Breath Prayer

Kindred in Christ,

Last week we began a new sermon series titled, Serenity: Courage, Wisdom, and the Presence of God, which is all about how to deal with anxiety. We are looking at the book of Proverbs. But we’re not just looking at scripture cognitively, seeing how scripture understands anxiety and serenity. We are also pushing a little bit into the contemplative practice of prayer.

There’s a lot of smart people that can talk about these things, and that is great! But what does it mean to experience these things that we talk about?

One practice we explored last week is the simple Breath Prayer, which will be helpful this upcoming Sunday as we move into the second part of the Serenity Prayer—accepting the things we cannot change. You can create your own Breath Prayers, but here are some prompts:

 

INHALE:

We are more than our pain.

 

EXHALE:

I make space for beauty.

 

INHALE:

I accept the things I cannot change.

 

EXHALE:

I know the story is never over with God.

 

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz

The Serenity Prayer

Kindred in Christ,

Happy New Year! I am excited to witness and participate in God’s unfolding future for us at U Gathering in 2023! And to kick us off, we are beginning a new worship series titled Serenity: Courage, Wisdom, and the Presence of God. As you may have guessed, the series is inspired by the famous Serenity Prayer attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr (above). This prayer has personally shaped my spirituality deeply, as it reminds me that there are things that I cannot change or others that do not deserve my worry. Yet, it also empowers me to have the courage to act when God prompts me to speak up and act for change in our world. And lastly, the wisdom to know the difference saves me from being passive or angry all the time.

Often our lives are filled with anxiety. And the temptation may be to try to solve everything, or just check out from any responsibility at all. Yet, God offers us the deep serenity to remain present and rooted, and to see clearly through the lens of divine wisdom.

As a church we will also gather this Sunday to hear an important update regarding our building project. It will invite us into a month-long discernment process of further conversations and decision making. My prayer is that we can rely on God’s wisdom to accept the things we cannot change and the courage to act together to bring about the change that needs to happen for the sake of our continued ministry in the U District.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz

Serenity: Courage, Wisdom, & The Presence of God

 

It is no secret that we all experience anxiety at one point or another. Sometimes it is due to more significant problems that require our attention and action. And other times it is due to more insignificant issues that do not deserve so much of our attention and worry. But how can we tell the difference?

Join us during the month of January as we reflect on the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer. Together we will explore how to be centered on God’s serenity, which saves us from becoming overwhelmed and bitter from the things we cannot change, and empowered to make a difference for the things we can change.

Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

José y Maria

Kindred in Christ,

I look forward to gathering with you during our upcoming Christmas Eve candlelight service and our Christmas morning celebration! After two years of not being able to gather in-person for worship during the holidays, it will be a gift to light candles next to one another and welcome the coming light of the Christ Child among us. Yet during this season, I am also reminded of how easily it is to miss God’s emerging light. In fact, I find that the four weeks of Advent and our Christmas celebrations only begin to prepare our hearts and minds for what the manger means in our world today.

One of the things that I love about the depiction above, by Everett Patterson, titled José y Maria, is that the more time you spend looking at it, the more you’ll notice. Drawn in literary comic-book style, in shades of purple, lavender and gray, it depicts a gritty street scene with a poor young Latine couple standing on a sidewalk in front of a convenience store at night. The man has a public telephone wedged between his shoulder and ear. He looks worried. His wife rests at his side, resting by sitting sideways on a child’s mechanical pony ride. She holds a hand over her very pregnant abdomen. She looks worried too, and tired.

Are you starting to see the picture? The artist loads it with evocative hints: The woman’s hoodie reads “Nazareth High School.” A sign in the store window, advertising Starr Beer, bears a blue neon star. A poster calls out “Good News.” Around the corner, a lighted sign for Dave’s City Motel reads “NO VACANCY.” And my favorite, in a crack in the sidewalk a hopeful green shoot has sprouted between the man and woman. What other hints do you see?

Join us this Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, in-person and online, as we explore further what it means to witness and welcome the coming of Christ in our world.

Rev. Paul Ortiz

The Annunciation

Kindred in Christ,

After being sick with the flu and lying in bed for almost a week, I am happy to share that I am almost back to feeling like my regular self. A big THANK YOU to those that stepped-in and stepped-up last Sunday to lead our worship service in my absence! I especially appreciated our new worship leader, Ben, sharing a reflection and personal testimony. If you missed it, you can watch the service here.

I am excited to be back with you for the final Sunday of Advent, as we consider The Annunciation to Mary (Luke 1:26-38), as seen depicted above by Scott Erickson. My favorite aspect of Erickson’s modern icon is the upside-down messenger inviting Mary into an upside-down way of looking at the world. Join us as we explore how Advent is about God showing up in our lives and transforming the way we see the world.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz