Nativity’s Ambiguous Might

Might stands unassailable, secure and steadfast.

 Might inquires softly, Might this baby be the promised Messiah?

 Asked against the backdrop of Imperial Rome, where Might was measured in iron and blood and dominion, baby-jesus-sleeping-763x1024-1it’s a fair question. For where, in the dim light of a short-wick lamp; where, in hastily torn strips of cloth; where, amidst the snorts and smells of ox and ass is to be found he who shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace?

It seems we sought a prince only to find a paradox.

The passing of two millennia leaves that paradox seemingly unresolved. Might is still weighed in iron and blood and smart bombs and suicide vests. Weapons of mass destruction and the accumulation of unimaginable wealth define empire strength.

If Might is to measured thus, it will not to be found in a stable-born, homeless Rabbi wandering the fields and villages of Galilee and Samaria. On the other hand, is this the true measure of Might? After all, to what sort of place has this lusty Might brought us?

Has Might once again steered us to a place of ruthless empire? Do we softly inquire: Might there be a better place? Might there be a truly everlasting abode of wonder and peace? If so, then we must revisit the stable of short-wick light and flickering shadow. We must listen with newly opened ears to the wandering Rabbi. We must pick up and examine the paradox of the first being last and the last first. We must receive the ambiguity of servant greatness. To be mature and wise we must emulate the children, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.

 Look not for that wandering Rabbi on magazine covers, or on cable news shows. He’ll not be found behind a grand desk, polished and sleek. He’s not dwelling on a grand estate. Don’t look for him wearing a uniform with shiny brass buttons, nor in flickering facts on computer screens. AND, DON’T EVEN bother with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  

Look instead on the faces that Might has forgotten. Look into the eyes of lonely strangers, street dwellers, those stricken in body, mind, and soul. Seek him among the ragged people. Pursue him in the shadows of shame, disappointment, abuse, and despair. Look closely among the least of these. And as the day draws near, look especially for a child, a particular child, a child of ambiguous Might.

Ask then:

What child is this

Who is so blessed he changes all tomorrows?

Replacing tears with reborn years

In hearts once dark and hollow…

 May the Peace of this Mighty Child be with you,

Pastor Mike Hubbard

50 Participants from the Cascades Inspired at Youth Triennium

Here is a brief description of their experience

by Paulette Mixon-Weller


Saturday night the delegation from Cascades Presbytery returned from Triennium. We had started our journey as 10 separate congregations and ended as a united group ready to stay connected forever. Laura Gillooly and Paulette Mixon-Weller co-led our delegation. Cascades was represented by 11 adult advisors and 39 youth, and the Stebe family and Vik Schaaf were small group leaders. The theme this year was “Here’s My Heart” from the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. About 5,000 youth and 2,000 leaders worshipped, played and met in small groups at Purdue University. The weather was hot and humid, but the energy was high and exciting. We heard amazing speakers and sang beautiful songs. During worship a drama group would make the Scripture come to life. Many hearts were turned toward God and to each other.

It was like a PCUSA mecca. Personally I ran into seminary friends and even a woman I had led a mission trip with 20 years ago. I learned all about the Matthew 25 Movement and how together as Christians we can make a difference with social action.


Holy Week Blog Series

from Apocalypso Now Blog by Brian Marsh, Pastor – Moreland Presbyterian Church, Portland

 droplets (Maundy Thursday)

what did it feel
like to know Your
end was so near?
how did You deal
with betrayal from those
You held most dear?
why did You kneel
at table, in garden
not fleeing Your fear?




(‘Gethsemene’ © J. Kirk Richards)

droplets - gethsemene - j kirk richards

lament (Good Friday)

so many hearts
laden with cancers
longing for answers
so many hopes
deferred by circumstances
destroyed by consequences
so much hurting
endured without reason
regardless of season
so much healing
too blithely concealed
to be revealed







buried (not-so-good Friday)

where did i leave
my Heart of hearts
my deepest Self?
in the cupboard
of compromised convictions?
on the dresser
of divided dedications?
under the rug
of repressed recriminations?
or is it
still with(in) me
buried in numbing narcissism?


(‘buried alive’ © Mariola Weiss)


paradoxical (Holy Saturday)

underwhelming slumber
awakening again
overwhelming thunder
rumbling through my brain
dreaming of the sunshine
despairing in the rain
imagining the pleasure
abiding in the pain
pretending to be peaceful
but feeling more insane
and questioning if loss
paradoxically is gain.

(‘Silence’ © Johann Heinrich Füssli)

paradoxical - Johann_Heinrich_Füssli_-_Silence_-_WGA08336 


hanging about (less-than-holy Saturday)

what does one do
when life as one
knows it is
about to end?
how does one try
to explain such betrayal
to one’s best
and closest friend?
does one hang
their hopes
on Love
or hang
in fear?

(‘Judas Iscariot’ © Peter Brandes)

hanging - Peter_Brandes__Judas_Iscariot_uofwng

Resurrection (Easter)

when the men
turned and fled
befuddled and bereft
they never left
when the body
disappeared and shiny
scary-looking men appeared
they didn’t fear
when they shared
the good news
the men resisted
they faithfully persisted

the women
didn’t only bear
witness to 
the Resurrection

they ARE
a Resurrection


The Women At the Tomb - Sr Mary Stephen

apocalypso now blog link




Of Valentine’s Day, Holy Communion, gun control and potlucks: Prayer, Scripture, service and the Community of Pilgrims Presbyterian Fellowship

by Brett Webb-Mitchell

Published in the Presbyterian Outlook on February 22, 2019

Spread before us on a table in Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church’s fellowship hall were 50 white paper lunch bags, embellished with displays of red, pink and sparkling hearts. Our group, Community of Pilgrims Presbyterian Fellowship, met on a Sunday afternoon before Valentine’s Day for a combined time of worship and a service project. Into each bag we placed a decorated pencil, a large bright eraser, chocolate candy, a small bouncing ball and other odds and ends that young students would enjoy. After we stuffed each bag with fun materials, on red paper hearts pasted on white doilies we hand-wrote “Happy Valentine’s Day!” and placed one card into each bag. The festive bags went to students at Markham Elementary in Portland, Oregon, a school with children from many different races, ethnicities and nationalities. This was our way of letting the children know that they are loved. Weeks later, we heard from one of the school volunteers that the children were delighted and enjoyed these bags of goodies.

What made this Valentine’s Day bag project unusual was that it was part of worship of the Community of Pilgrims. After we finished packing the bags (our sermon that week), we continued our worship together, recalling the story we read earlier in the afternoon. Simon’s mother-in-law, who was ill and healed by Jesus, turned around and miraculously served Jesus and the disciples (Mark 1:29-34). After discussing the story in light of our service project, we continued with Holy Communion around the tables, which, minutes earlier, had been covered with Valentine bags. We concluded our time together with our festive weekly potluck. With a simple charge given – to serve others as we would wish to be served – we sang our closing hymn, shared a blessing and went home, back into the community, reminded of how the Spirit calls us to serve others as we walk our daily pilgrimage, following Jesus, the Pilgrim God.

In September 2017, 30 people gathered to begin regular weekly meetings in the small chapel at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church in Portland. The new Community of Pilgrims Presbyterian Fellowship, one of the 1001 New Worshipping Communities imitative, is sponsored by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Mission Agency and the Presbytery of the Cascades in Oregon. Our motto is simple: “Following Jesus, embracing all.” After all, the earliest Christians were called people of “the Way” (Acts 9:2), following Jesus, who called himself the “way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). We believe we are still called daily to be on a pilgrimage with God as people of “the Way,” following Jesus as a community of faith, doing justice, loving kindness and moving humbly with our Pilgrim God (Micah 6:8), wherever that may lead us. Because of this higher calling, we reach out, welcome, include and embrace all others whom we meet along the way, inviting them to join us on this journey of faith. Led by an openly gay pastor, we welcome all: those who are LGBTQI and straight allies; people from both the hearing and deaf communities; people from all socioeconomic and educational backgrounds; people of all ages; people of all races, ethnicities and nationalities; those who are single as well as those from various family configurations (biological, adopted and chosen); and those who self-identify as people who are able-bodied or with a disability. Along the Way we strive to create and be a faith community where everyone is engaged in individual and communal acts of service, worship, prayer and the study of Scripture. In terms of service, each member of the community spends at least an hour a week in voluntary service somewhere in the Portland area. Some volunteer at Outside In, a 24-hour shelter for young people (ages 17-24) who are homeless, many of whom are LGBTQ; others work at Neighborhood House, providing food for the hungry; still others knit prayer shawls; and one participant joins a weekly street protest for justice in Portland. We gathered Christmas gifts for families in need at Stephen’s Creek Crossing residential complex and Outside In. Our dedication to service involves the entire faith community, and we periodically substitute a communal service project for a sermon. As a group we wrote letters in support of clean air in Oregon and to Dick’s Sporting Goods and Wal-Mart in support of gun control, along with a letter in solidarity with the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. We have packed meals for homeless shelters, and along with Valentine’s Day bags, we made “spring bags” for persons living in adult foster care facilities in Portland.

In terms of prayer, worship and study of Scripture, on Sunday afternoons we gather together and begin with an opening hymn, check in with each member of the community and participate in a community-building activity, aware that creating and living in healthy, healing relationships lies at the core of who and whose we are. We have an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter who makes it possible for all to participate. Next, we move to a time of worship and prayer. After reading Scripture together in unison, one of the pastors in the community preaches a short homily that is then opened up with a question posed by the pastor for the community to respond to. This is followed by a time of shared prayers of concern and celebration, ending with the Lord’s Prayer in ASL. Central to our worship is sharing Holy Communion together weekly, which is followed by a delicious potluck. It has been amazing to see how the unstructured nature of the potluck gives people time to follow up on a sermon topic, discuss the news in one’s family or engage in a conversation regarding a current event. At the end of the meal, following the singing together of one more hymn, a charge is given, and then a blessing and we are off to wherever the Spirit leads, accompanied by Jesus Christ, the Pilgrim God, who walks with us on our pilgrimage of faith in the world.

Brett Webb-Mitchell is the organizing pastor of the Community of Pilgrims Presbyterian Fellowship, a 1001 New Worshipping Community, located at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church’s Chapel in Portland, Oregon.  He is also the LGBTQ+ advocacy coordinator for the OR-ID United Methodist Church Conference, based in Portland.

The Journey to Solitude

By Ken Evers-Hood

I wrote this piece remembering a time when I left home for school (something I had wanted for so long) and suddenly realized one afternoon how utterly alone I was…and now know I was brushing up against real loneliness for the first time. I think of that moment now as a gift- a hard gift.

“To allow ourselves to feel fully alone is to allow ourselves to understand the particular nature of our solitary incarnation, to make aloneness a friend is to apprentice ourselves to the foundation from which we make our invitation to others.” -David Whyte


The Journey to Solitude

You had wanted this for so long.
To be free. To be on your own.
And then suddenly you’ve arrived
at the place you always
thought you wanted
and for the first time
feel the heavy
weight of your

You walk out into the world but there is
no one to call. You are a stranger
in this place. And for the briefest
moment you think about giving
up and returning the way
you came. But you stand
still in the cooling street
seeing the city soaring
around you in the haze
of falling light. And begin
to ease into your

With no one to push you, no voices to distract
you, your mind begins to stretch its legs
wandering into unexplored territory.
Your heart starts to beat to a new,
strange rhythm you have only overheard
in dreams. Possibilities teem.
New thoughts emerge. Fecund
vistas open before you
as you begin
to befriend your

No one can save us from ourselves.
If we cannot abide our own company why would we imagine others could somehow absolve us of our anxiousness? Avoid the crowds. Turn down
the drink. No more numbing.
Sink into silence. Enter through
the door of your aloneness
and begin the journey
of a lifetime without
moving an inch- crossing
the bar from
loneliness to

Give Generously and Receive Graciously

From Mark Olsen, Pastor of Chapel by the Sea, Lincoln City, Oregon

The following Scripture from the book of James hit my soul this week. James, as he describes the consistent nature of God, helped me to look beyond what I’ve been feeling (tired, frustrated and in pain from my recent knee operation) and see the generous acts of your giving through the perfect gift of God’s love.
“Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)
God is consistent. God doesn’t have good and bad days. We are human, we are affected by what goes on around us. Our moods change with the seasons or a full moon. We are prone to be selfish, and self-absorbed. We get tired, bored, and anxious and act accordingly. When we are cold or hot, full or hungry, lonely or the life of the party, the way we react to world around us changes by the way we feel. God gave humans feelings that change by what is going on around them. We are not consistent with our gifts of love and yet God is. If feelings affect us in such a way how is it that we can ever live up to God’s desire for us to love others as we are loved? How can we share God’s love when we are not in the mood? How can we share God’s love when we’re cold or hungry? How can we share God’s love when we’re anxious, scared, or mad? Yet that is what we are asked to do.
Give generously and receive graciously that is what we are to do. Give to others your friendship when you feel like you have no friends. Give food when you are hungry. Give a blanket when you are cold. Give healing to those who are hurting. It is in our giving that we can share in the perfect gift from above. Yes, we are humans and our bodies will wear out. Yes, we are humans and we all have our moods. Yes, we are humans and we are tempted to be selfish. Yes, give the gift of love to others and participate in the consistent love of God. And yet we may not be able to give so how do we then share God’s love? Receive God’s perfect love with a grateful heart, that is what we do! When you feel like you can’t give then open yourself to receive from others the perfect gift of love.
Whether we give or receive it is to God that we must look and put our trust. So, I along with the rest of us must be willing to give God’s love when I can and be willing to receive God’s love when I can’t. We must not let our feelings get the best of us for feelings are temporary. Know that God’s love is consistent, having no variation or shadow due to change.
“Be of love more careful, than everything” (E. E. Commings)
In the grace and peace of our Lord, Jesus Christ,
Pastor Mark

“Tell me what hurts me.”

From John Neal – John Knox Keiser

John’s Jottings 

There was an old Hasidic rabbi, who said that he discovered the meaning to life while listening to two peasants arguing in a Polish tavern.

Each was protesting how much he loved the other, when Ivan said to Peter, “Tell me what hurts me?” Peter looked at Ivan and said: “How can I know what hurts you?” Ivan’s answer was swift and very profound, “If you don’t know what hurts me, how can you say that you love me?” Yes, often that is precisely what real love is often about. I am very confident that our God knows what hurts us and that our real friends do also. When we are in the midst of suffering and pain, I am sure that God not only understands but is also very close offering us comfort and even help.

Sometimes there are people who ask me why we spend so much time in the worship service at JKPC sharing our joys and concerns. I believe that our reason for this part of the worship service is that it allows us to really model how we care about each other and about other people and events. “If you don’t know what hurts me then how can you say that you know me and love me?” I trust that you are praying not only for individuals.

I trust that you are praying for community-wide issues, national issues and even global issues. As JKPC moves closer to achieving our dreams, we need to be praying that we will have a vision for ministry that will match the wonders that happened in the past. I hope that recent national and wider issues make it clear how very important it is to stay connected. Hope to see you in worship.

In Christ,

Dr. John




“Easter People” from Mark Olsen Chapel by the Sea, Lincoln City


Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed!
Easter, the holiday, is over but not its transformational power in our daily lives. Easter was the day the disciples began to tell the good news of Jesus’s resurrection. The disciples had the advantage of seeing the resurrected living Jesus in a body that should have been dead. They had the advantage of exploring the truth of resurrection. They looked, they heard, they touched and then believed. Their faith led them to proclaim, “My Lord and my God.” Their trust in what they witnessed overflowed into everything they did. They went out to the ends of the world sharing with all they encountered the love of God through the good news of resurrection. They could not stop themselves from sharing with others the Kingdom of God they now understood and abided in. Two thousand years later the good news continues to be shared by those who have encountered the Love of God through the reality of the resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit as it gave birth to the living church.
As a church we remind each other of the good news of Easter even though we walk in a world that fears death, sickness, poverty and loss. As a church we come together to worship God and to celebrate the sacraments. As a church we pool our resources to reach out to those in need of shelter, food, healing and forgiveness. As a church we come together to hear and study the teachings of God (through Scriptures, preaching, singing and prayer). As a church we come together for encouragement, hope and love. The church is so much more than a building. We are more than the number of people we fellowship with on Sunday. We, as the church, are the Spirit of God blowing through the world with the good news of Easter.
We are Easter people. We are a people with a story to tell. We are the church and we have God’s love to give.
Pastor Mark

Being “Jesusy” out in the World

geordiefrom Adult Ministries at Columbia Presbyterian, Vancouver

  by Geordie Ziegler associate Pastor

Each week I gather with a group of folks who together are seeking to intentionally “learn more from Jesus how to live.” There are a lot of layers to that statement, but one of the main things we are trying to build into our lives are ways to be more “Jesusy” out in the world, and to do that together, and to do that across generations.    So last week, after sharing a simple meal together which we do each week, we took a field trip. Our group of 13 adults and 3 kids split up into 6 smaller groups (2 adults or 2 adults + 1 kid), got in our cars, and headed out onto the highways and byways. The assignment was simple: go somewhere where there are people and encourage someone in the name of Jesus. Jesus’ name didn’t need to be mentioned, but if he came up somehow, that’s great, too.  But mainly, look for a way to love, bless, or encourage someone. Try to have at least one meaningful conversation. You’ve got 45 minutes to get back here.  Go!  And so we scattered–to Home Depot, Walmart, Dairy Queen, Tropical Smoothie, Whole Foods, Lowes…. Here are some reports from the field….

One from our Group: We went to Lowes and had several positive and easy conversations. All it took to begin was a smile and a, “How are you doing tonight,” to get the conversation started.  Talked to a mother of three with her kids and husband.  She way very pregnant and said they were trying to wear the kids out by walking through the stores so they would sleep because the baby was due at any time, perhaps that night.  We wished her well with her kids, husband, and new baby.

Another from our Group: Simply going into Natural Grocers with the intent of being kind and blessing someone with Christ’s love allowed us to have our eyes wide open to Son, the only visible worker that evening. She immediately responded to our simple questions and opened up easily. Both of us sense we made a connection, and look forward to going in to see her on her future shifts (which she readily told us about :-). After leaving the store we noticed a man in the parking lot who looked like he was having car trouble and might be in need. As it was, he was in the very process of asking for prayer on Facebook (through a live feed) for a family member who had gone missing.

Recognizing that we were part of an answer to his prayers, we were able to join with him and pray for his need right then and there!

Another boy (age 13) was part of a group of three that went to Dairy Queen. After getting our ice creams, we started walking around downtown Camas, which was pretty deserted on a Sunday night. Then a man approached us and sort of nervously asked for some money for dinner. Since we had been praying God would show us some way to be a blessing to someone, we immediately invited him to walk with us back to Dairy Queen. After buying his meal and getting to know him a bit, we were able to say a brief prayer for him and encourage him that God had put us in one another’s paths this night. We drove away that night with a deep sense of being participants in God’s ministry in this world.

A couple days later, he felt emboldened to show his faith at school.  Another member of our group, a girl (age 12), attends the same middle school as Matthew and described the event: “This week all the middle schools gave kids the option of doing a walk out where people walk outside and acknowledged the 17 people who died in Florida last month. Some kids at my school prepared things like speeches to present in front of everyone who walked outside. This boy was one of those people. He stood in front of everyone and led us in prayer. All the speeches and moments of silence touched people, but he really moved everyone.”

45-minutes later we were back at the house standing around the kitchen and sharing stories of our little “field trip” adventures. What a blessing to experience in so short a time, in some small and some large ways, the truth that God wants to use us to be a blessing to others–and the way that blessing, loving, and caring for another person returns to us as a blessing to our own hearts and souls and the circle continues…