Dear people of Bethlehem,
The sun has once again returned to San Diego and with it our renewed joy. I pray that this letter finds you traveling, or planning a time of rest for yourself, or simply at the beach for a moment. A colleague of mine reminded me, that the sabbath comes immediately after the creation of human beings, because we are at our best when we rest to work, rather than work until we are exhausted and need rest. Summer is a wonderful time for the practice of sabbath keeping. Whether you choose an hour, a day, or a week to re-create your spirit and renew your soul, may it be a blessing for you.
Summer is also a time for Pride! Bethlehem will march with a number of other Lutheran congregations this year on Saturday, July 15th. If you have never marched Pride, I invite you to join us. It is a wonderful time of open, affirming, unbridled joy and a celebration of the diversity and breadth of God’s love. It is difficult to find the words to describe how many of us feel at Pride. For me perhaps, it is that I feel fully accepted and deeply human in a way that is not common on most other days. In a world that judges critically, Pride offers an alternative voice. It feels very much like standing in the expansive grace of God.
At the writing of this letter, we are also in the midst of Vacation Bible School. Our campus is overflowing with young children and faithful volunteers and rocket ships. It is both chaotic and joyous — just as a living church should be. Like Pride, it is a colorful, welcoming space where each person is loved, as they are, and for who they are. What an expression of God’s grace.
As I consider both of these, I am reminded of a story Pastor Alicia Saenz told me recently. Pastor Alicia is one of our newest pastors, having been ordained on June 10th. When she was young, growing up in Mexico, her family did not attend church. She watched her cousins go to first communion in their white dresses, and she wanted to do the same. So, seven year old Alicia borrowed her cousin’s first communion dress, put it on, and marched to the church, so that she too could be the recipient of God’s grace and love. She stood in line with the other children, but the priest stopped her, asked her name, and turned her away because she had not completed the classes. Pastor Alicia has not forgotten that walk home, and so she lives making certain that no other child, no other adult, feels the same. It is that same fire, still in her, that presses her to place that self same grace and love in the lives of others. To make certain that no one is turned away.
I can see that seven year old standing at the door, asking that such grace be bestowed upon her. And as I think about being a Reconciling in Christ congregation, who marches in Pride as a visible affirmation of our welcome, I am grateful. As I see young children come through our doors to Vacation Bible School, knowing that we might be their first experience of God’s love, I am grateful. Grateful that together we have forged a community that widely and unapologetically proclaims grace for all. A community that opens wide our doors in welcome, so that all might know the love of God.
If you know someone who needs that welcome, please invite them. If you are in a difficult season in your own life, where the light is hard to find, please come and join us. If you are in a joyous season of your life, please come and share your joy and gifts. Whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome. We need your tears and your joy. We need your wisdom and your energy. We can only be church together, and together we carry the grace and love of God. I am thankful that we share the journey.
Yours in Christ, Pastor Laura