar eclipses in the Bible?

There are mentions of the sun turning black, or being darkened, in scripture. Today, we might identify these events as eclipses. There are references in Matthew, Acts, Isaiah, and more! These descriptions are part of a warning or an omen; eclipses, in ancient literature, are often warning signs. Unfortunately, very few people had eclipse glasses back then, so the warning sign probably resulted in lots of eye damage. – Vicar Aaron Musser

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What is “Ascension”?

We are reading the Ascension texts this coming week (Acts 1:1-14): Jesus tasks the disciples with their mission, and “Ascends” into the clouds. This doesn’t mean that Jesus is no longer present, however. In the story, the disciples look up where Jesus ascended; two people “in white robes” (angels?) appear, asking why they are looking up and not around? The point is: Jesus doesn’t go away in the Ascension; he becomes more immanently present in more mysterious ways.

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