Pastor’s Notes

February’s “From the Pastor”: Sparking Joy and Our Relationship to Stuff

Some of you may be familiar with Marie Kondo and the KonMari method for tidying up your home. (Some of you may also be sick of hearing about it by now!) Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizing and tidying consultant who has written books on her method of tidying and travels around lecturing and working with clients. She has a new TV program on Netflix that debuted January 1st, which is why you might be seeing or hearing about her more lately.

The whole center of her method is focused on finding what “sparks joy” for you. The method includes holding each thing you own and asking yourself whether it sparks joy. If yes, keep it; if not, it goes, and if it goes, you thank the item for what it has done for you. There is a greater structure to it as well, but that’s the central concept, and her method is designed to connect you to it.

Marie Kondo has plenty of fans as well as plenty of critics, and both camps came out in full force again when the show began. (When she said that she had only about thirty books in her home, book-lovers everywhere reacted viscerally!) Count me in as an initial skeptic—although I will admit, I am enjoying the show, perhaps because I can vicariously feel like a neat and tidy person by watching it.

But I started thinking about it differently when I read an article about her spiritual background. The KonMari method is based on principles of Shintoism, a religion and philosophy native to Japan that believes that every inanimate object actually has a spirit, a kami. This is the basis of Marie Kondo’s reverence for and respect for all objects, even including the house or apartment itself. Kondo served as an assistant at a Shinto shrine for five years before becoming the household name she is today.

I’ve seen some Christians use this as a reason to reject the KonMari method. After all, we don’t really believe that mysterious spirits live in our books and need to be woken up by patting them (Kondo does this often). We know that our salvation is not dependent on having your clothing neatly folded and standing on end. While there are certainly ways to substitute Christian principles for the Shinto ones, we shouldn’t pretend they are one and the same.

At the same time, this religious critique of her methods bothered me. I couldn’t quite put my finger on how or why at first, but I knew it did. Because after all, Christian do have a theology of stuff! It’s called incarnation. We believe that Jesus is God in human flesh, and we believe that Jesus promised to be with us through stuff, through bread and wine and water. That means that we believe objects do matter, even if we don’t believe they have literal spirits inhabiting them.

Things are not gods. But they and their accumulation and their positioning do have some kind of power with us, because we are physical beings as well as intellectual and spiritual. Having mountains of possessions is not only a physical problem, it is a spiritual one as well, because it prevents us from stewarding any of them wisely or appreciating the gifts we have been given. In fact, our theology of stewardship should flow from our theology of incarnation. God asks us to care for the world, not only because he made it, but because he is present in it.

And it’s both appropriate and honest to say that things can spark joy for us. Being grateful for our possessions should never be just about the possessions themselves; it should always be about what life they allow us to live. Is it a joyful life? A purposeful life? An appreciation for God-given beauty or fine craftsmanship? A life that enables you to serve others? That sense of deeper meaning and greater gratitude is something we can learn from Marie Kondo, even if the driving force is something different.

I don’t know that I’ll be KonMari-ing my spaces anytime soon, but I do think Christians can learn something important from the process that helps us reflect on our own unique tradition and its theology of “stuff.” I’d love to hear what you think about this, whether you’ve tried the KonMari method or decided it’s definitely not for you. Or if, like me, you enjoy the Netflix show but do most of your tidying in your mind!

Together in Christ,

Pastor Katie Yahns

January’s “From the Pastor”: God Says Hello

Dear friends in Christ,

While visiting my family after Christmas, I had the joy of worshiping with my parents in their church for the first time since they moved to a new community five years ago.  I didn’t realize just how much I’d missed going to church with them until we sat down in the pew!  I also didn’t realize just how much I’d missed going to church and just being there as a worshiper for a change.

In the pastor’s sermon for the day, she talked about the incarnation—God being born in human flesh—as God’s way of saying “hello” to the world.  I loved this way of thinking about Jesus’ birth.  God says “hello” as a way of starting something new, a new conversation with the people of the earth, a new twist in the story of this relationship.  God says “hello” and follows it up with “how are you?  I really want to know.”

Christmas is an invitation to welcome Christ to be born into our world, our lives, our daily existence.  Not just as a guest that you welcome for a short period of time and then get on with life.  It means allowing your world to be re-shaped.  It means being willing to change for the sake of this newcomer, this interloper.

The season after Epiphany is a period of time when we think about the direction our lives take now that God has been born in human flesh.  In worship we’ll hear stories about Jesus coming into his own, making his mark on the world, figuring out his path.  It’s actually a perfect season for the New Year, when we are also evaluating our path and asking ourselves how God might be calling us to grow and change in the year ahead.  And it’s a perfect time for our annual congregational meeting, when we ask those same questions as St. Peter’s and explore where God might be leading us into the future.

Because even though Christmas is technically past, Christ is still very much incarnate in our world.  Even after Jesus has been born, we still need to gather to hear words of love, joy, hope, and peace and then carry them out into the world.

In that church service with my parents, the pastor used a special blessing for the New Year.  I share it with you here:

May God make your year a happy one!

Not by shielding you from all sorrow and pain,

but by strengthening you to bear it as it comes;

not by making your path easy,

but by making you sturdy to travel any path;

not by taking hardships from you,

but by taking fear from your heart;

not by granting you unbroken sunshine,

but by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows;

not by making your life always pleasant,

but by showing you when people and their causes need you most,

and by making you anxious to be there to help.

God’s love, peace, hope and joy to you for the year ahead.

Together in Christ,

Pastor Katie Yahns

Christmas Welcome

St. Peter’s Christmas tree 2017. Photo by Cheri Schmalz

The most common thing I hear people say about why they love St. Peter’s is that it feels like family.  We would love to be your “second family,” so to speak, for the Christmas season (and beyond, of course!).

Join us for the following:

  • The children’s Christmas pageant on Sunday, December 23 at 10:00 am.  The pageant will be embedded in worship as the kids bring us the good news!  Come early for breakfast at 9:00 am.
  • A candlelight service geared for kids on Christmas Eve at 4:00 pm.  Hymns and readings are shortened, glow candles will be available, and I’ll read a children’s book as the main part of the sermon.
  • Another candlelight service, slightly more formal, on Christmas Eve at 9:00 pm.
  • Lessons and Carols for Christmas on Sunday, December 30 at 10:00 am.  The lessons will tell the story of Jesus’ birth and early years while the carols will be chosen that morning by popular request!
  • The Epiphany of Our Lord is the final day of the Christmas season when we celebrate the visit of the magi to Jesus and his parents.  Worship on this day, Sunday, January 6, will be at our usual times of 9:00 am & 11:15 am.

Getting ready for Christmas

Welcome to the new St. Peter’s website!  We’ve been working on making this space welcome for a while now, and finally coming to a point where we can throw the doors open and welcome newcomers and old friends alike.

It’s not that different from Christmas and the holiday season–it takes a while to make the right preparations, and you hope you’ve thought of everything, but finally, the most important thing is actually welcoming folks inside.  You’ve probably been getting ready yourself, and now it’s almost time for loved ones to enjoy the fruit of your labors.

But of course, those preparations remind us of how important it is to prepare our hearts and minds to be touched once again by the birth of Jesus.  The coming of Christ in our midst, hallowing our earthly existence and making this world a dwelling place for God.

Ultimately Christ will be born in us, even if the preparations are not complete.  As I shared in last Sunday’s sermon, Christ comes in the space between us–that holy space between two people who receive each other with love, grace, and forgiveness.

Let us focus on creating THAT kind of a space this Christmas time.  Well, I guess we don’t create it…but we can do our best to get out of the way when we see the Holy Spirit creating it in our midst.  Thanks be to God.