All Saints Gather Lutheran Church

'People of Christ, Living in Community & Working in Partnership'

AllSaints

Pastor Alan Eschenbacher of All Saints Lutheran Church in Spokane WA since June of 2002. Undergrad from Gonzaga University in Spokane WA, seminary studies at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley CA. Married to Laurel in 1980, three children, four grandchildren.

Can the church survive “busyness”

I struggle with what to do and where to go sometimes. I get invited to, and am aware of multiple events, in which I should be interested, given my role as pastor in the community. In other words, I am “busy” most of the time and I am forced to make decisions about how I spend my time. I could not attend, even if I wanted, ALL the events. This busyness is forever, it would seem, and I am NOT forever. That’s right, I must admit that I will not go on forever and that I must learn to prioritize.
I see the “busyness” of the people as well. Young or old, everyone seems to have PLENTY of things to do … every day … day after day.
My question is this, unless the church gets a high priority in, at least some people’s lives, amidst all the “busyness” … can it survive?

What is the Church’s role in 2017 and beyond?

This sounds like a very large question. Far too much for a short article like this one would say. On the other hand, one might say the message of the Gospel is, and has always been, very simple.
Love God with all your heart and soul, love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus fleshes it out at the end of Matthew 25 in the “Great Judgment”.
You know the words… I was hungry, you fed me … I was thirsty, you gave me drink … I was a stranger, you welcomed me, and so on.
You get the idea, these are NOT impossible expectations! These are “being a decent human being” things that anyone can do. These are also the things in which the church needs to take the leading role, now and in the future!

What do you think?

Companioning the mentally ill

What does it mean to be a companion to a mentally ill person? Can I, an ordinary citizen, do it?

Being a companion is as simple as being a friend, a friend that has learned a few insights and boundaries, and who has a large capacity for compassion. There is no medical advice, or monetary help but there is a lot of listening and care given. Any person can be a companion, share a cup of coffee or tea in a public space and simply “be there” for another human being who is in need. Mental health professionals like psychiatrists and nurses and peer counselors and the like are very important, but there are not enough to do all the caring that is needed. We need more “everyday” people to pick up the slack, devote some time and reach out to make a difference in a fellow human beings life.

What in the World?

What in the world … are we (the world) coming to? I am sure all of you have heard this or similar statements regarding unusual or bizarre or heinous events. The killing in Paris this past weekend, along with similar atrocities across the globe that seem to occur every day, are becoming the new norm of terrorism. These folks engaging in this hate filled action are trying to inflict their world view on as many people as possible in the most violent way.  World leaders need to be united in their stand against this hate, and they must also realize that responding with violence will only worsen or prolong things. A message must be sent that as much as can be done to prevent these attacks, will be done. We cannot allow this to become a “war” in the standard definition. We should reach out to the citizens caught up in these areas with love and hope and humanitarian aide, eventually they will see their captors for the hate filled violent people they are and they will come to see us as loving and caring. This change cannot occur while conducting surveillance raids with drones and while bombing villages in attempts to “get” one terrorist and at the same time killing many innocents. War is profitable. Many corporations and their stockholders benefit from war, with government arms contracts being very big business. Many of us, for too many years, have turned a blind eye in the name of “big business”. The assumption being that anything that benefited business was good, the bigger the better. After all, lots of people working in the military arms business have good paying secure jobs, and that’s what we need to secure our economy! ?Unfortunately that security comes at a price, and that price is the insecurity of many parts of the world, where people cannot defend themselves and rely on us to do the right thing. FAR too often the largest countries in the world are guilty of sacrificing the poorest in favor of profits. Jesus said in the gospel of Mark chapter 13 that the Temple would fall and not one stone would be left on another … all of the powers and principalities of this world WILL someday fall, the only thing we have control over … is how are we going to live and treat one another in the here and now? In peace and with love or in hatred and with violence? It is not a hard decision and if we can get the profiteers out of the way, we (the world) can make it happen.

 

Mental Illness and violent acts

This past week or so has been a troubling time as the nation and especially Roseburg Oregon, endures yet another mass shooting event.
These events usually wind up with a lot of disparaging talk about the shooter and their family and the laying of blame. People seem to need to attach labels, like; crazy, terrorist, insane, nut job…etc. to the perpetrators … I suppose in order to label them and box them up for trial and disposal from daily life. Eradicating the memory of the person from life does much to help the general public deal with the crime, but it does little for victims families and little for the mental health community. As with most crime, it is only a small minority that commits the crime that often winds up labeling the whole group.
The trouble with labels is that they promote and drag on the stigma that goes with a mental illness diagnosis. The stigma then reinforces the general public’s views of “those people” and then the unwillingness to engage followed by the lack of concern and avoidance and… you get the idea. No one wants to address the problem, let alone actually DO something to help. Our nation needs a lesson in compassion and forgiveness, and after the lesson a much larger group of people needs to step up and ACT like caring citizens and learn what it takes to become a companion to a mentally ill person … instead of a judge.

Loving the Fall season!

There are already some beautiful photos out there of Fall ! The colors are great! I really enjoy the Fall season and relish in it each year. Looking forward to rain (if it ever does rain!) and the renewal that will bring. Of course all the seasons are important in their own way but it’s okay to have a favorite! What’s yours?

Do you really want to know?

The question on the WordPress site asks me “What’s on your mind?” The way I am feeling lately …. very dangerous question indeed!
I have been a fan of watching the political scene for years, local, state and federal levels and especially presidential election cycles. The wrangling over issues and such was always entertaining to me. This political season has left me speechless. The presidential race is a circus that deserves to have the big top dropped to try and cover up the nonsense that emanates from ALL the candidates. If nothing changes before next November I will consider NOT voting at all for the first time.
In local politics, the rancor surrounding the sitting mayor and his “deal” making with the police union and with local “rich guys” and with the abandonment of HIS own appointees has me wondering what it will take for the people of Spokane to stand up finally and say “STOP” and get involved and force the city and its officials (elected or not) to do the right thing.
Unfortunately, the people of Spokane and the rest of the country and great numbers of the rest of the world … are so enamored with consumerism, militarism, patriotism and any other “ism” you want to talk about, that they are unable, certainly unwilling and impotent to ACT. As long as ignorance and apathy dominate, and buying and selling are the only motivators, then we will continue to sink into the pit until the wake up call is so loud that we can no longer ignore. Hopefully the rest of the world of today and our children and grandchildren of tomorrow will forgive our lack of action.
HMMM… maybe electing “The Donald” will so speed our descent into the abyss that we might reach the point of understanding what “ENOUGH” is and then maybe we can get back on the road less traveled … the road of love for God and neighbor.

How do I prioritize my worldly life and my kingdom life?

We all live in an age of mass media, advertising, digitally enhanced everything. We are called upon to work more hours, produce more, eat more, buy more and most of all to participate virtually NON-STOP in what the world has to offer. There is no escape from the din that surrounds every possible way to make a buck. So what is the Christian to do? We are warned to keep our distance, to observe Sabbath rest, to participate IN but not be OF the world. Jesus spent much time telling us what the “Kingdom” is like because that is where we are to put our time and true effort. Unfortunately Kingdom work is not as fun and attractive to most people as the world seems to be. As a pastor I struggle with honoring people’s commitment to their families and work and at the same time watching the church struggle to get any meaningful ministry done with folks that are too busy with worldly things to even think about Kingdom things.

Setting priorities in our lives is the only way I know of to resolve this issue. This is a huge gamble on my part as a pastor because I cannot set your priorities or even suggest what they might be. It may very well happen that Kingdom work through the church is nowhere near the top of the list for most people. The church may have to muddle along being supported in the “if I have time” mode. Again, I know I am risking much here by possibly making people feel guilty about their choices. Unfortunately ALL Christian churches in this country (even megachurches) are experiencing declining in numbers. In Washington state church attenders are down under 20% and the number of “active” members is much lower. I apologize to all, but I don’t have time to worry about offending people. The Christian church has a great message of love and grace to share with the world. Our church here at All Saints is doing a good job of reflecting that love and grace and we need to do a better job of telling the community what we’re doing. There is no longer the luxury of time, people in our midst are hurting and in need of what we can share now. There is no better time or place to do the Kingdom work that we are called to. For us and for those we serve the time is now!

Life is hard, why do I have to be so soft?

No one likes a hard person. In order to get along, fit in, be liked and respected, the world mostly demands that we be soft and flexible and anything BUT hard.

On the other hand … Life is hard. People get smacked around by all sorts of things from health issues to financial woes to harassment of various kinds, bullying etc.

So what are we to do in a hard world when we are expected to be soft and cuddly all the time? I think for me the challenge comes down to one of mindfulness and meditation and prayer. I try to be mindful of the situation I am in and act accordingly, I plan meditation time if only for a few minutes every day, centering thoughts and physical stretching and relaxation techniques help with this, and making time for prayer. For me daily prayer takes the shape of many moments of short prayer throughout the day, and hopefully some much longer times once a week or so. The challenging part is getting it all done within the confines of all the other things on the “to do” list, and of course the length of the list is mostly of my own making and I fear some things get lost or forgotten. You may find yourself in this position as well sometimes. If the prayer and meditation and focused thinking are there I can usually adapt my actions to the situations I encounter … so I can be soft most of the time and hard if needed. As an extrovert it’s difficult to be soft and cuddly all the time but given my role as a pastor it is more often than not the mode that’s called for. Therein lies my point for today … YOU need to find the mode that life calls you to … I’m guessing it will need to be soft more often than hard, but it depends on your life’s vocation and work, being flexible is the key. Understanding that you will make mistakes and blunders in all areas is a must to not getting smacked down TOO hard by life, and worrying about whether or not LIFE is fair … let me answer that for you … LIFE IS NOT FAIR, not now not ever … so worrying about which way to go and how to be is fruitless and frustrating. Life is HARD … GOD is GOOD. Live in the now, in whatever form you need to be … LOVE people no matter what they throw at you and try not to take it personally. You will be less frustrated and more effective in your day by day striving with work and play and relationships.