The Beautiful and Bizarre Resurrection

Mary Magdalene Proclaims the Resurrection by Laura James

Kindred in Christ,

This year, Easter Sunday comes a little earlier than usual, and lands on the last day of Women’s History Month! This is totally appropriate, especially considering that the first evangelists and preachers of the resurrection were women (Luke 23:55-24:12). As depicted above, Mary Magdalene, and the other women disciples were not only the first ones to encounter the wonder of the empty tomb but were also the first to boldly proclaim to others that Christ is risen from the dead. Yet the male disciples did not believe them and regarded their statements as an “idle tail.”

The biblical Greek word translated into “idle tail” is lēros. Biblical scholars suggest that a saltier innuendo is meant by the word lēros. And in fact, the term is equal to calling something total BS!

Perhaps the other disciples were too sexist to trust the testimony of women. Perhaps the story was too bizarre to accept at first glance. Perhaps it seemed too good to be true. Like me, you may relate to all of these when first encountering the hope of the resurrection in our lives.

Rev. Dr. Thomas G. Long suggests that perhaps the other disciples’ initial resistance to the resurrection was because it would ask something big of them, and that freaks them out!

Long writes, “If they don’t accept the message, they can just call themselves alumni of Jesus’ school of religion. They can just call themselves students of an inspiring, moral, ethical teacher who had a tragic death. But if they accept the story that he is risen, then the story is far from over. In fact, it is just beginning, and their lives will change. And they will be sent out. And they will have to carry the message too. And there are some mixed feelings about that!”

Join us this Sunday at our new site, or on Facebook Live, as we encounter the beautiful and bizarre story of the resurrection and explore how it is calling us to share this message of hope with others!

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz

Palm Sunday: Jesus’ “Triumph”


Kindred in Christ,

I am thrilled to be able to gather again as one large group for worship this Sunday at our new location, and just in time for Holy Week! Like you, I have many hopeful anticipations of what this next chapter will be like for us as a congregation. Yet, as Palm Sunday reminds us, Jesus’ procession is a countercultural parade that is meant to challenge our preconceived notions of how we assume things should be and what success looks like.

Historically, the story we read on Palm Sunday (Luke 19:28-40), is referred to as “Jesus’ Triumphal Entry.” Yet I think we often miss the kind of triumph Jesus is inviting us into. We often want Jesus to pluck us out of the difficult and painful circumstances of our lives. Yet that is not what he does. Instead, he offers himself; all that he is and all that he has. He holds nothing back. Jesus redefines triumph through the life he lived and the death he offered. Where triumph for us might look like escaping vulnerability, risk, and suffering, triumph for Jesus means embodying a God who undergoes the risk, vulnerability, and suffering of a real human life. In Jesus, God enters the very places we would avoid and reveals God’s transformative presence, healing, and love.

So, as we celebrate our new site, and the new ministry opportunities with our host congregation, Green Lake UMC, may we also celebrate the God that is with us during all the changes and uncertainties along the way, as well. May we open ourselves up to following Jesus’ counter-cultural parade, which leads us through both the cross and resurrection, and reveals that we are never alone.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz

New Gathering Location Beginning Palm Sunday 3/24/24

We are excited to announce that beginning Palm Sunday, 3/24, Green Lake UMC’s building will be the new gathering site of U Gathering UMC! New Gathering times:10:30 AM joint coffee hour with GLUMC11:30 AM Worship We are excited for this strategic move that will allow us more building space, and usage throughout the week for community events and creative ministry. We are near enough to the U District to continue working with our longtime community partners, as well as make new connections within the Green Lake neighborhood. The congregation of Green Lake UMC is thrilled to welcome us, and explore intersections in our ministry work. See below a picture of both our trustee chairs signing the lease agreement!

Pictured: Jemina Marasigan, Larry Erickson, Pastor Paul Ortiz, and Ross Wolf

Unexpected Blessings

Kindred in Christ,

I have come to experience God in my life primarily through two modes—through the unexpected, and through other people. While planning predictable outcomes on my own can be helpful and needed, there is something about having to walk into the unknown and depend on others, which opens me up to new encounters with the Holy Spirit and holy community.

This season, after abruptly finding ourselves no longer able to host Sunday gatherings in the Masonic Lodge, we had to give up church as we know it for Lent. We were forced to walk into an unexpected wilderness. Yet, it is turning out to be a journey of greater creativity and community as we gather in people’s homes across the city for Brunch Church. As one of our members posted in our U Gathering Facebook Group this week, “I wanted to say I really enjoyed the ability to get to know people on a deeper level during the brunch church on Sunday! It was really nice having a meal and time to have longer conversations. I feel like this sudden space shake up has really been a blessing! I look forward to the next few weeks!” ~Jillian Pyle.

The Lenten season should never be about sacrifice—we are not asked to “sacrifice” something we like (coffee, social media, certain foods, etc.), so that our egos can feel superior. Rather, we are called to examine what might be getting in the way of true community and explore how we might find new ways to connect with God and others. As Jesus tells the Pharisees, while quoting the prophet Hosea, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” – Matthew 9:13.

This week we, as we gather again for Brunch Church, we will not only rely on the mercy and care of one another’s hospitality and cooking, but we will also create Sweet Cases for children who are part of Northwest Refugee Foster Care (more info below). In all of this, may we encounter and practice greater mercy, love, and community in the unexpected journey ahead.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz

Giving Up and Taking Up

I didn’t grow up observing Lent, nor did I even really know what it was for most of my life. The first time I heard of it was when my friend, Kristina, was dating a Catholic guy. I don’t think they were very serious, and when I asked her why they broke up, she responded, “he gave me up for Lent.” I’m not sure if this is true or not, but we all know someone who gave up something — be it coffee, chocolate, social media, or dating my friend — for Lent.

While I did not grow up familiar with this practice, I have come to find it meaningful to be part of Christian communities, like U Gathering, that observe the Lenten season in a more profound way. Many of us fast from something (give something up) or take on a practice or do both during Lent.

We don’t give things up because we think they are necessarily bad or immoral. Rather, we are given the opportunity to self-examine our relationships to things, and to discern which ones we have perhaps become too attached to or have given too much power over our lives. Thus, giving something up for a season allows us the spiritual space to discover it again in a healthier and more grounded way.

For us at U Gathering it may feel like we had to give up church as we know it for Lent. After abruptly finding ourselves no longer able to host Sunday gatherings in the Masonic Lodge, we had to give up a practice that was normal and grounding to many of our weekly rhythms—gathering and worshiping as one on Sunday mornings. And while we are in hopeful conversations for securing a new and better site by Easter, many of us feel the loss of what we gave up during this Lent. Yet the wisdom of Lent suggests that giving something up, even just for a season, leaves more room to find something new, that we may be made more fully alive in God than before.

For the next three Sundays 2/25, 3/3, 3/10 we will gather in new and creative ways in smaller groups across the city for Brunch Church! I am deeply thankful for the hospitality of those who have opened up their homes, as well as many others who are contributing and leading in new ways during this season. My prayer for you and our entire community is that in giving up church as we know it for Lent, we will also take on getting to know one another more intimately during this season. As we rely greater on one another’s gifts and hospitality, as we enter each other’s homes as well as deeper into each other’s company, may we learn fuller what it means to be the church. And when we do gather again as one big congregation in our new site, may it be from a more fully alive posture, after having gone through the journey of Lent together.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz