*Advent Season

is a very special time of year that sometimes gets lost in the bright lights of the Christmas season it precedes. The first day of Advent is the first day of a new Liturgical (or church) calendar and begins a four week period of preparation in anticipation of the nativity of Jesus at Christmas.


The Season after Pentecost, also called Ordinary Time, begins the day after Pentecost and ends the day before the First Sunday of Advent. It may include twenty–three to twenty–eight Sundays, depending on the date of Easter, but the first Sunday is always Trinity Sunday, and the last Sunday is always the Sunday of the Reign of Christ or Christ the King. The season also includes All Saints and Thanksgiving

*All Saints Day

For Lutherans, All Saints resonates with the conviction that in Christ every saint is a sinner and every sinner a saint, simul justus et peccator. Lutherans especially remember on this feast that it is God’s grace, apart from our works, that makes us saints. We find lasting rest only in the mercy of God.


For Lutherans and many other Protestants in America, the last Sunday in October is celebrated as Reformation Sunday. ... On that date Luther posted his statement of faith, known as the 95 Theses, on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, thus beginning the Protestant Reformation.

*Christ the King Sunday

Celebrates the full authority of Christ as King and Lord of the universe. Officially called "The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King," it is celebrated on the final Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Sunday before Advent.

Scripture for December 20, 2020

Fourth Sunday of Advent

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Righteousness and praise flourish like a garden

Luke 1:46b-55

You, Lord, have lifted up the lowly.

Romans 16:25-27

The mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ

Luke 1:26-38

The angel appears to Mary

Open our ears, O Lord,

to hear your word and know your voice.

Speak to our hearts and strengthen our wills,

that we may serve you today and always. Amen.

This past week our bible study looked at the four gospels and how they introduce us to Jesus. If you have never read all four introduction stories, or if you haven’t done it in a while, I encourage you to do it this week before Christmas Eve. There won’t be a pop quiz to enter Christmas eve worship, nor will there be any shame if this little suggestion gets lost in the myriad of activities that lead up to Christmas. But if you find yourself with a quite moment or two this week, I commend this practice to you. Each story is unique and invites us to ponder why each gospel writer chose the story they did, and when you put all four together we begin to see a fuller picture of who Jesus is, and the humans that are central to Jesus’ entry into humanity.

It may also raise a few questions like it did for us in our study group. Like what does it mean to be favored, and why does one pregnancy announce render one receiver silent, and the other with wonder and amazement? Keep in mind that before this story of Mary that we read today, Zachariah receives word, that his previously barren wife, Elizabeth – Mary’s cousin - will bear a child. He receives this word with great doubt, and is rendered silent until the child is born, and Elizabeth names him John eight days later. Zachariah’s unbelief is the root for his being made silent. I should add that Zachariah is doing his priestly work in the Temple - offering incense - when the angel Gabriel meets him with this news! Isn’t that the place where you should, where you would expect a divine revelation? Isn’t that the place where the miracle of God’s acting in the world would seem normal?

Contrast that with Mary’s story we heard today. We might assume she is in her home, doing house work - folding laundry and linens – when she is greeted by Gabriel. We are told that she is troubled and pondered the angel’s greeting. What does it mean that she, a young girl, of no real importance to the religious life of the community, would be favored by God.

Gabriel continues and tells her what this means for her life, that she will risk it all – reputation, honor, and possibly her life – to bear the Messiah into the world. Mary’s response, unlike Zachariah, is not one of disbelief, but of curiosity. How can this be? It’s almost as if she knows that our God is a God who does the unexpected thing, and she has come to expect it!

It is interesting that Mary has a lot more at stake here than Zachariah. Mary could be disowned, left as an unmarriable woman, shamed, and worse stoned to death for this request from God. Zachariah on the other hand will have the shame of his family’s lack of children removed. One revelation is met with disbelief and the receiver is rendered silent, the other is met with curiosity and wonder at what God might be up to and she is given a song to sing.

Mary is able to make the move from doubt to let it be. Her world is about to turn upside down, and she assents because she knows that God is a God who keeps promises, and lifts the lowly, and can be trusted.

So what does all of this have to do with us today? Well, for one, God has been working in an through all of recorded time to restore and renew us, humanity, and all of creation. God didn’t start with Zachariah and Mary, but used Abraham and Sarah, Moses, kings and judges, prophets, and wisdom speakers to live as favored ones, to let God enact on and through. And God didn’t stop with Zachariah and Mary, but continued to inspire and empower others throughout the last two thousand years. And God isn’t done moving and turning the world – raising the lowly, crumbling empires, removing tyrants from their thrones.

How do you receive God’s word? How do you hear the good news that God is still active and moving in and through our world? Do we meet God’s movement in the world with suspicion and disbelief – saying “ha, yeah, that will never happen!” – or do we meet it with curiosity and wonderment? Sometimes I wonder if we are too busy fussing, hollering, and dismissing God’s messengers that we miss that move that Mary made, the one from how can this be to let it be.

We take on the disbelief of Zachariah, rather than the curiosity of Mary. We dismiss the thing that God is doing in our very midst because the revelation seems impossible, rather than asking God how these things will take place.

At the center of this move is a trust in God. Mary embodies it, literally! But not without showing us the complexity of the embodied incarnation of God. Despite the possibility of being dismissed, disowned, and left for dead, Mary also shows us how trust in God and God’s promises is at the heart of being God’s favored ones.

I also know that sometimes in our lives of faith, we are too full of grief, anger, and hurt to trust God and make that move from “how can this be?” to “let it be so.” And I know that this year, when nothing feels quite right, and all we can see is deaths rising, bitter fighting between neighbors and friends, we might not be there. That is ok too. For those of us who are not in the place at this time can we let Mary speak words of trust for us? Let Mary be the bearer of faith, the trust in God, that we cannot summon right now, but we hope for in the future.

And for those of us who do find ourselves in an abundance of trust for God’s continued work of restoring and renewing us and all of creation, may we join in Mary’s words, about a God who keeps promises and continually turns the world around so that we may become the beloved community, the beloved creation God intends for us to be!

Regardless of where you are today, whether you are letting Mary speak for you, or if you join in her song today, hear this, you too are God’s favored ones. You too are ones whom God seeks out, to inspire and empower you to be part of this new thing that God is doing.

And this is the response of God’s favored ones, to sing songs about

God who is faithful and keeps promises, a God who lifts the lowly, dismantles the empires that keep us struggling and fighting, removes actual tyrants and tyrannical systems. And to trust that God will do that here and now.

May it be so. Amen

Announcements for this week

Christmas bag pickup:

Monday: 4:00 pm - 7:00pm

Tuesday: 1:00pm - 4:00 pm

Wednesday: 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

If you are unable to pick up your bag, it will be delivered some time Wednesday afternoon.

Tuesday 12/22

Mid-Week Advent devotion (emailed)

Thursday 12/25

7pm Nativity of Our Lord Worship*

Sunday 12/20 – 4th Sunday of Advent

9 am Worship - Lessons and Carols

Prayer chain: If you, a relative, or a close friend need prayer please contact Cyndi Skillings by phone or text (303) 886-9019.

* Zoom links will be provided in the Monday Connection email

Please contact Pastor Mandy for any pastoral care needs - (720) 334-9943,

Scripture for November 22, 2020

Reign of Christ

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

God will shepherd Israel

Psalm 95:1-7a

We are the people of God's pasture and the sheep of God's hand.

Ephesians 1:15-23

The reign of Christ

Matthew 25:31-46

The coming of the Son of Man; the separation of sheep and goats

Open our ears, O Lord,

to hear your word and know your voice.

Speak to our hearts and strengthen our wills,

that we may serve you today and always. Amen

Today we join others in the church to affirm the Reign of Christ. This day has not always been a part of our liturgical calendar. This celebratory day recognizing Christ the King was first instituted by Pope Pius the 11th, in 1925 in response to growing nationalism within Europe – where the rise in loyalty to the state seemed to supersede the identity of baptism and commitment to Christ. While I do not know when this feast day was originally recognized, it has only been in its place at the end of Ordinary time since 1970.It is certainly an interesting way to end our liturgical year and the season of telling the church’s story about growing into being more the kin-dom of God.

I find it interesting that we, the church, set this day aside for affirming Christ’s reign, and do so with these words from Ezekiel. The retelling of a prophet proclaiming words of warning from God, warning against keeping God’s people out of community, a harsh statement for those who use status, as God’s chosen, as a means to ignore and neglect those outside of the covenant of Israel.

Ezekiel proclaims God’s word and in doing so we hear the phrase “I will” sixteen times, followed by promises of what God will do…

For those who are neglected God says, I will:

  • seek

  • rescue

  • bring

  • feed

  • bind up

  • give rest

  • strengthen

For those who do the neglecting God says, I will:

  • destroy

For those who know that they are part of God’s flock, God says, I will:

  • judge

  • give order

And four times the prophet uses the phrase “I myself will…”

  • when it comes to searching out the lost and the least

  • when it comes to shepherding the neglected

  • when it comes to the judging

These words about the end times, just like other scripture readings that reveal a bit more of what the end times will look like, have the ability to induce a paralyzing fear. Fear that someone will come in and muddy our clean waters, or trample on our good grass. The temptation then is to build barriers, to set watch guards for those who look or sound like they might be the goats… hiding in our midst... Perhaps we feel tempted or do introduce theological tests and traps to see who is worthy of being in our community; becoming ourselves modern day Pharisees.

Perhaps these words stir in us a different fear, a sense that we have participated in scattering God’s people, or in mudding waters for others, or trampling on grass…

Perhaps we have been quick to judge, rather than quick to love.

Quick to scatter, rather than quick to listen deeply to one another.

This fear can keep us living as if our God isn’t quick to gather all of us. This fear keeps us from hearing God’s invitation to lower our walls.

This fear keeps us from seeing ourselves and others the way God does… as beloved and equal.

Yes, God will

  • seek and rescue the lost

  • bring the least

  • feed the hungry

  • bind up the broken

  • give rest to the weary and strengthen the weak

Let us not be deceived that God’s doing of this work does not let us off the hook, because in of bearing witness to a God who tears down barriers, brings together the ones who cast out and the casted out, and calls to each of us, seeking us each by name into a Kingdom so vast so welcoming so inclusive that we have no capacity to know who is in and who is out. We are also to care for the lost, the least, the broken, the neglected… not only in our community of faith, but in our homes, neighborhoods, and every place we find ourselves.

Do not be paralyzed by fear of who God is gathering, but trust in God’s judgement.

Do not be paralyzed by fear for your own complicity in neglecting the needs of others. Instead trust in God’s transforming love, which sets us free to live into the kingdom of God where all are fed and nourished, known and loved.

May it be so.

Announcements for this week

The office will be closed this week for Thanksgiving. For emergencies please contact Pastor Mandy (720)334-9943. Have a safe and wonderful feasting day.

Women's ministry is hosting an evening of Fellowship and Pie on Wednesday at 7 pm. Zoom link will be included in the Connection email.

Prayer chain: If you, a relative, or a close friend need prayer please contact Cyndi Skillings by phone or text (303) 886-9019.

* Zoom links will be provided in the Monday Connection email

Please contact Pastor Mandy for any pastoral care needs - (720) 334-9943,

Scripture for November 8, 2020 -

23rd Sunday After Pentecost

Amos 5:18-25

Let justice roll down like waters

Psalm 70

You are my helper and my deliverer; O Lord, do not tarry.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

The promise of the resurrection

Matthew 25:1-13

The story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 1“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

For the word of God in scripture

For the word of God among us

For the word of God within us

Thanks be to God.

What we need most right now is a word of comfort, a reminder that it will be alright, and my friends this day’s readings don’t seem to offer that. From the prophet Amos we are confronted by his words about the coming day of the Lord. And an unsettling parable from Jesus, about those who wait and watch, those who have come prepared and those who are locked out. These are not, at first hearing, stories of hope and comfort that we so need right now.

I have heard many ways to describe this time in history in which we are living. Unprecedented, exhausting, apocalyptic, constant uncertainty extreme, transformative, challenging, the worst…


We wait… we wonder if things will ever change for the better.

We wait… we wonder if we have the strength to make it through the night.

We wait… we watch the oil in our lamps go down.

We wait… we hope for this to be over soon, before we run out.

Amos was calling out to complacent people, the ways they had strayed. In their waiting and wanting the Day of the Lord, they forgot that the Lord desires more than just meaningless ritual offerings and properly said prayers. The Lord does not want pious frauds – people who speak of love for God in worship - but a lived faith that speaks of this love through the care and attention to one another. Amos says that the LORD desires for us to “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an overflowing stream.” (5:24) For Amos, “justice” was about due process and the fair and equitable distribution of resources. So we are called to involve ourselves in making our society, our culture, our country a “just society.”

Amos reminds us that in our waiting we do not wait without purpose. Our waiting is an active one; one that embodies not simply keeping the faith, but living our faith.

Jesus too was naming complacency as something to be guarded against. Most of the early church had assumed that Jesus would be back quickly, in a few years at most. Time went on, and he did not return. The bridegroom was delayed. People found themselves wondering how to live in a time of uncertain certainty. They were certain Jesus would return, but they were uncertain as to when. Some were hyper vigilant, thinking of little else, others had stopped thinking about it and were going about their business as usual, the rest were somewhere in between. The parable is a reminder to remain ready, to wait expectantly, but not anxiously.

Jesus reminds us that in our waiting we should not grow weary, and to keep our lamps lit. Our waiting is an active one; one that urges us to not just live the faith, but be renewed in our faith.

Following Jesus and waiting for the coming reign of heaven is a cycle of renewal and living, renewal and living, renewal and living. One does not come without the other. In this unrelenting time, what renews your faith? Certainly, Sunday worship, but what else throughout your week is like a refilling of your lamp oil? It might be something like reading personal devotion and bible study, daily reading of the Word In Season devotional, or other reading that makes you ponder a life of faith. It might look like volunteering at the food pantry, or some other service to others. It might look like spending time outside noting God’s creation, or intentional time in prayer and meditation. Perhaps you thought of something that nourishes you and your sense of faith, but quickly brushed it off because it wasn’t “religious enough.” That too is a spiritual practice! Whatever helps you to connect with God, connect with others, and give meaning to life… those are spiritual practices that will keep your oil filled.

But we cannot simply go about our work and lives in renewal of our faith. If that were the case than the words of Amos would not be necessary today. We renew our faith so we can continue to engage in living our faith. Working towards a world where justice rolls down like a river and righteousness like a stream. Where everyone has the things they need to survive, and knows they are valued and have dignity. This is a lived faith. These things are acts of worship just as valid as our personal prayers.

We need both. Following Jesus includes both – acts of renewal, and acts of building the reign of God here and now.

We are feeling the unrelenting nature of it all right now. This unrelenting experience would have us grow complacent, would rather have us thinking that nothing really matters right now. Our waiting is not one of passivity, but one of active work, of alternating between lived faith and renewing faith.

May Amos’ words shake us from our complacency that our songs of joy and corporate prayers are enough.

May Jesus’ words encourage us to find ways to keep our lamps filled and renew our faith.

May the Holy Spirit guide us in the rhythm of faith that is lived and full.


Announcements for this week

Pastor Mandy will have limited availability this week as she is attending First Call Theological Conference virtually

Ways to connect:

  • Wednesday:

    • 9:30 am Bible Study - Ruth

  • Thursday

    • 9:30 am Centering Prayer*

    • 7:00 pm Bible Study - Ruth

  • Sunday

    • 9:00 am Worship*

Prayer chain: If you, a relative, or a close friend need prayer please contact Cyndi Skillings by phone or text (303) 886-9019.

* Zoom links will be provided in the Monday Connection email

Please contact Pastor Mandy for any pastoral care needs - (720) 334-9943,

Scripture for November 1, 2020 -

All Saints' Sunday

Revelation 7:9-17

The multitudes of heaven worship the Lamb

Psalm 34:1-10,22

Fear the Lord, you saints of the Lord

1 John 3:1-3

We are God's Children

Matthew 5:1-12

Blessed are the poor in spirit

1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

  3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

  5“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

  6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

  7“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

  8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

  9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

  10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  11“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

For the word of God in scripture

For the word of God among us

For the word of God within us

Thanks be to God.

What does it mean to be blessed? We often talk and hear about being blessed or being a blessing to others. As a barista I had a regular who would respond, “I’ve been blessed, I am blessed,” when I would ask her how she had been and how she was doing. We see it in home décor, on signs, pillows, art, and vinyl wall stickers. We might even hear preachers talk about blessing as a reward for being in God’s good favor. And whether we think of these things positively or not, do we think about what it means to be blessed?

As Jesus begins his sermon on the mount, with crowds gathered, he proclaims to the crowd who is blessed, who has favor with God. But it is not the ones the disciples and the crowd expected to hear. The blessed, the favored ones were seen as people who were certain in faith, happy, the strong, the ones who benefited from the socio-political environment or those who are indifferent to the system that oppresses, the ones who were feared because of their harshness, and the ones who lived by enforced peace not true peace. These were the favored ones and named as the norm of society. Anything was a deviation from the norm and something to be rejected. But Jesus insists that the blessed ones, the favored ones, are just those who would otherwise be rejected

We also have ideas about what it means to be blessed. Sometimes we use it to remind us to be grateful, to acknowledge how much we have and how secure we feel, when others go without. Other times we use it as an identifier for who is faithful. Jesus never says blessedness has anything to do with material goods, or being secure and having more than enough. Jesus does not say that blessedness is a reward for suffering. Blessedness is about our relationship with God. Jesus is not making conditions for blessedness, but stating what is already true. You are blessed…

even when… you doubt,

even when… you grieve,

even when… you need help,

even when… you publicly lament and cry for change when we neglect and forget our neighbor

even when… you are seen as weak

even when… you insist that peace does not require violence to be maintained

even when… following Jesus means taking the unpopular route.

Being blessed is a fact that Jesus is stating, not laying out conditions for us to be blessed. You are blessed, you are a part of God’s holy people, you are a saint.

A colleague of mine shared a story fitting for this day; it comes from Catholic Digest some years ago from a woman recalling a conversation with a young boy who came to her door while trick-or-treating. His costume consisted of pajamas, Superman pajamas. He must have had quite the haul because when he arrived at the door his parent was carrying his bag. The woman greeted the boy as he gleefully shouted “ trick-or-treat.” As he held out his hand to receive the candy, the woman asked why his parent was carrying his treats. He told her that the bag was too heavy. “But you’re Superman,” she said. The boy looked down at his shirt and replied, “these are just my pajamas, I’m not really Superman.”

Each of us has been marked by the cross of Christ. You have been filled with the Holy Spirit. There is no costume or act. There is no check list of what makes you a saint. You are not mascaraing as a God’s holy one, a saint… you are, because God has said so. You do not need to wait… you already are, because God has declared it!

You are blessed, you are a part of God’s holy one, you are a saint.

Let that truth settle into your mind, your heart; let it seep into your bones, your every cell.

You are blessed, you God’s holy one, you are a saint.


Announcements for this week

Ways to connect:

  • Wednesday:

    • 9:30 am Bible Study: Prayer and Vigil for Healing

  • Thursday

    • 9:30 Centering Prayer*

  • Sunday

    • 9:00 am Worship*

    • 10:30 am Faith Exploration: Curious/Courageous Conversations

    • 11:30 am Council

Prayer chain: If you, a relative, or a close friend need prayer please contact Cyndi Skillings by phone or text (303) 886-9019.

* Zoom links will be provided in the Monday Connection email

Please contact Pastor Mandy for any pastoral care needs - (720) 334-9943,

Scripture for October 25, 2020

Reformation Sunday

Jeremiah 31:31-34

I will write my law on their hearts, says the Lord

Psalm 46

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Romans 3:19-28

Justified by God's grace as a gift

John 8:31-36

Jesus says, "continue in my word and you will know the truth"

31Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

  34Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

For the word of God in scripture,

For the word of God among us,

For the word of God within us,

Thanks be to God.

In a time of great uncertainty, of uncontrolled plague, and great social turmoil… Psalm 46 provides much comfort in a God who does not change, does not waiver, does not shutter in the face of the adversary. It tells of how God is a strength and a place of refuge; a source of calm amid the storm. In a world where wars rage and leaders seem swayed by greed, God is one who makes war to cease and items of violence break. This is the one where we find refuge.

God is our refuge and strength,

a very present | help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,

and though the mountains shake in the depths | of the sea;

though its waters rage and foam,

and though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

  the holy habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be shaken;

 God shall help it at the break of day.

The nations rage, and the kingdoms shake;

 God speaks, and the earth melts away.

In a time of great uncertainty, of uncontrolled plague and great social turmoil, where leaders are more driven by greed and violence is used to oppress and scare into an enforced peace… well this is as much a psalm for us today as it was for Luther five centuries ago.


Last week I talked about the many things that seek our attention, that would like to become our idols, and Jesus’ invitation to pay attention. Not only to the things that seek our attention, but also to that which bears God’s image. It can be dizzying to continually sort through that which is of God and that which is not. In our fretting, the psalmist reminds us, be still, let God be God.

God is the one who remains steady, who invites stillness, and offers shalom – peace, wholeness, restoration.

If this is the image of God, and we are to bear God’s image, why does the church seem to change so much? Why do we claim this day as a celebration as we commemorate the Reformation? Where did we stray from this unwavering God?

Was it 50 years ago, 200 years ago, 500 years ago, 1000 years ago, 2000 years ago? Because if we can identify the time when we went wrong, we can just go back to that point and start over there, right?

If we do that then we have to go back to the beginning… not just the beginning of the church, at the foot of the cross – which we most certainly got wrong – but even further back. Before David became king, before Jacob became the father of the twelve tribes, before Isaac was the miracle birth of Sarah, before Abraham was called to settle a new land. Back to the very beginning. Because the problem is and always has been us, humans. Created in God’s image to be in relationship with God and with one another, and we have always strayed away and sought to be little gods ourselves.

We so desperately want reality to be anything other than this. We want the problem to be God, or other people, or those things present in this world that seek to defy God. But no matter who we try and blame, the truth is we have strayed, and it is we who have done differently than what God has desired.

It starts out as little things. An innocent attempt at helping us to live in community with one another. Roles within community that help us to divide the labor. Eventually those innocent attempts at community guidelines and roles turn into hard and fast rules. What was once a helpful guide becomes, at its best, an object of oppression, or at its worst, a means for removal from community.

At some point we get so far away from the community that God intends for us to be that it becomes blatantly obvious. Where the abuses and neglect of the Church become so evident that someone stands up and says “this is not who we are,” and demands change. Of course these are not the popular folks of the church, but often the ones who were labeled as heretics, and regularly excommunicated, pushed into asylum, or burned at the stake, all at the hands of the church.

We have heard in the last few weeks the ways that Jesus pushed the leaders in his day to recognize where they had strayed from God’s will, the ways they had distorted God’s good word into a mechanism of oppression and death, and the ways they had failed to notice God right in front of them. For this, the temple leaders handed him over to be crucified.

When Luther stood up to the abuses of the papacy, called for greater attention to the poor, and insisted the common folks reading and learning scripture, it resulted in years of hiding as a fugitive in Wartburg Castle.

There have been many prophets throughout the ages who have revealed the ways of religious rigidness that harm and often neglect all who live on the margins of society, often the most vulnerable among us. Still today, when these leaders who can see and hear and know the harm that is occurring, when they call us the church to pay attention, to not look away, and to know how we, as the church have caused harm, we push theom out. We couch it in terms of unity, or claiming that the “church isn’t ready.” Was the Pope ready when Luther’s 95 theses crossed his desk? No. Were the people whom the church was doing blatant harm ready for it to end? Absolutely.

Still, we push our prophets out, only to later learn they had some merit to their calls to action and reform.

Here is the thing. We, Church, are far from perfect. I am not sure we will be until we are truly made one in Jesus – because we are so prone to be led astray by our own selfish desires, and our failings to see the image of God in each and every one of our neighbors. But God does not change, and God continues to call us into being the beloved community we were created to be.

So where do we go from here? What has our attention? What is asking for our faithful response? For whom are we be that beloved community?

From the national church there is a renewed call for us to care for our immigrant and refugee neighbors. There is also an invitation to contend with our complicity, as a church, in the complexity of neither outright acceptance nor emphatic rejection of white supremacy that pervades our country in visible ways, and invisible structures.

From the synod, there is an invitation to use this time during the pandemic to more fully understand the disparities in various communities, to ask questions about why the pandemic has caused so much more damage to communities of color –in terms of rate of illness, severity of illness, rate of death, and economically.

When I asked the Faith Exploration group last week what might we as a congregation pay attention to, homelessness was brought up. But it wasn’t just that we have neighbors who are in need, but that we exist in a society that will cause, or even allow, for a neighbor to be without adequate shelter, clothing, and food.

There is much to tend to in the world, so in the coming days and months…

Pay attention dear ones, pay attention to those times and places where fear seems to hold us back – and may the Holy Spirit provide us with the courage to draw closer.

Notice where our desire to remain comfortable keeps us from engaging – and may the Holy Spirit provide us the holy discomfort we need to get up and follow Jesus.

God doesn’t change, neither does Jesus’ call.


Announcements for this week

Ways to connect:

  • Wednesday:

    • 9:30 am Bible Study: Philemon*

  • Thursday

    • 9:30 Centering Prayer*

    • 7:00 pm Bible Study: Philemon*

  • Sunday

    • 9:00 am Worship*

All Saints' Commemoration: please submit names of members, family and friends of the congregation who have died in the last year to be remembered in the litany of the Saints this coming Sunday. Commemoration Form

Prayer chain: If you, a relative, or a close friend need prayer please contact Cyndi Skillings by phone or text (303) 886-9019.

* Zoom links will be provided in the Monday Connection email

Please contact Pastor Mandy for any pastoral care needs - (720) 334-9943,

Scripture for October 18, 2020

20th Sunday After Pentecost

Isaiah 45:1-7

An earthly ruler as the instrument of God's will

Psalm 96:1-13

Ascribe to the Lord honor and power.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Thanksgiving for the church at Thessalonica

Matthew 22:15-22

A teaching on giving to the emperor and to God

15Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap [Jesus] in what he said. 16So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

For the word of God in scripture,

For the word of God among us,

For the word of God within us,

Thanks be to God.

I am quite confident that if I were to ask you all to recite or to list off the ten commandments, collectively you would have little to no issues. Especially for those who were forced to memorize either the small or large catechisms during your confirmation years. I am mostly certain that a majority of folks – religious or not – could tell me at least the first. “You shall have no other gods before me.” And that no images be made least they became an idol.

God knows that humanity, we, are tempted to make idols in our lives. Perhaps not knowingly, but certainly we do. God watched as the Hebrew people built a golden calf even as God had led them out of a life of slavery in Egypt. God is right in front of them and still, still, the people sought other gods.

It is no different in Jesus’ last week of life as he continued to critique and tell parables to the chief priests, the elders, the Pharisees and any who would gather on the temple grounds. Constantly these groups of people are attempting to catch Jesus in anything resembling a dangerous teaching or speaking treasonous words. Again and again, Jesus is meeting their “traps” with revealing parables and rhetoric that leaves each of the groups a little shamed, and certainly questioning if they have indeed missed the kin-dom of heaven right in front of them.

Today’s story is no different. This time two groups, who normally cannot see eye to eye on anything, have partnered up. The Pharisees are a group zealous for maintaining Jewish purity, the other, the Herodians are a sect of Hellenistic Jews, a group set on being friendly to Herod. The former a very strictly religious group, the latter a very strictly political group. These two groups have come together to set a trap that surely Jesus cannot escape. They will ask him about taxes. If he says taxes are not legal or lawful – meaning against the law of God- then Jesus would be labeled treasonous or seditious. If he says that paying taxes is lawful then he would be abandoning the very people his ministry has focused on, those oppressed by Roman rule. Especially those who have suffered the double effect of Roman oppression and religious oppression.

Jesus knows their malice. It is not about their question, they are not looking for an answer; they are only looking for a reason to have Jesus be locked up or dismissed. But in all of this plotting, all of these attempts to entrap Jesus is fully aware of the hypocrisy and situation that these two groups have walked themselves into. They are in the temple, where graven images have no place. They are in the place where a shekel is the coin, not the denarius. So Jesus asks for the coin used to pay taxes. Gleefully they quickly pull one out, and noting that it is Caesar’s image. And Jesus, without much show, and without answering their question simply says, give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.

But its not just about the taxes, but also images, and belonging. The coin bears Caesar’s image, and Jesus bears God’s image. Not just in his humanness, but also in his holiness, his generosity, his patience, his righteousness. His statement asks if they are willing to destroy the image of God that he bears.


We too have our temptations of idols and desire to trap one another. Elections tend to bring these out of us in surprising and mind twisting ways. We see this in the debates, in publications put out by candidates or supporters or opponents of this proposition or that one. We live in an environment full of idols that complete for our attention. And this is not an exclusively American problem, but has been with us since the days when Jesus walked the earth, and even before then… which is why the first commandment reminds us that we are to have no other gods, because there are so many things, ideas, people who would happily be our gods, our idols, and distract our attention.

When I think and look at our own system, it makes me cringe a little. The way we try and trap one another is incredible. One commentator offered that we pull out the money that exists in my own wallet - I do not know the last time, or even if I ever, noticed these images much beyond when they change drastically from one design to the next. As I did, I took time to really look at the images, the faces, and an odd statement of faith. The faces are of men of past, idols of history perhaps; some of whom have owned other people and participated in human trafficking, some who have enacted policies that have done great harm to individuals and communities, others still whose mark on history is only partially told. Taking the time to notice these things, I also noticed that the graven images of our country’s idols and statements of faith run contrary to the God whom I have come to know, and Jesus whom I seek to follow.

What are we to do? We too are trapped in a way. We cannot simply refuse to participate in society, but nor can we simply wall ourselves off. Nott when we remember that Jesus tells his followers go and make disciples of all nations, to go and to be with others. This includes us, today. We cannot wall ourselves off, but we should be aware of the temptations that pull for our attention, and the things that desire to become our idols. Take our money for example, it can become an idol, but it can also be a means for the common good, a means to the life God desires for us and for our neighbor, and for the forgotten and neglected.

If you can, take a look at the various faces present in our gathering. Each and every one of you bear the image of God, and to God you belong. When we look at one another we are looking at the face of God. If you can, take time to notice the image of God in the neighbor you wave to as you pass by during the day, or the grocery bagger, and the one asking for help at the stoplight. Pay attention to what has your attention. Is it the division of partisan politics, or is it common good of communal life? Is it the greed that dominates our culture, or seeking the humility of Christ?

As you notice these things… give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what bears the image of God. Amen.

Announcements for this week

Ways to connect:

  • Wednesday:

    • 9:30 am Bible Study: Philippians*

  • Thursday

    • 9:30 Centering Prayer*

    • 7:00 pm Bible Study: Philippians*

  • Sunday

    • 9:00 am Worship*

    • 10:30 am Faith Exploration Forum: The Reformation

Project Repair: Please connect with Russ Skillings for revised day-of schedule to accommodate changes in COVID-19 guidelines from the county.

Prayer chain: If you, a relative, or a close friend need prayer please contact Cyndi Skillings by phone or text (303) 886-9019.

* Zoom links will be provided in the Monday Connection email

Please contact Pastor Mandy for any pastoral care needs - (720) 334-9943,

Scripture for October 11, 2020

19th Sunday After Pentecost

Isaiah 25:1-9

The feast of victory

Psalm 23

You prepare a table before me, and my cup is running over

Philippians 4:1-9

Rejoice in the Lord always

Matthew 21:33-46

The parable of the wedding banquet

1Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

For the word of God in Scripture

For the word of God among us

For the word of God within us,

Thanks be to God.

More harsh parables today from Jesus, parables that are worth exploring. There is a bit going on here, and I feel it would be a disservice to simply dismiss the more challenging aspect, or the contextual aspects of these parables and simply focus on what it might have to tell us about our discipleship life.

We hear this story as one it is actually two. The first, the one about the wedding guests who don’t attend, that is directed to the chief priests and elders just like the last two weeks – it’s the same audience. The second half is directed to the crowds. The distinction is important for us to understand better what Jesus is saying here because of the distinct groups to whom he is directing his words.

To the chief priests Jesus shows through parable that the kin-dom of heaven- this great wedding feast - will be something that they miss because they are so preoccupied with other things. Perhaps they are too busy trying to keep the purity of the temple, or they are too busy with managing and maintaining the importance of their work… whatever it is it is distracting them from this great feast! Who misses out, or declines an invitation for rich food and celebration?!?

And yet, that is precisely where Jesus puts the chief priests and the elders of the temple. They are the ones who have been designated through their lineage and their work to be the ones who are to be attentive to God’s reign in the world. And they are too busy with things that do not matter to notice it.

To the crowds gathered, it was likely that this discourse, theses teachings, were happening in the temple grounds. The temple grounds around the sanctuary are sectioned off with a court of the gentiles at the outer most ring, the court of the women, then the court of the Israelites and finally the court of the priests. Each growing closer and closer to the sanctuary where access was most restricted. The steps near the Opthel gate are often referred to as the teaching steps and a place claimed by many to be where Jesus was doing a lot of teaching. Here the crowds would have been made up many different people. Still it is unclear from scripture where Jesus is standing when he offers this parable, and the possible audience, but what is clear is that he shifts the parable to the crowds.

Jesus shifts the parable from being about the King’s closest friends and the who’s-who in town to anyone whom the King’s servants can gather. He has prepared a feast, and it is ready. The celebration must happen. But as the celebration, one person has neglected to put on his wedding robe. At first glance this seems like a likely scenario since this man presumably was just minding his own business along the streets when he got this invitation and there was no time to run home and grab his wedding garment. Or perhaps you might have wondered if this man even had the means to have his own wedding garment. But neither of these two situations is contextually relevant, as it was customary that the host would provide a wedding garment.

Being tossed out is less about showing up appropriately, and more about showing up and rejecting the gift that has been offered.

The consequence is a phrase often found in Matthew, that he should be bound and tossed into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Now, to be clear, that is not a metaphor for hell. It is an actual physical place. Not a place of God’s creating… but of our own creating.

Perhaps a theme for each of these parables is that something is being offered, and it is being rejected. To the Chief Priests and Elders of the Temple, Jesus is right in front of them, and they will completely miss him because of their preoccupation with social hierarchy within the religious structure and their greed for power with their new occupiers… the Romans.

Even still God is going to do what God has been doing since the very beginning, that is working to heal and restore all of creation, and have a relationship with us. No distracted Chief Priest will limit God’s ability to provide a feast. In our baptism we are given a new garment to wear, one that represents this relationship with God and our joining in the festival that is communion with God. Much like the wedding garment that was rejected by the guest, there are many things in this world that ask us to take off that garment, set it aside, and say those are church clothes, not my work clothes – my Sunday garment, but not my Monday through Saturday garment.

What does this all mean for us?

Well, it is a call to notice where God is present here and now, creating the feast in our midst. Not just a feast of food, but of good things, enjoyable things – companionship, joy, and a feeling of wholeness. To reject the temptation to cozy up to corruption or to cling to any sort of privilege we may have for our own gain.

It is an invitation to not forget, or remove that baptismal garment that was given to us as a sign of our relationship with God. That garment that helps remind us of who we are, and to whom we belong. To notice when our actions and our words don’t seem to line up with the garment we have been given, to live as if our identity as God’s beloved actually matters beyond Sunday morning worship.

A reminder that not just then, but here and now, we have a place of outer darkness, we have people who weep and gnash their teeth, and this place is a place not of God’s creation but of our own doing to one another.

Jesus invites us to follow him. There will be things that distract us, and times when we are neglectful of the relationship that clothes us with righteousness. There will be times when it is more comfortable – and perhaps more profitable – to not stand up for the lost and the least like Jesus does, to say me first. There will be times when it is more comfortable to deny Jesus with our actions, our inactions and our words, spoken and unspoken. And still Jesus invites us to follow, to join in the celebration where there is room for all, enough to fill every belly, where wholeness of body, mind and spirit exists…

May it be so that we seek to notice the kin-dom of heaven right in front of us, calling and inviting us to join in. Amen.

Announcements for this week

Ways to connect:

  • Wednesday:

    • 9:30 am Bible Study: Philippians*

  • Thursday

    • 9:30 Centering Prayer*

    • 11:30 Zoom Social*

    • 7:00 pm Bible Study: Philippians*

  • Sunday

    • 9:00 am Worship*

    • 10:30 am Faith Exploration Forum: The Reformation

Project Repair: Saturday October 24th

Please contact Russ Skillings if you are interested in being part of the working team to respond to repair requests! Please see Monday's Connection email and September Rambler for additional dates and gathering details.

Prayer chain: If you, a relative, or a close friend need prayer please contact Cyndi Skillings by phone or text (303) 886-9019.

* Zoom links will be provided in the Monday Connection email

Please contact Pastor Mandy for any pastoral care needs - (720) 334-9943,

Scripture for October 4, 2020

18th Sunday After Pentecost

Isaiah 5:1-7

The song of the vineyard

Psalm 80:7-15

Look down from heaven, O God; behold and tend this vine

Philippians 3:4b-14

Nothing surpasses the value of knowing Christ

Matthew 21:33-46

The parable of the vineyard owner's son

[Jesus said to the chief priests, the elders, and the gathered people:] 33“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ 39So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”

  42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:

 ‘The stone that the builders rejected

  has become the cornerstone;

 this was the Lord’s doing,

  and it is amazing in our eyes’?

43Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

  45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

For the word of God in Scripture,

For the word of God among us,

For the word of God within us,

Thanks be to God.

If you feel like the gospel readings have been a little doomy-gloomy, with more judgement than grace, you’ve been paying attention. The last month or so of our lectionary in this particular year have us reading these parables that have us wrestling with the indictment of the ways we fall short. Perhaps it has us wondering what God is up to then and now, and giving us pause to what it means to follow Jesus.

Let me first say, it is ok if these parables leave you a little uncomfortable and with questions and doubts. Doubt is not the absence of faith, but of faith that is being tested, explored, and perhaps on the verge of growth. So, I invite you to sit with those doubts if they come, and if you need company, I am happy to walk, sit, and explore those questions with you.

Jesus’ parable today picks up after the parable from last week, where Jesus is talking with the chief priests and the elders of the temple after they ask him about his authority. Remember from last week that Jesus does not answer their question but through his own question and following parable reveals an indictment on the ones who were supposed to get it, supposed to be the first to notice the inbreaking of God in their midst… and they missed it. Not only did they miss it, but that this inbreaking of God was noticed by the tax collectors and the temple prostitutes, the very last ones who would be expected to see it and understand what was happening.

Jesus harsh words and indictment of the religious authorities of his day don’t stop there, but continue with the parable we read today. There is a land owner who builds and plants a vineyard and leases it to tenants. These tenants are far from upstanding citizens, and refuse to pay rent. And when anyone comes to collect, they tortured and killed them, including the land owners son, in hopes that they could inherit the land. And the response from the crowd is that the land owner should kill the tenants!

All of this sounds a bit extreme right? And it just keeps building! The tenants who go about the business of murder over and over again. And the land owner, who is willing to participate in that business as well, only to go out and rent his land again. It all seems a bit absurd. How ridiculous is it to think that you can gain someone else inheritance if you kill them?

Jesus is revealing through story that the greed of the chief priests and elders have for power within the religious structure, has distorted their thinking to the point of ridiculousness.

I feel like that would have been enough, but Jesus continues and asks them if they have actually read the scriptures. They have, Jesus knows they have, and they know that Jesus knows! Yet he quotes Psalm 118 to them reminding them that

 ‘The stone that the builders rejected

  has become the cornerstone;

 this was the Lord’s doing,

  and it is amazing in our eyes’?

This is Jesus way of calling forth their sins of greed that have blinded them from noticing the in-breaking of God right in front of them, and straying from their work as tenant and steward of God’s people and their faith.

At the heart of all of this – Jesus’ teachings, his interactions with the chief priests and elders, and his healing work –Jesus is inviting and drawing humanity closer to God’s will for abundant life. That is that we would be co-creators with God, building that abundant life that God so desires for us and for all who bear God’s image. We are to be about actively nurturing life, not participants in the business of death – active or passive – of others or ourselves

Now we, like the chief priests and elders, will be tempted to reject the care and nurture that Jesus is inviting us into. Perhaps we will reject it because it is uncomfortable. Perhaps we will reject this mission for others because it begins to sound political and right now political equals only divisiveness, so we bristle and reject Jesus’ call. And when we are unwilling to be uncomfortable two things happen. We remain stuck in a perpetual cycle of crisis, never really working to change the system that has caused or is causing the crisis. And we continue to be about the business of violence and death to those on the margins of our own society.

Responding to Jesus words – whether you hear them as challenge or invitation - looks a bit like being a steward of one another, and the beloved community we seek to be. What does it look like to be a steward of faith and life? A bit like one who tends a vineyard, it’s not just about the growth of the grapes, but also about caring for the soil and nurturing the health of the vine. Tilling the soil of our lives and our community and clearing away the things which threaten life might look like not engaging in a toxic conversations or relationships that leave us feeling unheard or worse abused; it might also look like challenging the systemic issues that keep people hungry, jobless, homeless, and hopeless. Nurturing the health of our vine of connectedness with God and one another might look like engaging in Bible Study or reaching out to find a buddy on our buddy list, or it might look like service projects – volunteering at Good Shepherd’s food bank, or making baby and health kits for Lutheran World Relief ministries.

Just like the vineyard caretaker the proof is in the fruit. Good grapes are a result of soil that is filled with nutrients and vines that are carefully tended. The fruit of our work is becoming more and more like the beloved community here and now. When our soil is tilled and good things are stirred up, and where our connection to God and one another is nurtured, good fruit will be produced.

Here is the good news: We do not do this work alone. God is already out ahead of us creating space – tilling soil and nurturing vines of connection - for those most hungry for the good liberating news of Jesus. And even while we are still uncomfortable and even when we reject him, Jesus is still inviting us to follow, promising to be with us to the end.

May it be so. Amen.

Announcements for this week

Ways to connect:

  • Wednesday:

    • 9:30 am Bible Study: Philippians*

  • Thursday

    • 9:30 Centering Prayer*

    • 11:30 Zoom Social*

    • 7:00 pm Bible Study: Philippians*

  • Sunday

    • 9:00 am Worship*

    • 10:30 am Faith Exploration Forum: The Reformation

    • Council

Project Repair: Saturday October 24th

Please contact Russ Skillings if you are interested in being part of the working team to respond to repair requests! Please see Monday's Connection email and September Rambler for additional dates and gathering details.

Prayer chain: If you, a relative, or a close friend need prayer please contact Cyndi Skillings by phone or text (303) 886-9019.

* Zoom links will be provided in the Monday Connection email

Faith Exploration Forum: The Reformation

Look through Luther's 95 Theses. Which ones surprise you? Do you have a favorite?

Here is a link to the full text of Luther's 95 Theses.

Please contact Pastor Mandy for any pastoral care needs - (720) 334-9943,

Scripture for September 27, 2020

17th Sunday After Pentecost

Exodus 17:1-7

Water from the rock in the wilderness

Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16

We will recount to generations to come the power of the Lord

Philippians 2:1-13

Christ humbled to the point of death on a cross

Matthew 21:23-32

A parable of doing God's will

23When [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

28“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.”

For the word of God in Scripture,

For the word of God among us,

For the word of God within us,

Thanks be to God.

“We are living the consequences of decades and maybe centruries of undiscipleship,” said the leader of bible study, standing in front of pastors, seminarians, church developers and redevelopers. He repeated it, “we, church, are living the consequences of decades and maybe centuries of undecipleship.” It hit me the same way it did the first time. Pure indictment- weighty and clear - and pure balm for a deep wound that I was trying to ignore. Truth does that sometimes. It holds a mirror up to us and names our reality, perhaps one we were trying to ignore, or even didn’t know existed. But in doing so, we might also experience release and relief – perhaps not instantly, but eventually having reality named means we can begin the work of addressing those places of inattention, neglect, and hurt. It both hurts and heals.

As I carried this story of Jesus’ encounter with the chief priests and the elders with me this week, as I heard again the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s experience in Harlem and his work in a Black Baptist church that would lead him back to Germany, to begin an underground network of a seminary studies, congregations, and teaching that lead to his execution, this quote came to mind yet again. And my own wondering of how quick we are to forget whose we are and who we are.

So often we want to see ourselves or associate with the “good guys” in these stories. We want to criticize the grumblers and camouflage ourselves in Moses. We want to disparage the chief priests and elders for their lack of courage, hiding ourselves behind Jesus, pointing fingers.

Are we not like the recently freed people following Moses in the wilderness? With questions and great uncertainty, quarreling and asking to go back to the ways of before? Are we not like the chief priests and the elders driven by fear and the possibility that we may have gotten it wrong?

God has always been about the work of re-claiming, re-storing, and releasing all of creation from the chains of destruction and abuse, that includes humanity – the Egyptians who enslaved the Hebrew people, the Hebrew people in and through their exodus out of Egypt, the chief priests and elders who would eventually hand Jesus over to the Romans and demand his execution, the church in Philippi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his work in Harlem and his witness in Germany, and even us today.

And Jesus encounter with the chief priests and scribes allows us to see more clearly how this work of transformation and reclamation offends those with a vested interest in reinforcing the status quo. In fairness to the chief priests and the elders, they just witnessed this transformative reclaiming work of Jesus take the form of protest in the temple. Where Jesus turned over tables and ran out the money changers – a protest against the absence of prayer and the rejection of the very people Jesus has healed by those in power.

How quickly do we forget whose we are and who we are…

How quickly do we succumb to the ways of undiscipleship, and reject the call to follow Jesus because it asks of us to account for what we have gotten wrong…

I have said it before, and I am sure I will say it again. We are living in a wilderness time. The pandemic has pushed us out of our patterns and routines, much like the exodus did for the Hebrew people. For six months we have been making our way where there are no maps, guides, or GPS… only able to take life one day at a time. It has revealed how broken of a society we can be – loss of health insurance, lack of access to safe care, the reality that far more of our neighbors were and are living close to the edge of poverty and who continue to struggle, those who were already vulnerable have become more vulnerable. And after six months, it is fair of us to grumble, to grieve the things we have lost – plans, celebrations, certainty, loved ones, our own sense of health – but do not cry to go back to Egypt – to the normal that was before. Instead stay in this wilderness, where God comes to us, and provides water out of stone. Look around at your neighbors, see what this wilderness time has to teach us, the ways in which God is at work to re-claim, re-store, and releasing us from the things and ways that denied and continue to deny life.

As we come to realize the ways in which we have been complicit with patterns and practice that are incompatible with abundant life, do not be like the chief priests and elders who skirted Jesus’ questions, shocked and dismayed with his protests, but ask how Jesus is inviting us to be released from these death dealing ways. Following Jesus isn’t about speaking our commitment or saying “yes” to being about this work of re-claiming, re-storing, and releasing ourselves and others, and refusing to actually go and do the work. Following Jesus is about doing that work in the world.


“We are living the consequences of decades and maybe centuries of undiscipleship.” We have forgotten what lived discipleship looks like and reduced it to only that which happens within the walls of our building. But discipleship looks like following Jesus into the wilderness and uncertainty of the world. It means getting close to others, just like Jesus drew close. Close enough to see the suffering of one another, and even closer still to see the joy of abundant life as God works to re-claim, re-store, and release us and our neighbor from whatever holds us back – be it chains of fear, or barriers of indignation.

I don’t intend to wrap this up with a bow, or offer words to make you comfortable, instead I leave you with this Franciscan blessing:

May God bless us with a restless discomfort

about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,

so that we may seek truth boldly and love deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with holy anger

at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,

so that we may tirelessly work for justice, freedom,

and peace among all people.

May God bless us with the gift of tears

to shed for those who suffer from pain,

rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish,

so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them

and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless us with enough foolishness

to believe that we really can make a difference in this world,

so that we are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.


Announcements for this week

Ways to connect:

  • Wednesday:

    • 9:30 am Bible Study: Philippians*

    • 6:00 pm In Person Social Gathering - Please let Pr. Mandy know you plan to attend!

  • Thursday

    • 9:30 Centering Prayer*

    • 11:30 Zoom Social*

    • 7:00 pm Bible Study: Philippians*

  • Sunday

    • 9:00 am Worship*

    • 10:30 am Faith Exploration Forum: The Reformation

  • Project Repair:
    Date change to Saturday October 24th
    Please contact Russ Skillings if you are interested in being part of the working team to respond to repair requests!

Please see Monday's Connection email and September Rambler for additional dates and gathering details.

* Zoom links will be provided in the Monday Connection email

Please contact Pastor Mandy for any pastoral care needs - (720) 334-9943,

Scripture for September 20,2020

16th Sunday After Pentecost

Jonah 3:10 -4:11

God's concern for the city of Nineveh

Psalm 145:1-8

The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Philippians 1:21-30

Standing firm in the gospel

Matthew 20:1-16

The parable of the vineyard workers

[Jesus said to the disciples:] “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five

o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only

one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

For the Word of God in scripture,

For the Word of God among us,

For the Word of God within us,

Thanks be to God.

Comparison, entitlement, and greed. That is what is at the heart of Jesus’ parable. Now this is one of those parables where if you look closely you will walk away with far more questions than you started with and very few answers. The point of Jesus telling parables is not that we will be handed an easily decipherable allegory, but a means of thinking critically about the world and our relationships.

This parable might best be summed up by the final verse: The last will be first and the first will be last. It flips the very way we expect to move in the world on its head. We have ordered ourselves and assigned value so that we might compare. From an early age we are compared in our school work, ranked and given a place. We hold competitions to see who is the best, the fastest, the smartest. We give value to others in society based on a myriad of arbitrary human markers – our jobs, income, economic status, race, ethnicity, immigration status, country of origin, primary language, the number of academic degrees we hold – whether we conscious of it or not. Its built into the fabric of our society.

And Jesus simply says, “The last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Not only will the last be first, but the first and the last will be given the same measure of God’s generous grace. We live in a society where our value is tied to our productivity. The more we do, the harder we work, the more we should get in return. Jesus makes it clear that in the Reign of heaven no one can earn more of God’s grace by working harder. It is a simple gift that cannot be earned. God’s generous gift of love for us.

The last will receive the same as the first.

This parable challenges us to see beyond our own greed, entitlement, and comparison of one another and see that it is God who calls and God who extends immeasurable generosity in mercy and grace. Jesus knows that this flies in the face of our quid pro quo society, and the idea that we are only worth something if we can produce. And Jesus’ parable invites us to hand over our greed, entitlement, and comparison for the joy that is receiving God’s grace.


Easier said than done, right?

This idea of comparison is built into the very fabric of our society. And I think we get grace as a cognitive concept. We can recite these things that Jesus says, “the last will be first, and the first will be last,” but do we feel it? Do we live it? Can we see that the nameless neighbor who lives in a tent by the interstate is given preference to any named celebrity, or wealthy CEO? That one is perhaps a little easier since it is a little bit removed from us. But can we also see that same nameless neighbor who is currently unhoused as having preference over us in God’s eye?

How is that good news for us? I certainly hope so. It is an invitation to reject the valuation of our society, and take on some much-needed humility. An invitation Paul says is a life lived in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.

Now Paul doesn’t give much clarity here, just that it is something we as the Body of Christ should do. But it does insist that our faith not just about our relationship with God, believing Jesus is the Messiah, or having the right head knowledge of God. No, he insists that our whole lives, and the way we live is an act of discipleship. Faith is an embodied thing.

Today, I will ask you to stand and proclaim your faith alongside Stephanie as she is baptized, and welcome her and Julie into our community of faith. I will ask each of them if they intend to live out their baptismal covenant with us. When I do, listen to the ways we as the church embody our faith.

That we gather and share in life together – not as an isolated community but as God’s people living among others whom God has named and claimed.

That we share a meal that helps us to envision the Reign of heaven where there are no restrictions.

That we grow in our knowledge of faith and nurture that faith in prayer.

That we seek to trust God and proclaim Christ in word and deed.

That we care for others and God’s creation, and work for justice and peace.

Each of us has made this covenant, not to earn God’s love and mercy, but because of God’s love and mercy shown to us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. There is no competition to see who can be the best at upholding these embodied practices of faith, and even if there was Jesus will be there to remind us that the last will be first and the first will be last. And that there is nothing we can do to earn our place, it has been freely given.

May God release us from the chains of comparison so that we may live more fully as God’s beloved children. Amen.

Announcements for this week:

  • Pastor Mandy will be attending the Rocky Mountain Synod Theological Conference this week (M-Th)
    Since this conference is being held in a virtual format, Pastor Mandy will be "out of the office," but not out of town. Do not hesitate to contact if needed.

  • Please join us Thursday for Centering Prayer at 9:30 (link in connection email)

  • Faith Formation Forum begins next week after worship, on Zoom, at 10:30:
    We will explore the Reformation leading up to our commemoration of the Reformation on Oct 25th. This forum will be designed for multi-generation participation, post-confirmation recommended.

  • Project Repair:
    Date change to Saturday October 24th
    Please contact Russ Skillings if you are interested in being part of the working team to respond to repair requests!

Please see Monday's Connection email and September Rambler for additional dates and gathering details.

Scripture for September 13, 2020

15th Sunday After Pentecost

Genesis 50:15-21

Joseph reconciles with his brothers

Psalm 103:8-13

Lord, you are full of compassion and mercy.

Matthew 18:15-35

Forgiveness within the community of faith

[Jesus said to the disciples:] 15“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

21Peter came and said to [Jesus], “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

23“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

For the word of God in scripture

For the word of God among us

For the word of God within us,

Thanks be to God, Amen.

When any gathering of humans occurs there is likely to be disagreement. Last week we talked about Paul’s letter to the Romans where he lays out that love should be our rule of life as a community, and that in doing so we will be fulfilling God’s law. But you and I know that no matter how hard we try to do the loving thing, we will end up disappointing and hurting one another – with things we say and do, or don’t say and don’t do. It doesn’t matter the relationship – friend, family, spouse, significant other, parent, child – we will hurt one another, or at the very least find ourselves in conflict with one another.

Church, we are not exempt. And I know I am preaching to the choir when it comes to knowing conflict within a community of faith. And when conflict arises we want to make it better and smooth out the rough places in our life together, because we are the church and forgiveness is a BIG part of our life together. We are supposed to be the peaceful community right? And disention, disagreement, and conflict, well that makes it seem like we aren’t good followers of Jesus…

We talk a lot about forgiveness We include it in our liturgy, in our bible studies, and as part of our faith formation. We give great importance to it. And we should. But we don’t often talk about what that process of forgiveness actually looks like. It’s just something we do.

Unfortunately, by only talking about forgiveness as something that we ought to do, we have at times gotten it wrong. Like when we reduce forgiveness to only mean a shift in your heart or feelings towards another person, and we diminish the pain of the one who was hurt.

Or we focus too much of the burden on the one who has been hurt. That forgiveness is necessary for the person who harmed to change. Or that the one’s words release the other from guilt. That “proper” forgiveness leads to continued relationship. Leaving the one who has been harmed to be labeled as the sinful one or faithless if they cannot. This leads to people remaining in abusive relationships and toxic situations – neither of which is part of the process Jesus teaches the disciples.


For as much as we have gotten it wrong, the Holy Spirit continues to gather us into community as the church. God created us for relationship, and Jesus helps us to live in this community and in relationship to one another in ways that acknowledge both our ability to mess things up and gives us a way forward to wholeness – wholeness as an individual, as a community, and as the church.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu used this passage from Matthew and offers a four-step process of forgiveness. His process suggests forgiveness is not just words of absolution spoken between two people, but is an actual process. The four steps are as follows:

1. Tell your story. Specifically, to the one who has harmed you. Sometimes we need to give voice to the story to someone we trust first, and that’s ok too.

2. Name the hurt. Healing cannot begin without hurt being named. Again this should be named to the one who has done harm, and if this hurt needs to be held within a trusted relationship, that is still ok.

3. Do the forgiving. If you are heard, and you choose to do so, speak words of forgiveness.

4. Repair or release the relationship.

This last one is particularly important because we often tie forgiveness as a first step to repaired relationships. This cannot be done if the other person is unrepentant and does not change their behavior. That my siblings, is cheap forgiveness.

We have focused so much on the need to forgive that we miss that Jesus also says there is a need for changed behavior. It was not just forgiveness but repentance. When that is not the case, when this process does not change harmful behaviors, forgiveness may lead to a released relationship. We need to let that be an answer to conflict too. 

Forgiveness takes time. It cannot be forced or coerced nor can it be rushed. This process is not one and done, but may take re-working and re-walking of these four steps. Healing is not linear.

Forgiveness is about bringing the damaged relationship to light. Pain, hurt, anger, the whole conflict itself cannot be minimized or dismissed.

Forgiveness is about unbinding ourselves from harm. Whether we are the one who is harmed or we have done the harm we are bound to that person by invisible, but weighty chains to one another. Forgiveness a process of undoing those chains, unbinding and loosening ourselves. It’s not about saying what happened was ok, but sooner or later, perhaps even in ebbs and flows, we become unbound to that simmering resentment. Anger about what happened is always appropriate. Anger reveals places where others have trespassed our boundaries. Being angry does not mean that the process of forgiveness has not worked, but that we may need to rework the four steps, that still more pain needs to be revealed so that it may be healed.

Forgiveness is a process where Jesus promises to be with us. We do not do this on our own, but when two or three are gathered, specifically in conflict Jesus is there. With us as we tell our story, as we hear the story of others. As we name the hurt, and as we heart the hurt we have done. As we speak words of forgiveness, as we hear words of forgiveness. As we seek to reconcile our relationships, and when we choose to release the relationship for the sake of our wellbeing.

May the holy spirit that dwells in each of us give us the courage and the humility to break the chains of harm and violence and live the peace and wholeness that Jesus offers.


Additional resources on forgiveness:

Have a Little Faith Series - "Forgiveness" Nadia Bolz-Weber

Content notice: language

TED- "Why Forgiveness is Worth It" Sarah Montana

The Book of Forgiving, Desmond and Mpho Tutu

Announcements for this week:

  • Wednesday Bible Study 9:30am

  • Wednesday In-person Gathering 12:30pm Wednesday Gathering Sign Up

  • Thursday centering prayer 9:30am

  • Thursday zoom Gathering 11:30am

  • Sept 20th we are planning on having in person worship outdoors
    Please sign up
    Outdoor worship Sign Up
    Plan to wear masks, and be physically distanced by 6 ft from other households.
    Let me know if we can provide a chair for you

Please see Monday's connection email and September Rambler for additional dates and gathering details.