Just a few things to let you all know what’s happening at church:
1). During the last month, we’ve been engaged in our stewardship campaign. And from what I hear, both in Temple Talks, and in conversations in our congregation, it’s been an exciting time. We’ve been talking as congregation about a shift in our understanding of stewardship, moving from what is called the “maintenance model” to a “transformation model.” The maintenance model presents stewardship primarily in terms of what a community needs to give in order to keep the church going–it’s budget focused. The transformational model presents stewardship as our on-going response to God, where our giving is seen in the context of faith in God and of our love of neighbor. Here giving is focused on ministry and mission; there’s a movement of generosity and joyous abandon in offering ourselves, our time, talents and financial gifts because we’ve fallen in love with God. That seems to be happening here. Stewardship Sunday is December 4th. We’ll be posting the Temple Talks here shortly.
2). We’ve had a wonderful experience with Katherine Shaner, who was with us for three weeks as guest preacher and presider while I was away. The congregation welcomed her with delight, and were fed by her outstanding preaching, her enthusiasm, and her tremendous witness. She is currently in the doctoral program at Harvard University, and we all hope she will pursue both callings as pastor and teacher in traditional Lutheran fashion, because as one of our members put it, “she’s a natural.”
3). Advent has begun, and with it, a number of people have said to me that the Christmas season depresses them. The church in its wisdom helps us with this, because observing Advent holds Christmas to Christmas. Advent gives one an excuse, if you need it, to stay away from wild Christmas rushes, from all the distressing advertising, from impulse spending, and over-committing. The lessons and themes of Advent invite us to reflection and repentance, to prayer and fasting, to anticiaption and waiting. They encourage us to open our eyes to the suffering of others, to keep awake, when everything around us encourages us to lose consciousness, and turn our faces from God and neighbor. Advent anticipation has a double focus: on Christ’s coming in glory at the end of time, and on Christ’s birth in history. Either focus pulls our attention away from the preoccupations of secular Christmas preparations. At a meeting last night, one of our members said: “you have to resist it, don’t go shopping, don’t go in a store, don’t listen to all the Christmas carols, turn off the television.” She was expressing what many of us feel–how can we get away from the craziness of Christmas? We were blessed this year by a baptism on the first Sunday of Advent, reminding us of our birth in Christ, of our vulnerability, and of the Lord who comes as child in need. Keep your hearts and minds on the Gospel, on grace and mercy, on forgiveness, on God’s gracious Word through Christ Jesus.
4) Birds sighted by your pastor in California: golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, white-tailed hawks, meadow larks, lazuli buntings in non-breeding colors, kestrels, merlins, barn owls (2), ravens (many), numerous other small birds, which I am still identifying, but the best of all was the sight of 2 species of pelicans (brown and white) diving for fish off the Marin headlands near the Golden Gate Bridge. If you ever go to Golden Gate park, the ravens are nearly tame. We got as close as six feet to one of them as he was perching on a fence post.

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